Food production demands a lot from the world. 20 to 35% of the environmental impact and of greenhouse gas emissions come from the production and consumption of food. You eat more sustainably in the first place by eating less, so no more than you need. It also helps to choose less for environmentally harmful animal protein-rich products, such as meat and cheese. A food pattern without or with less meat results in a lower environmental impact. Preferably choose products with labels in the field of animal welfare, fair trade, nature, environment and origin. Sustainability is a broad concept. One thinks about animal welfare, the other about nature or fair trade.
Below are some easy to implement changes to your daily eating standard:
- Do not eat too much and reduce your energy intake if your body weight is too high.
- Take fewer sweet drinks, sweets, cakes and snacks. Your body does not need these products, but making them is environmentally damaging because a lot of processing is needed in a factory. It is best to choose unprocessed or unprocessed products, such as vegetables, fruit, legumes and whole-grain cereal products that contain many nutrients and not many calories.
- Do not waste food. Reducing food waste makes a major contribution to making your household sustainable.
- Eat less animal and more vegetable products. That means less greenhouse gases and land use. Beef and, to a lesser extent, cheese in particular score high. What has a lot of effect on greenhouse gas emissions is eating less meat and replacing this with legumes, nuts and fish. A shift from beef to chicken also has a clear sustainability effect. Animal welfare aspects play a role in choosing chicken and egg.
- Eat legumes, unsalted nuts and fish instead of (red and processed) meat. Climate load and energy consumption of nuts are more favourable than meat and comparable to egg and slightly less favourable than legumes. Peanuts are the most favourable, followed by European varieties such as chestnut, walnut, hazelnut and pistachio.
- Eat fish once a week, preferably fatty fish. Choose the sustainable fish species. Sustainable fish species can be recognized by the MSC quality mark for wild or ASC quality mark for farmed fish.
- From a sustainability perspective, it is advisable not to use more dairy than you need. Liquid dairy, such as milk or yoghurt, rather than cheese, which has a high environmental impact, is preferred. Soy drink has a lower environmental impact than milk, but cannot simply replace milk. Soy drink is usually made from responsible soy, so that it is not at the expense of the rainforest.
- Drink tap water and (green / black) tea instead of sugary drinks and alcohol. From a sustainability perspective it is best to drink tap water. A second option is tea or coffee. Hot drinks have an impact on energy consumption, in particular through the boiling of water. For tea that is lower for coffee. Alcoholic and sugary drinks such as soft drinks and fruit juices have a high environmental impact. For coffee and tea, choose Rainforest Alliance or Utz Certified seal of approval due to working conditions.
- Use of large quantities of potatoes, vegetables, fruit and grain products on a daily basis has low climate impact, water use and land use. Give preference to environmentally friendly variants. Good vegetable choice all year round: celery, cauliflower, broccoli, iceberg lettuce, kohlrabi, leek, turnips, radish, beetroot, red cabbage, pointed cabbage, sprouts, tomato, onion, carrots, chicory, white cabbage. And for fruit: pineapple, apple, banana, grape, pomegranate, grapefruit, mandarin, melon, nectarine, pear, plum, orange. A sustainable cultivation method can be recognized by a sustainability quality mark or organic quality mark. The nutritional value of preserves (frozen, glass, can) is almost the same as that of fresh vegetables. Out of season it takes less energy to choose preserves than for greenhouse vegetables and flown in vegetables.
- The way you prepare food can help you use energy efficiently.
There is no responsible method for adding up impact on humans, animals and the environment to one number or indicator. If there is a contradiction between the environment and animal welfare, the consumer will have to make the assessment himself. It is currently not feasible to display all individual scores in one sustainability score or quality mark. Greenhouse gases can be used as a representative indicator because there is a strong correlation between indicators. The ecological food imprint is currently the best measure of consumer awareness. For water use, this is expressed in the water footprint. The most relevant indicators are:
- Greenhouse gases
- Land use
- Ecological food imprint (a combination of greenhouse effect and land use)
- Water use
- (Fossil) energy use (related to greenhouse effect)
- Eutrophication and acidification at regional level
- Depletion of raw materials such as phosphate
- Loss of biodiversity
For example, biodiversity is a relevant indicator for food production in or alongside nature reserves. The most important thing is that you ensure a sustainable way of eating.