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Beyond Meat Tips for eating sustainably

Robin Steedman-Braun

Science and Environment Editor

Credit: To Taste

There is no denying that these days, climate change is a hot topic. From more and more frequent natural disasters to constantly increasing greenhouse gas emissions, it is a worry that preoccupies many of us, leaving us wondering what we can personally do to ease our anxiety. The answer may lie right under our noses and on our dinner plates: eating sustainably.

A sustainable diet is one in which the food consumed is produced in a way that protects the environment, has a relatively low impact on biodiversity, and sustains ecosystems without depleting natural resources. According to researchers of the Faculty of Science at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark, a sustainable diet should also ideally be “nutritionally adequate, safe, healthy, culturally acceptable and economically affordable”.

However, it is important to note that sustainability is not black-and-white, and evaluating the sustainability of a food item is quite complex. Countless factors, such as land use, water consumption, animal welfare, and greenhouse gas emissions from both food production and transport, must be considered. It is impossible for a food product to have no environmental impact, but there are certain products that are more eco-friendly than others.

Adopting a sustainable diet can seem hard, but the trick is to approach it step-by-step. A rule of thumb for going on a sustainable diet is to consume more plants and less meat. Intensive animal farming uses almost 70% of our agricultural land, propelling deforestation rates and increasing the risk for drought, erosion, and forest fires on our fertile lands. A plant-focused diet generally uses less land, water, fertilizer, and energy than an animal-product-based diet. Another key component is reducing our intake of highly processed foods. Such food items are processed in large quantities and distributed worldwide, contributing large amounts of greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere due to transport. Not to mention that such products tend to be high in sugar, fat, and preservatives or additives. In hopes of reducing our environmental footprint, we can also choose to buy local products when available. Farmers’ markets, community gardens, and community supported agriculture companies, such as Montreal’s Lufa Farms program, are all great ways to support local farmers while eating fresh produce and reducing your footprint. Adopting a sustainable diet is possible even at big-brand grocery stores. Buying in-season organic produce, even if it is not necessarily from a local farm, is still a great way to decrease your environmental impact.

Nevertheless, it is important to realize that sustainability is subjective and can mean different things for different people. From preparing one vegetarian meal a week to adopting a fully vegan lifestyle, a sustainable diet is not one-size-fits-all. Items such as fresh, organic produce and in-season products can often be expensive and not necessarily available at local shops. A sustainable diet is about doing the most you can given your circumstances.



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