I’m going to be blunt here – unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’re aware of the devastation the fires have been causing across Australia. You may have donated and found other ways to help, yet may continue to feel helpless as the gut-wrenching numbers of animals, habitats, people, and homes lost grows higher.
Yes, wildfires are a natural part of life in places like Australia, here in California, and many other areas. However scientists agree that climate change is largely contributing to the more extreme fire behavior we’re seeing. While many of us are limited in how we can help, we can begin making small changes in our lifestyles to help prevent the worsening of future fires and other natural disasters. One such change is what and how we eat. This alone can have a significantly positive impact on our planet.
Scientific evidence shows there is in fact a link between diet and environmental sustainability in addition to diet and health. To address this growing issue, the Eat-Lancet Commission was formed. It’s a global non-profit foundation that aims to transform our global food system. Over 30 leading scientists from 16 countries who specialize in human health, agriculture, political science, and environmental sustainability came together to write up the Eat-Lancet Report. This report investigates how we can shift our diets to help support both human and environmental health.
While some of their goals are aimed to be carried out on a larger scale, such as sustainable food production, they also emphasize the importance of shifting toward a more plant-based diet and reducing food waste. Making small changes to these two areas alone can make a positive impact. So, here are changes you can begin making today that can add up and ultimately lead to a healthier planet.
Add more plants to your plate.
This will look different for everyone. In order to make lasting dietary changes, it’s important that the changes you make are done in small steps and that they are ones you can see yourself doing in the long run. This may include anything from simply adding more produce, nuts, seeds and legumes to your diet without making any other change, to participating in Meatless Mondays, to transitioning to a new diet altogether.
Support local farms and businesses.
Not only is this a great way to get involved in your community, support local farmers and businesses, and get fresher tasting food, but the shorter travel time that it takes for the food to get from the farm to your plate can considerably reduce the fuel needed for transportation. Needless to say, this means reduced greenhouse gas emissions.
Minimize food waste.
While this is an issue that begins well before making it to the store or your kitchen, there are small things you can do to help with this issue. One simple thing is purchasing frozen fruits and veggies. This is particularly helpful if you have a tendency to toss your fresh produce after it passes its prime. You can also help support the “ugly” produce movement. Unfortunately, a lot of perfectly good produce doesn’t make it to the shelves due to a less-than-perfect appearance (eye roll). Fortunately, there are companies that source this imperfect produce and make it available for conscious consumers to purchase.
First in, first out.
This is a food-service method for storing food that can also work in your kitchen. The idea is to keep older food and leftovers in front of the fridge and to add newer foods to the back. This can help keep you from forgetting the perfectly good produce that tends to get lost in the forest of Tupperware, new groceries, and everything else going on in your fridge.
Invest in a reusable water bottle & coffee mug that you’ll actually be excited to use.
While these may be small-scale changes, they really can have a monumental impact over time. In fact, according to Eat-Lancet “Food is the single strongest lever to optimize human health and environmental sustainability on earth.” If this isn’t powerful and incredibly motivating, I don’t know what is.
By making small changes in our day-to-day lives, together, we can help move that
lever one step closer to healing our planet.
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Natalie Gavi is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist who is passionate about the power that food plays in health and athletic performance.