Mythbuster Monday #18: The Most Sustainable Diet?
In light of the strike for climate last Friday, vegan diets have been in the spotlight for being the most sustainable way to eat. The arguments are that meat production uses vast amounts of land and water, and that greenhouse gas emissions from cattle are damaging the atmosphere. Even the United Nations has made a statement that a global shift towards plant-based eating is vital if we want to mitigate the effects of climate change!
Though true, going vegan overnight for some is a daunting task. If you are unable to cut all meat, dairy, and eggs out of your diet right now, what are some other ways that you can eat more sustainably? There are many other small, impactful, and important changes that you can make to your diet on your journey towards being plant-based.
1. Support your local farmers and businesses
These days, produce at supermarkets is shipped from who-knows-where, factories produce most of our foods adding who-knows-what, and everything is wrapped in layers of plastic.
Find out where your nearest farmer’s market is with a simple internet search and go visit! You’ll have access to fresh, delicious, seasonal produce. You’ll also have the satisfaction of knowing that your food hasn’t travelled 5000km via trucks, planes, and trains. You’ll also get the chance to speak to your farmer and know what’s actually in your food. Has it been grown with pesticides or herbicides? You have the right to know what you’re ingesting and farmer’s markets help to connect you to your food. Plus - shopping at a market is way more fun than at a supermarket!
The Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue farmer’s market takes place on Saturdays from 9am-2pm. We highly encourage you to check it out! Here is the link to their website: https://marchesainteanne.ca/en/home/.
In the event that you do want to eat meat or dairy, buy it locally! Small farms are more likely to treat their animals “ethically” and you eliminate most risk of dangerous antibiotics found in industry meat.
2. Choose Fairtrade
Buying certified Fairtrade products ensures that farmers and workers get paid equitably. Choosing Fairtrade vastly improves the lives of farmers abroad. Common items that you should consider buying Fairtrade include cocoa/chocolate, coffee, bananas, and tea.
Luckily, the McGill downtown campus is a designated Fairtrade Campus, and MacDonald Campus is soon-to-be designated! This means that many Fairtrade goodies can easily be found on campus! Craving chocolate? All McGill vending machines sell at least one Fairtrade chocolate! Need a coffee kick? McGill’s very own Roddick Roast is certified!
Grocery stores offer many Fairtrade products - just look for the official FAIRTRADE mark (seen below). Choose these products over others to make a significant impact.
3. Waste less (& compost what you do waste)
2017 numbers from the National Zero Waste Council show that 63% of the food that Canadians throw away could have been eaten. Food waste is a major issue because it wastes unimaginable amounts of water and energy. Further, when food is disposed of in a landfill, it rots and produces large amounts of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, with arguably worse effects than carbon dioxide.
When cooking for yourself, prepare reasonable amounts that you know you will eat. Rather than discarding vegetable scraps, get creative! And plan your meals before grocery shopping to avoid unnecessary purchases. Keep track of the food in your fridge and use perishables first.
There are many ways to eat sustainably that we must not forget. As we enter a period in which climate change is in the spotlight, you can make small but significant differences with the way you eat.
It has been shown that eliminating meat intake is one of the best diet changes we can make for our planet, but let’s remember that there are many small changes that we should all make!
Assessing the environmental impacts of consumption and production. (2010). International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education, 11(4), ijshe.2010.24911daf.001. https://doi.org/10.1108/ijshe.2010.24911daf.001
How bad is Canada’s food waste problem?. (2018, April 5). CBC Radio. Retrieved September 30, 2019, from CBC website: https://www.cbc.ca/radio/thecurrent/the-current-for-april-5-2018-1.4605392/how-bad-is-canada-s-food-waste-problem-among-the-world-s-worst-report-finds-1.4606012
Farm animal welfare. (n.d.). Retrieved September 30, 2019, from World Animal Protection International website: https://www.worldanimalprotection.org/our-work/animals-farming-supporting-70-billion-animals/farm-animal-welfare
Food Waste in Canada – Love Food Hate Waste Canada. (n.d.). Retrieved September 30, 2019, from https://lovefoodhatewaste.ca/about/food-waste/