How Not To Eat Your Way Into Extinction: A Quick Case for Sustainable EatingSeptember 14, 2018
- Giselle JoseWords
You’re with your date at a restaurant, and your waiter’s scrambling to catch your attention because you’re just so lost in her eyes. Finally, the menu finds its way into your hands. You quickly order the most expensive bottle of wine, and pick the dish that’s least likely to make your breath smell, or get caught in your teeth.
And then your date asks the waiter, “Was the cow grass-fed or grain-fed? Is the chicken antibiotic-free? Was the fish farm-raised or wild-caught?”
Sound familiar? Didn’t think so.
Organic products are gaining ground in the Philippines, probably because some truly believe that a voodoo concoction of tomatoes, cucumbers, coconuts, and some cute animal’s placenta is going to make your skin as flawless and smooth as a newborn baby’s bottom. And I don’t know, maybe they’re right, and they now resemble kewpie dolls.
But remember that what you put inside your body is just as important as what you lather onto it. And that what you put in your shopping basket impacts other people more than you think. Given such, I think it’s about time for sustainable eating to become more mainstream in the Philippines.
What is sustainability?
Sustainable eating is the sort of consumption that is healthy for both humans and the environment. It entails a respect for your own body, the welfare of animals, and the well-being of farmers and producers as a whole. It’s also about giving more to the environment by using less of what destroys it, as well as being aware of where everything on your plate comes from (and how they get there). Eating sustainably is crucial to the preservation of local farming communities and the diversity of our animal and plant kingdoms.
Basically, it’s about making the Earth’s (and your) health last longer.
Why eat sustainably?
It’s a scary thing to realize that we’ll need to feed over 9 billion mouths by 2050, and it’s even scarier to find out the true gravity of key sustainability issues. For instance, overfishing has pushed the ocean’s ecosystems to the brink of being unviable. More species of fish have been placed on the endangered list, unagi being a recent example. And out of the remaining species, very few are fit to be a food source, and those that won’t join the rest on the endangered list are fewer still. On the other hand, industrially-farmed animals (such as cows and pigs) are raised in such deplorable, unsanitary conditions that endanger their safety, and in the long-run, that of us consumers as well.
What you can do.
Truth be told, the issue of sustainability is so complex that it extends further beyond what we eat. But even if you’re a busy consumer, there are still a few things that you can do to make a small dent in our fight for the planet that nourishes us:
- Know your labels. Consumers are bombarded with labels such as organic, free-range, free-trade, and grass-fed, among others. Many of these labels are misleading and don’t mean much, so it’s important to know which ones really count. You can find a handy little guide here.
- Know your ingredients. Know whether your food is good for both you and the environment. Stay away from processed food and unethically-produced ingredients, as well as endangered seafood. And yes, that means saying no to Shark’s Fin. Tuna species are also in danger of falling victim to overfishing, despite being known for having high levels of mercury.
- Eat locally. Know where your food is from. Buy directly from producers if possible, as this supports our local farmers. The diminished transportation costs also greatly reduce our carbon footprint. Purchase fruits and vegetables that are in season, because those that aren’t cost more to transport from the farm to the supermarket. In-season produce are also more nutritious than off-season fruits and veggies that travel thousands of miles in shipment. Or better yet, grow your own food!
- Eat more mussels and legumes! Mussels are probably the most sustainable seafood (plus they clean the water)! They require very little resources to farm, and harvesting them doesn’t disturb the environment. At the same time, growing beans is good for the planet because they’re nitrogen-fixers (they enrich soil by depositing nitrogen into it).
- Learn how to cook. We’re talking about root-to-stem and nose-to-tail cooking. Learning how to use every part of an ingredient is a great step towards lessening waste, plus it helps you steer clear of the additives and chemicals that are added to processed food. But any kind of home cooking can make a difference too! The process helps you realize where your food is really from, and lets you choose where to buy your ingredients (and ultimately, what you put into your body). Plus, saving the leftovers is another great way to reduce waste.
- Eat less meat. Beef production consumes 10 times as much energy as corn production. While the meat industry will hopefully take bigger steps towards treating animals better, it’s still extremely unsustainable at present. And so long as there is a demand, there will always be a supply. Thus, if we continue to support factory farming, meat will continue to be produced (using methods that are unsafe and unethical) at extremely alarming rates.
- Avoid bottled water. Besides the fact that bottled water comes with the health risk of unnecessary chemicals and certain plastic compounds leaching into the water, the accumulation of plastic waste is destructive to the environment.
It’s extremely important to root your practices in the belief that you don’t exactly live in a bubble. At the end of the day, it all boils down to the decisions we make, as well as our undeniable capacity to affect change without even being conscious of it. So be conscious of where, what, and how you eat, and then make smart, ethical (and delicious) decisions!
Anything else you’re interested in is not going to happen if you can’t breathe the air and drink the water. Don’t sit this one out. Do something. – Carl Sagan
[Thumbnail via WendyMag]