I remember when Eco with Em published her artwork on the climatarian diet – all my thoughts and feelings on food and the planet suddenly made sense and concepts began to connect. This is how you eat well, for the planet.
A Fact: Food Impacts the Planet
Look. There’s something very personal about food. It’s cultural, it’s emotional, it’s even expressive at times, and it can connect us and bring us together as humans.
I want to stress it’s important not to leave social and cultural ties out of the conversation.
What we also need to acknowledge is the impact of food on the environment and that what we eat, and how it’s cultivated, always affects the planet. Some food we choose hurts the planet and some food helps. Some ways we grow food hurts the planet and some ways help (see more from Holly Rose about this).
Wouldn’t you rather support and consume what helps?
According to WWF about 20% of global carbon emissions come from food and agriculture. Our current food habits are also resulting in water scarcity, biodiversity loss, threatened species habitat loss, poverty, and food insecurity.
I’m a firm believer that just like sustainability in fashion, we need to take a holistic approach when it comes to food.
It’s not only what we eat that has an impact; it’s also about how what we eat is grown and sourced that affects the sustainability of our food.
How to Adopt a Climatarian Diet
Our individual impact on the environment is affected by everything we do, everything we support, and everything we consume. Obviously, food is a big part of the picture.
So, let me break it down. Here are the many ways you can change your actions around food to create a better impact:
1. Eat Less Meat and More Plant-Food
Whether that’s Meatless Mondays, choosing low carbon options (like MSC- certified fish or chicken over cows), or avoiding meat altogether, all steps matter. However, veganism, when done thoughtfully, has the greatest positive impact. If Australians reduced our cow and lamb consumption to 50g per day, we could reduce agricultural greenhouse gas emissions by 22%.
2. Waste Less Food and Dispose Well
Every year, Australia sends more than 4 million tonnes of food waste to landfill. That’s an estimated $5.6 billion worth of food.
To be responsible with food waste:
- Learn how to store food properly – there are so many hacks under #nofoodwaste on Instagram and on Pinterest! Then, get your hands on a Swag Bag. This was one of my favourite purchases last year (if not the best thing I purchased). It DOUBLES the life of my fruit and veg in my fridge.
- Compost your food. When organic waste is sent to landfill, it produces methane. Methane traps 72 times more heat in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide within a 20 year period. Composting is something even I need to start practising as much as I preach. It’s certainly easier if you have a big garden to create a compost system, but it’s not impossible in an inner-city apartment. One of my next big purchases will be an Urban Composter.
- If you don’t want to compost at home, you can use ShareWaste to find members of your local community who are happy to take your scraps.
- Learn how to use more of your vegetables. There are many parts of our food that are edible – that we assume aren’t! Something I started to do early last year is to cook and eat my broccoli stems. I’ve even seen some peers on social media make banana peel bacon. It’s a real thing! Time to get googling about how to eat our food “scraps”.
3. Avoid Food Packaging
Our food in Australia is covered in so much unnecessary plastic.
I want to make it very clear that plastic in itself does not directly affect the climate but our excessive packaging is a waste of time, resources, money, and is contributing to the plastic pollution crisis that is damaging our planet in other ways.
So, what can we do? Enter: the zero-waste lifestyle.
Going zero waste is the perfect way to get in control of your waste but it’s hard. Especially if you live in a remote town or city. I try really hard every #PlasticFreeJuly but fail every time. Going zero-waste is almost impossible if you don’t have a bulk store near.
So, ignoring food packaging is the easy option. Ignorance is bliss. However, ignorance won’t help the planet – awareness will.
The message here is to do what you can – reduce where you can to help fight the plastic crisis and take your stand against the needless misuse of valuable resources.
It becomes easier when we take small steps, refuse single-use, and choose to reuse. Bring your bags, carry a reusable cutlery set and coffee cup, and be brave and ask to use your own container. Saying no to plastic will only get more socially acceptable with time – trust me!
It also helps to eat fresh, whole foods, and keep a few favourite recipes up your sleeve because it’s easier to find plastic-free options and control your own waste this way.
4. Eat Local!
The average Australian produce and pantry items travel approximately 1,200km from farm to table. By supporting local, we can help reduce transportation emissions and create a happier local community simultaneously!
My tips for choosing local food go as follows:
- Learn what foods are in season. Australian Organic is my number one resource for this. Food that’s in-season not only tastes better but is healthier for our planet, too!
- Get into swapping food with your neighbours and even local businesses. OLIO is a great app for this!
- Explore your local community gardens. If you live in Perth, Western Australia, some veggie gardens you can visit include Perth City Farm, Hilton Harvest Community Garden, and Willetton Community Garden. If you’re Australian, check out the Australian City Farms & Community Gardens Network.
- My absolute favourite alternative is to learn to grow your own food. We don’t have much space in our inner-city garden but right now we are growing jalapeños, tomatoes, kale, calendula, mint, oregano, sage, and rosemary. In the past, we’ve also had a great spinach crop, a seemingly never-ending supply of basil, and some decent strawberries!
I’m lucky to also get passionfruit, more tomatoes, chillies, blueberries, figs, lemon myrtle, a new species of lemony-limes, and bucket loads of tangerines when I visit my Dad. My mum also has a great supply of lemons and limes, and she grows a variety of leafy greens that I’ve pinched a few times. I’ve even managed to receive some fresh lemongrass and huge lemons from a client earlier this year.
Imagine what we all could share if we each grew something!
If you’re looking for a local to help with growing your garden in Perth, check out Gaia’s Organic Gardens.
5. Know Where Your Food is Sourced
Very few of us buy local all of the time. Chances are, there’s food that you enjoy that can’t be grown where you live. In all cases, I advocate for learning as much as you can about where your food comes from and the impact it’s making on the environment.
A great example of this is palm oil, which is found in most packaged food. Palm oil plantations have caused devastating deforestation, destroying almost 80% of orangutan habitat in the last 20 years.
So, for the sake of the rainforests and the orangutans, learn where your palm oil is sourced. There are sustainable, and animal- and forest-friendly sources of palm oil. Dr Bronner’s is a brand that does this well. Dr Bronner’s not only source their palm oil sustainably in Ghana, but their farms also work to improve soil health and have created a positive impact on the community.
Through asking and learning about the path our food takes to end up on our plates, we can reconnect with the processes involved, value, and become more mindful about the time, effort, energy, and resources that go into our food production.
6. Choose Organic, Biodynamic, and Regeneratively Farmed Food
While avoiding animal products can help reduce your carbon footprint by up to 73% (according to this singular study), eating plants isn’t automatically the eco-friendliest option. There are many vegan food products that also work to harm the environment.
No matter if you eat animal products or not, there are ways to source food in an eco-friendlier manner: choosing organic, biodynamic, and regeneratively farmed food will help you to create a more positive impact.
All of the above methods promote healthy soils, and none of the above methods use toxic chemicals or GMOs. This means cleaner air, safer water, happy soil, and a healthier you.
Biodynamic farming supports biodiversity, meaning a richer ecosystem, and regenerative farming helps to sequester carbon back into the soil. In doing so, regenerative agriculture becomes a viable part of the solution to the climate crisis.
Regenerative Organic, Kiss the Ground, Regen WA, and Carbon8 are some of my top resources for learning about global and Australian regenerative farming. If you’re interested in how regenerative farming can help the climate, Kiss the Ground’s Finian Makepeace has a brilliant online course on Commune: Soil is the Climate Solution.
7. Remain Open to Learning
Self-education and raising awareness is our most powerful tool. This is something I like to add to all my suggestions about living more ethically + sustainably.
The absolute best thing we can do to help our earth and each other is to manage our mindset: to stay aware of the changes in research and knowledge, and to keep learning. Through taking responsibility of our own actions and nudging (not judging) others to do the same, I really believe we can change the world for the better, in a way that is safe and thoughtful for all.
Let’s Keep it Real: Here’s What I Do and Where I’d Like to Improve
What I do
- I don’t eat animal products (I’m a vegan also for health, spiritual, and ethical reasons)
- I use my Swag Bag to reduce food waste
- I buy my vegetables from my local markets (my vegetables are grown in my city)
- I bring reusables everywhere
- I use more parts of my vegetables than I used to
- I buy from my bulk food store to reduce waste (but a bit too irregularly for my liking)
- I choose organic whenever possible (this is also a choice for my health)
- I buy seasonal fruit and veggies (usually) and keep up to date with what is in season
- I swap food with my family, when I can!
- I keep an open mindset and try to nudge (not judge) whenever I can
What I’d love to do
- Purchase and use an Urban Composter (Done! – February 2020)
- Move houses (when my lease is up!) so I can have a bigger garden to grow more veggies and set up a larger composting system
- Visit my local bulk store more (it’s hard when the supermarkets are within walking distance and I have to drive to the good bulk store!)
- Maintain a zero-waste kitchen
- Find and share more ways to use my food “scraps”
- Research more and open my mind to learning more (it’s hard when this is both the cure to/cause of eco-anxiety for me!)
- Learn more about biodynamic food
- Learn more about how I can source local, organic, and regeneratively farmed food in Western Australia