Amongst busy, consumerist lifestyles, our current dietary patterns continue to remain astoundingly unhealthy, unsustainable, and inequitable for many populations. Our food production is responsible for 30% of greenhouse gas emissions globally, and if we do not take action fast, this will rise uncontrollably. To tackle this, there is a growing realisation of sustainable agriculture which encompasses producing healthy food without compromising future generations’ ability to do the same. Complementing this, sustainable eating concerns choosing food healthful to our environment and bodies.
In the final Instagram Live for our Individual Action series, REST initiated a conversation with renowned chef and founder of Might Be Vegan, Kimberly Renee. ‘Might Be Vegan’ is a plant-based marketing and media consultancy built on principles in helping people change their lifestyle through innovative experiences. During this pandemic, Kimberly founded Food Love in her effort to aid people suffering food insecurity, especially in black and brown communities, by providing them fresh plant-based food. You can, and we urge you, to contribute to and support this incredible initiative here: https://rb.gy/cfa8nt
To Kimberly, sustainable eating entails a combination of plant-based and locally sourced food in order to account for the impact of one’s consumption on their local and global environment. A plant-based diet reduces loss of life and abuse of animals, on top of environmental and social pollution from slaughterhouses and factory farms in surrounding neighborhood communities and the global atmosphere. Following a plant-based diet is a position of activism, advocating for humans, animals and the environment. A locally sourced diet is sustainable due to limiting the impact of transporting items across states or countries. Moreover, eating seasonably is sustainable, as when we consume products that are not in season they have to be shipped from afar to reach us.
Here are some ways of changing your diet to a more sustainable one as learnt from the Live:
The first and incremental step to changing your diet begins with eating more plants.
Find out and support your local farmers. This enables you to resonate with your community.
Cut back on meat consumption. Not everyone has the ability to do things ‘cold turkey’. For example, if you eat meat every day, start by limiting yourselves to twice a week.
Discuss your changes to vegetarianism/veganism with your doctor to understand them better and manage your diet accordingly. Furthermore, there is a lot of useful information on the internet.
Grow your own food in your home, balcony and garden in a cheaper and beautiful manner to access food.
When initially shifting from a meat to plant-based diet, deficiency may be experienced. This is not because these nutrients are not available in plants, but because the standard diet we know supplements food differently, so we need to rethink the origins of our nutrients. A common misconception is that going vegan limits your intake of protein. When observing ‘good sources of protein’ (the cow, pig or chicken), we learn they all eat plant-based diets- exhibiting that meat is not vital to our growth and development. Every fruit and vegetable possesses protein; richer sources including tempeh, tofu and legumes. A feasible method of ensuring a nourishing meal is through incorporating different coloured food, as this usually demonstrates a variety of nutrients present.
In my personal experience, turning to a plant-based diet has been an unexpectedly easy experience due to the vast support available online. My food is delicious, balanced and typically healthy wherein I physically feel more energised, productive and happy. I believe it is important to ‘eat soulful food, not food that has a soul,’ as a nourished body is a nourished mind and life.
A different aspect of sustainable eating for us to act on is to reduce our food wastage and disposable packaging. Listed are some tips that are easy to implement at home:
Shop in bulk at grocery stores, especially shelf items such as oats and spices. Carry your own containers and bags wherever you can.
Only cook enough food for who is eating right now.
If you have prepared more food than necessary, freeze the leftover food before it becomes ‘leftover waste’ in the fridge that no one wants. This proactively ensures you save food and put it away to eat later.
Reduce usage of single-use plastics. Carry sustainable cutlery and straws wherever you can.
Reduce/Reuse actual food ‘waste’. For example, a piece of excess potato can be replanted. You can also store leftover vegetable peels in silicone bags in your freezer and use them to cook a vegetable broth.
Compost your kitchen waste at home in any old bucket, odourless with coco-peat powder. (Check out our previous blog post Rethinking our Relationship with Waste).
The only real challenge is transforming our mindsets! Significant take-aways from this Live include the importance of reducing meat, adding plant-based food to our diets and introducing sustainable practices wherever we can. The benefits of changing your individual diet are invaluable to your quality of life and the planet you live in. When one person reforms their behaviour, through encouragement and sharing positive experiences, they inspire someone else to make that change too- we compound and create exponential change. Individual actions create a collective action, as without individual actions we do not have a community.