How Are the Foods We Eat and the Environment Related?

The foods we eat impact our physical health, but they also influence our environment. Naturally, different diets have different effects — vegan, the ketogenic diet and the Mediterranean meal plan are only a few of many. As concerns about climate change grow, people are looking for greener ways to grow, consume and dispose of their food. Consuming a lot of one resource creates market demand, but it also depletes that resource in nature — such as the issue of overfishing.

Thankfully, it is easy to learn about how the foods we eat are related to global ecological health. By swapping energy and resource-intensive foods for greener alternatives when possible, you can contribute to the movement to protect planet Earth.

Marine Ecosystems

Eating and catching fish is not a bad thing — many people subsist on seafood diets, and others simply enjoy the way these aquatic organisms taste. However, the fishing methods many fisheries use are not always the most eco-friendly, which results in overexploitation of aquatic ecosystems and unnecessary animal death. The Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations reported that biologically sustainable stocks of fish have decreased from 90 to 66.9 percent over 41 years.

Additionally, the level of unsustainable stocks that fisheries have caught has increased from 10 to 33.1 percent in that same timeframe. Much of this is due to illegal and unreported fishing practices. These unsustainable fishing methods can harm aquatic communities in other ways, too. 

Abandoned fishing gear can kill marine life such as coral, sea turtles and birds due to entanglement or suffocation. The presence of abandoned gear can even change sediment distribution and growing patterns of marine seagrasses, which could have adverse effects on the animals inhabiting these spaces.

Land-Based Ecosystems

Like aquatic ecosystems, terrestrial ecosystems are also suffering the effects of inefficient food production and harvesting. Monocrops like rice, coffee and corn have grown in popularity because of how convenient it is to grow them. Though they make for easier crop raising, they lower the biodiversity of the surrounding land and deplete the soil of vital nutrients. Planting the same crop in one large area makes that plot more susceptible to disease and pests — if one plant is affected, all the others are likely to die, too.

Pests also tend to run rampant in these areas, resulting in increased pesticide use and more air and water pollution. Even if crops avoid insects and disease, there is still the issue of lowered soil fertility for future produce. 

Plants take nutrients from the soil and return some back to the ground. If the same crop is replanted repeatedly in an area, it keeps taking the same nutrients, leaving little for the next generation to feed on. Consumers can end up buying and eating food of less nutritional value as a result.

Fossil Fuels

Fossil fuels eat away at the planet’s ozone layer, causing more of the sun’s rays to filter through and warm the Earth. Slowing the release and consumption of these fuels is difficult due to their major presence in so many global industries. Fossil fuels have particularly high stakes in global food production. 

Switching from manual labor to machine-based farming techniques proved a necessary step in furthering agriculture. However, a study depicting a one-fifth energy increase in the U.S. food system during 2002 reveals that this new technology created a surge of fossil fuels. Here are a few ways that agriculture contributes to fossil fuels:

  • Livestock raising: The EPA estimates that raising livestock accounts for one-third of the greenhouse gas emissions emitted by the agricultural sector. This phenomenon occurs because of the animals’ digestive processes, which output methane.
  • Land fertilization: Many farmers use nitrogen and phosphorus fertilizers on their crops. Over-applying nitrogen fertilizers can lead to heightened nitrogen emissions, which can cause water and air pollution. Nitrogen and phosphorus are major components in aquatic dead zones, which can harm both humans and animals.
  • Energy consumption: Farming machinery requires fuel to run, and much of it operates on diesel. This fuel releases harmful emissions when it burns, which can result in the creation of air-polluting particles and toxic gases. Clean diesel and alternative fuels — like biofuels — have arisen as greener options.

What We Eat and Climate Change

Plant-based diets and smaller meat portions are effective ways to achieve steps toward a healthier, cleaner planet. We must do more than simply eating more vegetables and fruits, however. It is also crucial for people to educate themselves on ethical sourcing. Buying produce from resource-intensive food manufacturers will only perpetuate the ongoing trend toward global warming. It is essential to choose foods certified for ethical growing and harvesting — as well as nutritional value — to combat this.

Research has indicated that environmental changes may result in smaller yields for a range of food crops, including legumes and vegetables. With the world’s growing population and concerns over food insecurity, this is one issue to be concerned about. The cycle of climate change and unsustainable agriculture can improve if more people adopt healthier ways to consume.

There is no single diet that will end climate change. Rather, the issue of better eating centers around consuming more whole foods and being conscious of where your meals originate. Though everyone’s dietary needs and preferences are different, here are a few things you can consider doing to reduce your environmental impact:Buy healthy oils: Refined oils are created by using chemical processing, which can affect the nutritional content. Alternatively, cold pressing preserves more of the antioxidants while avoiding the usage of solvents like hexane. By using less heat and energy to create oils, there is also less reliance on the energy grid and fossil fuels.

Try a flexitarian diet: You do not need to give up meat entirely to adopt a more eco-friendly diet. Eat animal products in smaller portions and swap this food source for plant-based proteins where possible. You can still enjoy your favorite foods while being mindful of your consumption.

Eat more whole foods: Health experts recommend eating more whole foods — grains, leafy greens, nuts, seeds and the like — to reap a range of health benefits. Go for organic, certifiably sustainable goods. You may discover a new favorite fruit or vegetable that pleases your palate.

Minimize food waste: Creating food waste results in overflowing landfills that can leach into water supplies through stormwater runoff. You can minimize food waste at home by experimenting with creative ways to use every part of every ingredient — like orange peels or the leafy bits of celery.

Shop for in-season foods: Shopping in season refers to purchasing and consuming foods around the same time they are harvested. In-season shopping helps to align your menu with produce that is readily available in your area. Choosing in-season foods that are available nearby requires significantly less transportation — and greenhouse gases— than buying foods that have to be imported or driven across the country.

Explore Your Options for Healthy Oils With La Tourangelle

Learn how to prepare an eco-friendly meal for any diet by exploring our recipes, or take a look through our catalog of all-natural artisan oils. La Tourangelle is dedicated to developing healthy, flavorful cooking oils to enrich your kitchen. 

By developing our products with minimal processing and small batches, low impact packaging (tin cans are lighter and more efficient to ship, and are recyclable!), and minimal waste, we seek to practice ecological sustainability while providing you with delicious oils to liven up your meals and help you practice healthy eating habits.

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