By Denise Kirnig, Coalition for Better Health | June 19, 2015
Sustainable food habits that support a more environmentally and socially responsible food system are a growing interest in our efforts to protect the environment.
A sustainable food system is a collaborative network that integrates sustainable food production, processing, distribution, consumption and waste management in order to enhance the environmental, economic and social health of a particular place. Farmers, consumers and communities partner to create a more locally based, self-reliant food economy. Adopting even one seemingly small and simple habit can make a difference in promoting a more sustainable food system.
Here are the top five sustainable food habits:
1. Plant-based. A plant-based diet, which focusses on including more plant foods than animal foods in your diet, can have an impact on the environment. Producing billions of pounds of animal meat and dairy each year takes pesticides, chemical fertilizer, fuel, feed and water, which accounts for 51 percent of annual greenhouse gas emissions, according to a 2009 report in World Watch Institute Magazine. Plant foods, such as vegetables, rice, beans, and tofu, have a much lower environmental impact. Why not give Meatless Monday a try by replacing meat with plant proteins, such as nuts, beans and soy foods? According to the Environmental Working Group, if a family of four skips eating steak just one day a week for one year, it is similar to taking a car off the road for three months.
2. Go organic. Because fewer chemical pesticide and fertilizers are used, organically grown and raised products have less impact on the environment. When applied to animal products like dairy, organic means that no antibiotics or synthetic hormones are fed to the animals. Look for foods labeled USDA Certified Organic or ask at your farmers market.
3. Close to home. Eating locally means sourcing foods that are produced relatively close to where they are sold. Local eating can reduce the number of miles that food travels, which lessens the amount of greenhouse gas emissions. Eating close to home also helps to keep local jobs safe, because the farmer can sell his products within the community. Local farms, cooperatives, farmers markets, community supported agriculture (CSA) and, increasingly, supermarkets, may all be local options. If you can, grow your own food, whether it is a crop of tomatoes or a favorite herb.
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