This blog post is also available in German.
There has been an announcement on the blog a few weeks back concerning a new series talking about sustainablility. Today we are going to start with the first topic; sustainable diet.
During the course of this year my transition from being omnivor to being part-time vegan and eating completely vegan has motivated me to start dealing more and more with the topic of how to life a sustainable lifestyle. Which actually was one of the main trigger why I decided to go by a strict vegan diet. But more about veganism in a second…
Astonishing how drastically opinions differ on this matter. Overall sustainability seems to be a polarising issue. On one hand there are the extremsts, the ones that try to win you over with their comments, which can be quite annoying sometimes (I guess I`m part of that group *lol*). And on the other hand there are the ignorants, the ones that absolutely don`t want to recognize that there is no more time to waste for taking matters into our own hands. How often do you hear remarks like; “you can not effectuate anything as a single person” or “if you want to consider everything that is bad for you and the environment you can not eat anything at all”? That type of reactions are very common and seam to be characteristical for people that use to go deaf and prefer to lie to themselves, as accepting the truth means more effort as they would have to change their behavior.
By now everybody should have taken notice of the fact that we should try to be more economical, attentive and sustainable with out resources on this planet. And of course every single one of us can do something about it! There`s is no excuse to just go on ignoring the facts!
This blog series ist not about “evangelizing” you, meaning, I don`t want to tell you what how you have to live your life. It should be more about to raise everybody`s attention about the topic sustainability and to make you realise that you as a individual can do something to make our planet a better one.
Today`s topic is all about sustainable diet, respectively “how can I eat in a sustainable kind of way?”.
Let me get this straight! A sustainable diet is vegan and is based on local and seasonal organic and/or fairtrade produce. This is the answer to the question above summed up in one sentence. There`s still the food waste problem and the matter of sustainable grocery shopping, but these topics are going to be covered in separate blog entries.
Vegan is and will always be the most sustainable way of eating. The reasons therefore have been shown in several documentaries (Cowspiracy, Earthlings, What the Health and so on), which is why they won`t be discussed in extend here.
Fact is, which is also evidenced by studies and statistics, that livestock farming and the production in that sector (meat & dairy) produce an enormous amount of carbon dioxide emissions and the effect of these on our planet should be clear by now. But that`s not all, livestock also uses great amounts of water and crops, not only for the needs of the animals themselves, but also in the production of animal produce (mainly water). Huge areas of farmland are being used to grow crops for the needs of livestock, the animals we eat afterwards. If we wouldn`t consume all these animal products, we could use all these areas to grow vegetables, fruits and crops for our own needs. Let`s move from the mainland to the oceans. Doesn`t look better there! Our oceans are way to overfished and if we go on like that, we will get to the point where certain or even most of the fish species will be extinct. Fish farm might sound like the perfect solutions to that problem, but if you start digging deeper into that matter, you`ll see pretty quick, that they wont be a long term answer either to solve the problem of our consumption behavior. Fish breed in fish farms often are being raised under bad conditions in basins that are way too small, they suffer from diseases, get feed with antibiotics and cheapmeal flour or soy. If you can`t ditch on the animal produce at least try to consume organic ones. They are not really more sustainable (check out cowspiracy for the reason why) but at least the animals live a better life.
Please once again try to understand, this blog post is not about trying to force an opinion onto you, it`s more about raising awareness of the circumstances. It is pretty important to, that every single one of us tries to perpetually continue his/her own education, learn about new things, expands his/her horizon and informs himself/herself about reality and the impact of his/her behavior. Of course in the end every single one takes his/her own decision if you won`t or will consume animal produce. Still facts are going to stay facts, which means, as already mentioned, the most sustainable way of eating is veganism. I won`t go into the health benefits a vegan diet has for you, but if this is a general wish of you guys, I`ll gladly cover that topic in a separate blog post. Just to make one thing clear; you can cover all the necessary needs – yes protein and calcium too – by eating a balanced and varied vegan diet without any problem (the only thing you need to supplement is vitamin B 12 and vitaminD).
A vegan diet is the fundamental step of eating sustainable but it`s not all you can do, there are actually other important aspects. One of it is your personal carbon footprint. Every product you buy, even plantbased ones, has a carbon footprint and the more exotic and far away the product is imported from the highter it`s carbon dioxide footprint. You have to ask yourself the following questions… Has my product been transported by plane, truck, ship or railway? Plane transport causes the highest amount of carbon dioxide emissions, followed by truck, ship and then railway. From how far is my product coming? How many resources have been used in producing that very item and how has it been cultivated at the place it`s coming from? For example 1kg of avocados can use up to 1000 liter of water for their production. Other products, like uncertified palm oil, get produced by illegaly clearing parts of the rain forest. Those are all question you have to ask yourself, when buying a produce. Honestly there isn`t the perfect solution that works every single time, you jsut have to decide individually in every single situation
By living a vegan diet you already prepared the foundation. But on top of that you should try to keep the seasonality of fruits and vegetables in our mind, trying to make these products the main ones of your diet plan. There`s a variety of plantbased produce that are in season for the different seasons of the year, even in winter. If you buy seasonal there are several advantages in terms of sustainability; you mostly consume food produced in your own country, in other words local, which means they have a lower carbon footprint that imported items, they werent grown in a greenhouse by using fossil fuels and on top of that seasonal fruits and veggies most of the time are way less expensive. Seasonality and regionality kind of go hand in hand together. In case you are insecure about the seasonality of produce, just do a quick internet research and you will find a seasonal calendar for your country (I have one I can recommend for Swiss citizens seasonal calendar).
Another important point is the social-ecological aspect, the guarantee that the product you consume has been grown and produced under good conditions, exquisite quality and with the least possible usage of pesticides. That is why I would always recommend to buy organic and fairtrade products. The Swiss organic label for example stands for an outstanding quality and sustainability and the organic farms owning that certificate underlie very strict rules and guidelines. The absolute best thing to do, is informing yourself if there is an organic farm nearby that either delivers to your doorsteps or sells organic produce at their farm or on a market. We have a local organic farm from Emmental which provides us with a fresh box full of seasonal vegetables and fruits every single week. In case you are interested and you live in Bern city I link the farm. It can`t be any more fresh, sustainable, seasonal and local!
Der Aspekt der Regionalität wurde ja bereits erwähnt, auch ein wichtiger Punkt bei einer nachhaltigen Ernährung. Denn je lokaler ein Produkt ist, desto weniger CO2-Emission ist bei dessen Transport entstanden. Wer saisonal einkauft, erfüllt in vielen Fällen gleichzeitig auch den Aspekt der Regionalität. Ansonsten empfehle ich immer kurz einen Blick auf das Produktionsland zu werfen.
These are the main points for a sustainable diet, besides reducing food, plastic and packaging waste (these topics are being discussed in seperate blog posts). To sum up; a plantbased, vegan diet with local, seasonal organic products is the most sustainable way of eating.
In case this blog post has motivated you to focus more on these aspects, I achieved my goal and that would make me super happy! At the beginning grocery shopping probablky will be a bit difficult, as you have realign yourself. Also there will be emerging different questions, like; “should I buy the organic product from Spain or the local one that isnt organic?” or “am I not allowed to buy oranges, bananas and avocados now, as they dont grow naturally in my country?”. You will have to give these type of questions a thought at least at the beginning until you find out what works for you and what doesnt. I will talk about sustainable grocery shopping in the next post of this series and share some tips on how I shop, which will make it a little bit easier for you.
I deeply hope you liked this entry and that I could motivate you at least a bit to care more about your consumption behavior. In the end there is only one planet Earth and we should try to care for it as much as we can.
Read you soon,