How to eat sustainably

Food is an important part of many peoples' lives. It is one of the reasons why my first column was devoted to a simple idea to reduce wood waste. During the last few months, I have been trying to slowly improve my diet and to become a more sustainable eater.

Many people do not see that their eating patterns and food choices have a huge impact on the environment. Since we do a lot of research before purchasing a new camera, a computer or a smartphone, why not spend a little time to learn about the food you're eating?

First of all, why should we eat more sustainably? According to Sustainable Table:

- Sustainable foods are healthier and taste "better". They are grown with fewer and less toxic pesticides. Meat is raised without antibiotics or hormones, and the foods are not genitically modified or irradiated. Since sustainable food is local, it doesn't travel as far as conventional foods. This means the fruit is picked closer to its peak ripeness.

- Sustainable foods are grown in a more sustainable manner for the farmer, as well as the workers on the farm.

- Sustainable farming supports local economies.

- Sustainable farming produces less waste.

- Local small and medium size farms aren't as water, chemical and fossil fuel intensive and create as much waste.


Knowing this, how can we improve our current diets to make ourselves healthier, whilst also becoming more sustainable?

For me, the most important step is to eat less meat. I was raised by my Dutch father and Brazilian mother, with both their own culture and eating habits. In Brazil, meat is a speciality and I cannot disagree when people say it is delicious. However, reducing the amount of meat you eat is crucial to becoming a more sustainable consumer of foods. The standard North-American diet requires a shocking 15899 litres of water daily, whereas a vegan diet only consumes 1136 litres of water daily. These water uses can be attributed to irrigation of crops, drinking water for animals, processing and washing etc. (Since I have used North-American examples in the columns before I also chose to use it here)

Since acquiring more information about this, I chose to reduce my meat consumption by opting for vegetarian meals at least once a week.

Another simple tip to become a more sustainable eater, is to eat seasonal vegetables and fruit. This means that you promote locally produced seasonal food instead of purchasing E.G. pineapples from Paraguay. Next time, when choosing what to eat, look at the vegetable and gruit calendar made available by Millieu Centraal:


E.G. Choose to eat andijvie (Endive Lettuce) during the summer instead of the winter, since then it is produced in the Netherlands instead of Spain. 

Andijvie Stamppot

Pieter van Hall