Don't eat the planet

Credit: UNEP
Credit: UNEP
The theme for this World Environment Day, 5 June 2013, is “Think.Eat.Save”, a campaign that aims to reduce food waste and loss, and the massive impact that food production has on the planet.  

With 7 billion mouths to feed (expected to rise to 9 billion by mid-century), we can ill afford to Eat without Thinking.
Just look at these stats:
  • Humanity wastes 1.3 billion tons of food annually, which is equivalent to the amount produced in the whole of sub-Saharan Africa.
  • 1 in 7 people go to bed hungry.
  • When food gets wasted, so do all the resources that went into its production. One example: it takes about 16 000 litres of water just to produce one hamburger.
  • Global food production occupies a quarter of all habitable land and is responsible for 70% of fresh water consumption, 80% of deforestation, and 30% of greenhouse gas emissions. It is the largest single cause of biodiversity loss and land-use change.
There are plenty of ways reduce your “foodprint”; here are a few ideas:
  • Eat meat-light. There’s now little question that meat takes the heaviest toll on the environment of all types of food production, and a diet light in red meat especially is a standard health recommendation.
  • Brown-bag it. Making and taking your own lunch uses fewer resources, helps you stick to a healthy eating plan, and it’s considerably cheaper.
  • Eat locally. Transporting food thousands of kilometers increases global emissions, and requires further resources to keep it from spoiling. Buying and eating locally also helps support local business and employment opportunities.
  • Grow your own herbs and vegetables. It doesn’t get much more local than your own back yard. Grow your own – it’s easier than you think.
  • Plan your meals. How much food are you and your family turfing out every month? A little forethought prevents this, and saves your household money.
  • Eat less. A controversial tip this, because the reasons for overweight and obesity are complex, but nonetheless one many of us privileged diners could consider. Excess adipose tissue is a form of waste.
  • Compost your organic food waste.
References: Facts and figures from the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)

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