Food & Sustainability

The relationship that individuals have with food is intimate. Some people choose to eat everything, while others choose or may be limited to a vegan, vegetarian, raw, paleo, Atkins, sugar-free, pescatarian, allergy-free, plant-based or gluten-free diet. Food is influenced by culture and society, but have we overlooked a larger implication?

Vermont, photo by Stacia Betley

It turns out that what we eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner is the #1 cause of global warming. The social and environmental impact of food is enormous. The production of food requires land, fossil fuels, chemicals, food for livestock, packaging materials and refrigeration. There is not one solution, however we need to wake up and start asking questions about where our food comes from and what’s in our food. Let’s find a way to eat food that is not only healthier for us, but also healthier for the environment. As Paul Hawken’s book Drawdown – The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming states, “Rather than releasing carbon dioxide and other GHGs into the atmosphere, food production can capture carbon as a means to increase fertility, soil health, water availability, yields, and ultimately nutrition and food security.”

Plant-Based Diets– A University of Oxford study modeled a worldwide transition to plant-based diets between now and 2050 and results show business-as-usual food emissions could decrease by 63%.

Food Waste– ⅓ of food is lost or wasted and 35% of food in high-income economies is thrown out by consumers.

Access– We are currently producing enough food to feed 7.6B individuals globally, however those who are hungry lack access. How do we fight for equal access to food?

Brain Development– How do we demand more thoughtful food in schools?

Price– How do we make organic and transparent food more affordable?

Technology– How are companies using technology and innovation to address issues in agriculture? Check out Microsoft’s FarmBeats, an AI & IoT solution for agriculture.

Health–  There are now more obese people in the world than underweight. A New York Times series, Planet Fat, explores the causes and consequences of rising obesity rates. Hint: big business is to blame. Through taxation, banning targeted advertisements, and increasing consumer labeling, people and governments are starting to fight back.

Cookstoves– 40% of the world’s people cook with carbon-based fuels like like wood and coal, emitting 2-5% of the world’s GHGs annually.

Eco-labelsWhat is an ecolabel and what makes an ecolabel effective? Does a ‘natural’ product have any credibility?

More topics to explore: regenerative agriculture, food composting and silvopasture.

As Michael Pollan say, “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”

Bananas, photo by Stacia Betley

Resources:

Hawken, P. (2017). Drawdown (pp. 37- 74). New York: Penguin Books.

Sustainable Diets: What You Need to Know in 12 Charts | World Resources Institute. (2018). Wri.org. Retrieved 11 January 2018, from http://www.wri.org/blog/2016/04/sustainable-diets-what-you-need-know-12-charts

Written by staciab

Stacia is an accelerated MBA student focused in sustainability. She spent almost 3 years working in the outdoor gear industry in a marketing role and headed sustainability initiatives. However, after graduating this June, she hopes to pivot into the food industry and work for a company that aligns with her values.