27 Jan 2022 Article

With a sustainable approach to personal nutrition, you can significantly reduce your impact on the environment. The most effective strategies are to consume less meat and waste less food. But you can do even more than that. In this article I’ve collected seven practical tips for a sustainable diet.

What is a sustainable diet?

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) defined sustainable diets as diets with low environmental impacts which contribute to food and nutrition security and to healthy life for present and future generations. Sustainable diets are protective and respectful of biodiversity and ecosystems, culturally acceptable, accessible, economically fair and affordable; nutritionally adequate, safe and healthy; while optimizing natural and human resources.

Nutrition has a great impact on the environment. The production and transportation of food and beverages requires a lot of resources and energy. It is estimated that the food industry is responsible for 20-35% of environmental pollution and CO2 emissions. This is more than the share of the transport industry. With a sustainable approach to nutrition, you can reduce your own impact on the environment by up to 50%. In addition, those who eat sustainably, automatically eat healthier.

Practical tips for a sustainable diet

  1. Waste not

Did you know that one third of the world’s food is thrown away? This is about 1.3 billion tons of food a year. By the way, for the production of food that is thrown away, we need about 14 million square kilometres of agricultural land each year. This is only slightly less than the total area of ​a country as large as Russia. Read more about how to minimize individual food waste in this article.

  1. Store food wisely

Store food properly. Some varieties of vegetables and fruit are best stored in the refrigerator, while others – out of the refrigerator. For example, leafy vegetables (lettuce, greens) and cruciferous (cauliflower, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, daikon, radishes, turnips) are best stored in the refrigerator. But bananas and other exotic fruits suffer from the cold. If they are stored at a temperature below 7 ° C, they lose moisture and the process of decay begins. Read more about optimal food storage conditions in this article.

  1. Eat less red and processed meat, especially beef (if you haven’t done so yet)

Of all foods, meat has the highest impact on the environment. Especially the production of red meat is very harmful to the environment.

  • 15.415 liters of water are needed to produce one kg of beef.
  • 9.000 liters of water are needed to produce one kg of pork.
  • 4.325 liters of water are needed to produce one kg of chicken

Beef uses about 60% of the world’s agricultural land but supplies less than 5 percent of the world’s protein and less than 2 percent of the world’s calories (ie, the calories we all consume together).

Replace meat mainly with lentils and beans.

  1.  Consume dairy products in moderation if at all

Recently, the dairy industry has been actively developing models of sustainable dairy production. But in general, the production of dairy, especially cheese, has a great negative effect on the environment.

Varieties of vegetable milk substitutes vary in their effect on the environment. Oat milk is considered to be the most sustainable.

Most plant foods have a low impact on the environment.

  1. Mind your drinks

Soft drinks, fruit juices and alcohol have a high impact on the environment, and in addition they are potentially harmful to your health.

Of all beverages, tap water is the least harmful to the environment.

Choose tea and coffee with Fairtrade, UTZ and Rainforest Alliance labels.

  1. Eat seasonally

Fruits and vegetables in general have a low impact on the environment. If possible, buy fruits and vegetables in season and of local origin.

Choose vegetables that have a low level of impact on the environment throughout the year: broccoli, red cabbage, leeks, onions, beets, carrots, chicory, celery.

Exotic varieties that come to your country by plane, naturally, have a more negative impact on the climate. Vegetables grown in heated greenhouses also have a negative impact on the environment.

You can use available tools to determine which fruits and vegetables have the lowest environmental impact at a specific time. I like this calendar of The European Food Information Council (EUFIC).

  1. Be mindful of packaging materials

Plastic and other packaging materials are an additional stress for the environment. The attitude towards packaging for food items varies per region/country. Do your groceries with your own grocery bag. When possible, buy fruits and vegetables that are not prepacked.

Carry your refill water bottle with you, and, if you are a coffee/tea addict your refill coffee cup.

Recycle food and package waste responsibly.