Eating Sustainably – Can it Really Help the Environment?

Walk into any fast-food chain or high-end restaurant these days and you’re highly likely to encounter vegan or vegetarian options. Historically viewed as a “dietary restriction”, implying that one was not allowed to eat meat, such meal choices are becoming more and more common in society. Tied to this trend of recent years is the increasing popularity of eating sustainably, or consuming food and beverages (F&B) that are healthful not only for the environment but also for the human body. This is with the goal of reducing our global carbon footprint, in an effort to combat climate change.

Recognising this new wave of dining behaviour, savvy enterprises laboured endlessly to bring to market affordable and accessible sustainable products in the realm of the F&B industry. Plant-based meat alternatives such as Impossible Foods, Beyond Meat, and Quorn have taken the F&B market by storm, much to the chagrin of many of our vegan friends. Today, the plant-based meat market draws in 8 billion US dollars of revenue yearly, and that number is projected to rise even more in the coming decade.

Why is it Important to Choose Sustainable Food?

The idea of choosing sustainable food over traditional ones comes as no surprise to the environmentally conscious. Some might say it takes a village to raise a child, but it takes a whole lot more to raise the livestock that provides our common cuts of meat. Studies estimate that these very same animals produce 18% of global greenhouse gases globally and consume 30% of the world’s freshwater. In addition, as much as 70% of agricultural land is used for livestock grazing as opposed to growing crops. Industrial agriculture is the leading cause of disappearing habitats and loss of biodiversity and one can see why it is crucial for society as a whole to attempt to pivot towards more sustainable food options.

Overall effects on our environment and livestock’s detrimental contributions to climate change snowball against our efforts to combat it. Ironically, it is the human race’s epicurean love for food that fuels this negative spiral. Understanding this, we inevitably find ourselves at an impasse – how can we still enjoy all these delightful things while preserving the environment? The answer lies in sustainable food.

On the whole, sustainable food uses less fossil fuel, produces fewer greenhouse gases, and relies on human labour rather than chemicals and energy-intensive technology. Compared to industrial beef cattle, for example,  which are raised in large quantities and require anywhere between two to three years of resources before consumption, sustainable farms raise a moderate number of animals at any given time and often rotate animals around pastures to minimise their impact. These farms also encourage biodiversity, conserve scarce water resources, and build healthy soil through techniques such as composting and planting cover crops.

How to Eat Sustainably?

Eating sustainably might seem like an obscure and intangible concept that proves difficult to accomplish, but in practice, the idea is extremely practical and simple. Firstly, one must remember that we should consume everything in moderation. Aiming to reduce food waste and only buying what you need, while throwing out minimal produce, is the first step to eating sustainably.

Next, consumers should always prioritise organic food. The reason for this is that industrially produced crops usually require a ton of chemicals and energy-heavy investment. To keep costs low and profit margins fat, big corporations utilise economies of scale to ensure that they can get the most out of their capital. This results in overfarmed land and regularly poor environmental policies. Picking up organic produce in your weekly grocery trips doesn’t have to be an expensive task either, simply opting for local and seasonal produce is a surefire way to help do your part in eating sustainably.

Lastly, by cutting down on meat and dairy consumption, you can further advance efforts to combat climate change through sustainable consumption. Dairy cows and beef cattle require a significant amount of supplies to raise and do more harm than good for the environment when raised in industrial proportions. 

By reducing your intake of these particular foods, you demonstrate your commitment to a more sustainable world by voting with your wallet and signifying a drop in demand. Businesses will have but no choice but to scale down production to compensate for the drop off in demand for meat and dairy.

Apart from environmental reasons, eating sustainably does wonders for one’s physical health. The options for sustainable food are fresh and chock full of vitamins that haven’t been destroyed by the industrialisation process. If you’re looking for a good reason to shake your ambivalence towards eating sustainably, then doing it for yourself seems like a mighty convincing argument after all. 

Investing in the Sustainable Food Industry

With the increase in demand for sustainable food, the vegan food industry has grown exponentially in recent years. In fact, according to a survey done by Atura Proteins, 56% of food and beverage brand owners are likely to invest in plant-based products in 2022, with 41% believing that vegan meats such as mince will be the biggest growing category in the plant-based space. It is also predicted that meat alternatives such as mince will be the biggest growth category for plant-based foods, followed by cereals and cheese. If you are still looking for avenues for investment in 2022, the rise of the sustainable food industry might just be the right opportunity for you.