We know that a balanced diet is good for our health; in rich countries this means eating more fruit and vegetables and less fat and animal protein. And it can also play a big part in the health of our planet.
Moving to a renewable energy future, using current technologies inevitably involves growing more crops, trees, algae, etc, for energy purposes.
This will put more pressure on land and could lead to conflict, especially in countries with weak governance, unless we use the land we have far more efficiently.
Increasing productivity, reducing excess
Part of the solution lies in increasing substantially the productivity of land used for raising animals and growing fodder while also reducing the excess meat consumption in the developed world.
The amount of food we waste is one we need to address when it comes to reducing the energy we use.
Think of the fruit and vegetables that are transported thousands of miles by ship, aeroplane and refrigerated trucks that is wasted, or the rainforest that’s been cleared to produce meat that ends up in the bin.
- A quarter of the world’s population do not have enough food, yet over 40% of the world’s grain harvest is fed to livestock.
- One-fifth of the world’s greenhouse-gas emissions are generated by the meat industry, more than from transport.
What you can do
Eat less meat.
To improve diets in the developing world and avoid land conflict, while ensuring enough land to grow biofuels sustainably, under the scenario people in rich countries need to cut their meat consumption by at least half, while the rest of the world will eat a quarter more.
These changes would mean that world diets would become more balanced and equitable.
Eat more seasonal produce and food with low environmental impact. Seasonal produce tends to be consumed close in the region where it is produced which reduces the distance that food needs to travel (and hence saves energy and demand for biofuels).
Local is not always the best option however - fruit and vegetables grown in natural sunlight in the tropics and then transported may use less energy overall than those grown in heated greenhouses in colder climates.
We also need to consider food’s wider environmental and social impacts – food that is certified “sustainable” will help ensure good production methods while also providing essential livelihoods for people in developing countries.
- Only buy and cook the food you need. Think ahead and plan your meals carefully. Use leftovers, and if you can’t, make sure you compost them instead of throwing them away.
- Talk to your supermarket and other food suppliers. Ask them what they are doing to supply more sustainable food and reduce waste, and how they are helping shoppers to make more sustainable choices.