Most of us know there are benefits to going organic and going “green.” Although both are beneficial in the pursuit of Active Wellness and for planet Earth, there are differences. Going organic is health-centered while going green requires sustainable practices that impact economic, social and ecological factors that help protect Earth and its resources. In other words, sustainable food is virtually always organic, but not all organic food is sustainable.
Choosing sustainable food helps reduce an individual’s carbon footprint, which is the “amount of greenhouse gases produced to directly and indirectly support human activities, usually expressed in equivalent tons of carbon dioxide.”1 The Food andAgriculture Organization of the United Nations claims that by switching to organic agriculture farmers can reduce up to 66% of carbon dioxide emissions.2 Large agricultural companies argue that some organically grown produce have a higher overall energy consumption and land use. This discrepancy presents the most obvious difference between simply organic, and actually sustainable, food.
The rule of thumb is that the less processed the food is, the more sustainable it is. Look at it this way: when you eat a raw organically grown vegetable or fruit, you are eliminating the carbon footprint of the power used in cooking by gas or electricity. Also, some vegetables have a carbon footprint nearly as serious as meat, because they are grown in greenhouses that use a lot of heat and light—for example, hothouse tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers. Therefore, the approach to reducing your carbon footprint with what you eat requires multiple behaviors:
- Eat locally produced organic food. An estimated 13% of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions result from the production and transport of food. Transporting food requires petroleum-based fuels, and many fertilizers are also fossil fuel-based.3
- Reducing your consumption of non-grass fed red meat and dairy is not only environmentally friendly but also heart friendly. Livestock is responsible for 14.5% of manmade global greenhouse gas emissions, mainly from feed production and processing, and the methane that beef and sheep emit. Every day without meat and dairy reduces your carbon footprint by eight pounds or 2,920 pounds a year.4
- Research which fruits and vegetables are most carbon-friendly. For example, lentils require very little water to grow. They actually clean and fortify the soil, making it easier to grow other crops. Beans in general (including kidney, black, pinto, etc.) have a low carbon and water footprint. These legumes also have high nutritional values because of their protein and fiber content. Rice, on the other hand, is water intensive.
- Mussels are harvested on long collector ropes suspended in oceans, and while growing, they eat naturally occurring food in the water. In the process, they filter and clean the water, even extracting carbon to make their shells. They have very little environmental impact.5
- Buy fish in season from local farmer’s markets or fisheries that practice sustainable fishing. As people become more educated about overfishing, the island of Palau is leading the way in protecting its oceans from poaching and has outlawed bottom trawling. In 2015, Palau established the largest no-take zone in the world, 193,000 square miles of ocean that cannot be fished, mined or drilled.6 Palau now has a range of partners from commercial, non-profit and governmental organizations, including U.S.-based SkyTruth, a nonprofit that monitors and reports poaching to the police.
- Buy food in bulk when possible. The less packaging, the more sustainable the food. Use your own recyclable and reusable containers.
- Eat what you buy. Reduce food waste by freezing excess and repurposing leftovers. Teach your children early in their lives to develop eating habits that are not only healthy but also helpful to planet Earth. Waste not, want not.
As you reduce your carbon footprint, Kenzen Vital Balance® Meal Replacement Mix can help you with the transition to being more plant-based in your diet. It’s made with organically grown ingredients that provide a nutritious source of vegan protein.