Saving the planet one meal at a time – A quick introduction to sustainability in the kitchen

This month at Goodwill we’re focusing on how to implement sustainable changes into our diets. This is not something that has to happen overnight. Nonetheless, this sustainable food guide gives you tips and tricks to change up your diet to help keep our beautiful planet alive and thriving (you too, of course). 

There are many ways to become more sustainable in the kitchen and we want to give you a small overview. The most important thing is to educate yourself and be aware of the impact our choices have. Most people usually don’t think about the environment during grocery shopping or cooking, but the choices we make can have a huge impact. It’s not only about going vegan, even though that can be immensely beneficial for the planet but making small changes and slowly being more aware of our power.

Going vegan – will it help?

Going vegan or vegetarian is known to be beneficial for many reasons, including health and ethical aspects. But, switching to a vegan diet is also said to be the single most efficient way to reduce human’s impact on planet Earth. Animal agriculture is one of the largest contributors of human-made greenhouse gas emissions, deforestation, water pollution, and air pollution.

We do not want to focus on the gloomy vision of progressive environmental disaster. Instead, it is worth considering how we can reduce our negative impact on the planet by cutting down our meat consumption. First, a vegetarian diet produces 2.5 x less carbon emissions than a meat diet, as the livestock sector is one of the biggest greenhouse-gas emitters. In addition to that, a vegan diet uses about 1/5 of a normal diet’s water consumption. This makes a significant difference when considering water shortages around the world. Similarly, almost 50 % of the grains produced in the world are fed to livestock. Thus, moving away from animal products could potentially help to fight world hunger. The list of positive changes that would happen on a ‘vegan planet’ is much longer. It includes preventing species extinction, deforestation and ‘fish-less oceans’.

All of this sounds almost too good to be true, but it is only another reason to consider going vegan or vegetarian. It doesn’t have to happen overnight. Already reducing the amount of meat and animal products you consume has a positive impact on the planet every day. By buying certain products in a way you are ‘voting”, supporting certain actions and corporations. We want to encourage you to use your vote wisely. Show that you care not only about the animals, but also the future of the planet!

However, a sustainable diet cannot only be achieved by eating plant-based foods. A lot of other factors play into the impact the food industry and our choices have on the environment.

What are food miles and why are they important?

One important aspect are food miles. The term refers to the distance food items have to travel. The model takes into account the environmental impact of a specific food item based on the distance it has to travel from its source to its final destination, as well as the mode of transportation. 

But, while transporting food from one end of the world to the other produces a significant amount of carbon emission, even regionally grown produce can have a huge environmental impact. It would be an overstatement to say that being aware of food miles is the one-solution-fits-all to shopping more sustainably. It is one factor to take into account when considering the environmental impact, a certain product has.

If a fruit native to a warm and humid climate is grown in a country with a different climate, for example in Europe, it needs to be grown in a greenhouse. Here, those specific climatic conditions can be imitated. This, however, often amounts to an even larger carbon footprint. So, it is important to take food miles into account but additionally be aware of which foods are regional and which are not and which produce is in season, when wanting to reduce the impact our food choices have on the environment.

It’s pumpkin season and they can be used for so much more than Halloween decoration!

Why organic produce is not always the most sustainable choice.

Many people believe, that buying only organic is the most sustainable choice, but is that really the case?

The term organic can have many definitions and has varying meanings depending on the country of origin. Generally, organic farming is a method of farming designed to minimize the harm on the environment. This entails producers cannot use synthetic fertilizers or pesticides, and they need to take animal welfare into account. Specific regulations vary from country to country. The EU has an organic logo that can be obtained when its regulations are being adhered to. Nonetheless, not every country has similar regulations. Thus, an organic product in one country might not be deemed organic in another. In general, buying organic produce is a good idea. While there are ways in which companies can cheat their way through the system and obtain the organic certification via loopholes, it is a good way of knowing how the product was grown.

What does “organic” stand for?

However, not all organic products are automatically better for the environment. It is important to take a product’s food miles and the resources it uses up into account. So, buying organic, if it fits into one’s budget, can have a positive impact on helping the environment, but is not always the best solution. Buying local, seasonal produce is one of the best options to reduce one’s carbon footprint and to be more sustainable when buying food. There is no need to implement all the changes overnight or for all products simultaneously. Even going to a local market once a month and getting potatoes, veggies and fruit there can make a difference. Supermarkets within the EU have to display the country of origin of a product. This is something you can easily check while doing your groceries.

So, what does this all mean?

All in all, being sustainable with one’s food choices is in some ways not as hard as expected, but in other ways might not be as easy as some people make it out to be. There are many things to take into account, and this is only a small insight into the topic. But even small changes can make a difference and it is in everyone’s interest to help the environment and to save our planet. 

One last thing we would like to point out is, that all of these changes are important for sending a message that we need to change our consumerist behaviour. Nonetheless, they cannot make up for the role the other industries play in emitting greenhouse-gasses and methane into the atmosphere. The change needs to happen at multiple levels, most importantly on the highest decision-making levels in politics and economy. And for that, we need to be active, lobby, advocate and most importantly vote!

Tell us what you think!

We hope you’re all staying healthy and taking care of yourself! 

We would love to see your creations! Join our challenge next week on Instagram and tag us in your posts with #CIROSBeTheChange, or send us an e-mail to goodwill@cirosthehague.com!

If you have any feedback, feel free to contact us! This is for you, afterall and we want to know what you want to see from us.

Stay safe and take care! Your Goodwill Committee.

An article written by Kira Kluge and Maria Puchalska, Goodwill Commissioners

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