The majority of people in the western world live in large cities and take their food for granted. They buy food from the supermarket, from a restaurant, or from another small store without thinking about the processes necessary to grow it, process it, and to get it to the shop.
Many foods are environmentally destructive and cause a great deal of damage during their production process. Unfortunately, these are spread throughout everyday products that everyone buys.
15 Simple tips to ethical eating
Eating ethically – or being aware of the way that what we eat affects the world around us – is extremely important in today’s world of destruction and changing climate.
Here are fifteen tips that will allow you to eat more ethically, without breaking the bank!
#1 Go vegan
Obviously this is the extreme option, but it will do wonders both for you and for everyone around you. Your health will improve and the environment and every animal on earth will thank you.
#2 Be careful with chocolate
Chocolate production is one of the most harmful food production processes on earth. It often begins with slavery, and ends with environmental destruction.
Buy fair-trade chocolate when you need that sugary boost.
#3 Support local farmers
Buy from farmers markets and local stores to reduce transport costs and ensure you are getting the freshest produce available.
#4 Avoid bottled water
Stop buying plastic water bottles, and instead invest in a water purification system or something similar.
#5 Go for free-range eggs
Wherever possible, you should ensure that any animal products that you buy aren’t supporting cruel or unsustainable practices – like those involved with caged eggs!
#6 Opt for sustainable seafood
A huge proportion of the world’s seafood catches are unsustainable or illegal. Making sure that you only eat seafood which is certified sustainable by the Marine Conservation Society will go a long way towards protecting the ocean.
#7 Reduce your meat intake
The intensive farming processes involved with meat production are extremely environmentally harmful, not to mention cruel.
Reducing your meat consumption will be good for both your health and for the environment.
#8 Avoid foods containing palm oil
Palm oil production is responsible for huge amounts of illegal logging and deforestation in tropical countries throughout the world. Avoiding palm oil – which is actually more difficult than it sounds – will ensure that you aren’t supporting these unsustainable practices.
#9 Plant a garden
Growing your own vegetables is perhaps one of the easiest and cheapest ways of eating ethically. You know that they will be clean and free of harmful chemicals.
#10 Avoid budget fast foods
These are often produced cruelly and at the expense of both the environment and the workers producing them. Avoid them at all costs.
#11 Be careful with soy
Like palm-oil, soy products are often produced in ways which are destructive to the environment, and just about everything else on earth. In saying that, soy can be a good meat substitute, as long as it comes from a sustainable source.
#12 Eat organic wherever possible
Organic foods contain less chemicals and other harmful products, which means they are better for both you and the environment.
#13 Eat low on the food chain
If you do choose to eat meat, then choose animals low on the food chain. These are usually more abundant and have less chance of becoming extinct due to over-exploitation.
#14 Stop wasting food
Every bit of food you waste is harming the environment and reducing the food available to the poorer people of society.
#15 Avoid genetically modified (GMO) foods
Genetic modification has huge potential to destroy the environment, reduce biodiversity, and harm human health. Avoid GMOs at all costs.
How can you eat more sustainably?
In order to be a conscious consumer and understand where your food comes from, you need to understand the production pathways.
Do you know where does your food really come from?
Fruit and vegetable
Fruits and vegetable are among the easiest foods to monitor, as they come in their original form and are regulated by a number of rules and laws.
Since many products are seasonal, they must be imported if we want to enjoy them throughout the year – which is exactly what wealthy westerners do want.
Importing fruit and vegetables has a number of downsides, including:
- Imported produce is more likely to be contaminated with chemicals and other toxic substances.
If they are imported from a country with lax agricultural laws, like Mexico or Southeast Asian countries, then your fresh fruit and vegetables can do you more harm than good.
- They are less nutritious.
Since they must handle a long transport period, many imported products are picked green and left to ripen off the plant. This leaves them both with less nutrition and with a lower quality.
- Importing produce emits a lot of greenhouse gas emissions.
Think about it, if you buy local, then there are very smaller transport costs (in both the environmental and monetary sense of the word). Imported products, on the other hand, must be transported to a port, shipped to the country of origin, and then transported to the supermarket where you buy them.
This requires a lot of energy, burns fossil fuels, and is environmentally harmful.
It is widely known that meat production is an extremely harmful process.
This is especially true in poorer countries where agricultural regulations are either non-existent or unenforced. When you eat meat you are contributing to environmental destruction in a number of ways: meat production has a huge carbon cost, it often comes hand in hand with natural habitat loss, and it (indirectly) causes starvation and a lack of nutrition in poor countries.
Just one example of the way in which meat is bad for the environment is beef production in the Amazon.
Huge cattle ranches are popping up throughout countries like Brazil and Colombia in places where there used to be nothing but virgin rainforest. Farmers are felling huge areas of rainforest to graze their cattle. This in itself could probably be managed, but as soon as their new farmlands are becoming infertile, farmers are moving on to new areas of rainforest.
They clear land for a new ranch, move their cattle in, and the process continues.
Fish and seafood
Seafood is a relatively safe food to eat, as long as it is sourced from a sustainable fishery which is certified by an organization like the marine conservation society.
If it is not, then it probably comes from a fishery which is either environmentally harmful or which doesn’t have adequate conservation measures in place.
Always look for the seal of certification.
The biggest thing to watch out for when buying seafood from the supermarket is products that are sourced in Asia. Many Asian countries still have unregulated fisheries which are harmful to both the environment and to the surrounding communities.
The worst example is in Thailand, where ‘slave’ boats are still common. Poor villagers from the area are enticed onto boats with the promise of an income and a steady job. However, once they are established on the boat, they are held captive and prevented from leaving.
This is a huge violation of human rights, and you should not support it through your seafood purchases.
Although there are hundreds more food products we could talk about, the main theme remains the same: imported products or those made from imported products are usually much more harmful to the environment than local products.
Eat local and know what you are eating to ensure that you are as environmentally friendly as possible.