Once in school we watched most of a lengthy documentary that literally showed us how much the average American consumes, with an emphasis on food. From lining up ridiculously rows of bread bags to filling up a room with oranges, and spilling a dump truck of (expired) eggs, all the big numbers estimating how much food the average American consumes was shocking. Mentally juxtaposed to the reality of starvation that people face around the world and the details of factory farming, it didn't take long for my stomach to twist the way it does when you feel ashamed of something.
Today is World Food Day, which focuses on bringing an end to world hunger. After watching the video a few students in the class mentioned that now that we are aware of all we consume, we wanted to know more about what we can do about it. I'm not up for boycotting food, but it is clear that it is not right for some people to have in excess while others do not have enough.
The choices we make affect the environment which every being on this planet depends on (eg: climate change affecting agriculture all over the world). In addition to making donations to help alleviate world hunger if you can, here are a few practical tips for making conscientious decisions regarding food in our day-to-day lives.
Don't bite off more than you can chew - avoid wasting food, or taking more than will be eaten. It has been estimated that nearly half of the world's food is wasted after it has been produced (approximately 40% in Canada), which contributes to landfill and is a waste of any land area, water, transportation, and energy in preparation it took to produce the food. All those plus it shows appreciation for what we have makes this a great golden rule for eating.
At home, try not to let any leftovers go bad or get thrown away, and if you're eating out and you expect to have food left on your plate, try bringing it home to eat later in a reusable container (if something must be thrown out, compost instead of putting it in regular garbage so that it goes back to the Earth).
Avoid disposable packaging as much as possible. If there is an option of in a wrapper or out of one, go with the one that sends less to the landfill, that had less processing, and less likely to end up as litter (even if it would be an accident). This goes for water bottles, snacks, coffee cups, and lots of other things at the grocery store. Instead, go with minimal packaging and carry food around in reusable water bottles and containers.
Eliminate or reduce your meat consumption. This is talked about by activists and environmentalists so often for a reason. This is a whole other argument in itself and while other animals eat other animals too, all too often animals raised for food live in cramped, unhealthy, and stressful conditions when they are raised using conventional methods. Often in places where food is abundant, people end up eating more meat than their bodies actually need, and additionally, livestock account for a notable portion of greenhouse gas emissions.
Go organic, free range, and grass-fed (if applicable). Going organic may have a higher monetary price, but it may not seem too high when considering the lack of pesticides and money saved from not throwing away foos. Also with organic, free range, and grass-fed meat and eggs if that is part of your diet, you can feel better knowing that the animal was treated better and not needlessly given antibiotics, which could also make your body resistant to them in the future.
"Think global, buy local" was the name of one of the workshops we could sign up for at an EcoBuzz Conference. Buying locally-grown food reduces greenhouse gas emissions from transportation and supports local farmers (try finding a market or farm to buy fresh produce instead of grocery stores where most of it comes form factory farms).
Eat in-season produce. An Uncle once said that he likes to eat with natural cycles, like moving to the beat of the Earth with its seasons. Currently there is a seasonal food widget in the right column of this page near the bottom, and there are many other great resources like eattheseasons.com.
Grow your own fresh produce. It feels good to eat and share the fruits of your own labor, and gardening is a great outdoor activity and way to get to know nature in your own backyard.
If you eat seafood, consult the Monterey Bay Sustainable Seafood Guide (www.seafoodwatch.org), available online or for download on smart phones.
Although these may seem like small things, when these choices are made consistently they really do add up and have an effect on the environment and people.