Practicing environmental responsibility goes far beyond recycling and turning off the lights when you’re not using them. In fact, one of the most important things you can do for the environment (and for yourself) is to eat a healthy, eco-friendly diet.
A locally sourced, plant-based diet can have a hugely positive impact on environmental health. As the effects of climate change become more and more prominent around the world, living an environmentally conscious lifestyle has never been more important. The choices you make at breakfast, lunch, and dinner can be game changers for your health and the well-being of the planet.
Delving into the link between food and the environment and learning how to eat a healthy, plant-based diet will help you on your way to living an eco-friendly lifestyle at mealtimes and beyond.
Why the Environment Needs Our Help
No matter how much certain politicians try to campaign against our environment, it’s clear that climate change is a global crisis that we must address so that younger generations have a shot at surviving and thriving in the future.
According to the New Jersey Institute of Technology, “Beyond just making the planet hotter, global warming and climate change have had disastrous effects on the environment, resulting in natural disasters, air pollution, millions of deaths, and the possibility that the earth itself may become uninhabitable in the future.”
Understanding the things that have caused climate change, like human habits that contribute to rising carbon dioxide levels, the high levels of coal and oil use, and items high in food miles is a major key in being able to work toward combating environmental disasters.
The Link Between Food & the Environment
The phrase “voting with your fork” is popular for a reason. Eating is something most people do three times a day, so doing it responsibly is of the utmost importance. And because your diet impacts the environment, doing so can improve environmental health.
Whether positively or negatively, farms impact our health and the environment. As reported by the LA Times, “Scientists say that food production including growing crops, raising livestock, fishing and transporting all that food to our plates is responsible for 20% to 30% of total global greenhouse gas emissions.”
Whereas large-scale, monocrop conventional farms are often responsible for unsustainable practices that contribute to environmental decline, small organic farms are often known for producing environmentally sustainable food that helps heal the earth.
Say it’s winter and you live on the East Coast of the United States. If you want to eat a fresh salad with tomatoes and an avocado, you can do that. You can eat anything you want at any time. While this sounds nice on the surface, think about how far that avocado had to travel to get to your plate. Your avocado likely had to travel from California or Mexico all the way across the U.S. so you could enjoy it. The plane or truck it came on used a ton of fuel and energy.
This is called food miles, and purchasing foods with many food miles is one of the more environmentally unfriendly ways to eat. If instead you spent your East Coast winter enjoying root crops from your local food co-op and waited for summer to pluck that first juicy tomato from the vine in your backyard, you would be choosing a diet that was low in food miles and therefore better for the planet.
How to Eat a Healthy, Plant-Based Diet
Instead of thinking about the ways in which your diet could be harming the environment, it can be motivating to reframe the thought into how a healthy diet helps the environment. If you think of all the ways your breakfast choices could help make the planet happy, you might be more inclined to keep up your healthy practices in the face of tempting, unhealthy choices.
Many small organic farmers are great soil stewards, so eating local, organic food can help heal both the environment and your body. In fact, some conditions like obesity, low energy, and GERD can be treated with diet and lifestyle changes. When you fuel your body with local vegetables that are high in nutrients and didn’t have to travel from another country to get to your plate, they’re healthier, tastier, and better for the earth.
“Nutrition plays a vital role in our health,” according to the Injury Care Center. “How we feel throughout the day depends on what types of foods we decide to eat.” Food can be poison or medicine, so why not nourish both your body and the planet with healthy, sustainable choices?
Eating a local, plant-based diet is the best for your body and the planet. If you do decide to eat meat, choosing small-scale, local, sustainably raised and grass-fed meat is the best option. Visit your local farmers market and talk to the farmers growing the food. They are experts and will likely have great suggestions for you so that eating healthy doesn’t feel like a chore but rather a celebration.
Our planet may be in crisis, but you can play a part in healing it by making healthy diet choices and educating yourself about the problems we face. Every time you pick up a fork, you can make both a personal and political statement about what you value. Doing so is essential for our future.