6 Fascinating Facts to Whet Your Appetite for Sustainable Food


Could changing how you eat make a big difference in your total carbon footprint? The answer is yes. The food industry plays a considerable role in creating emissions, and whetting your appetite for more sustainable fare equates to treading more lightly on the planet. 

What makes food sustainable? After all, you have to eat. How can you make the best choices that delight your and your family’s taste buds and don’t leave you feeling deprived? 

These fascinating facts about sustainable foods will help you make better decisions at the grocery store and may even improve your health. 

What Makes a Food Sustainable? 

Several factors combine to determine the overall carbon footprint of specific foods. While there’s no precise equation, questions to ask yourself when deciding whether a food is sustainable include the following:

  • Does it contribute to deforestation or soil erosion? 
  • How much water is required to produce the food? 
  • Do production processes use pesticides and fertilizers that disrupt ecosystems?
  • How far must the food travel to reach your grocer’s shelves? 
  • How much energy does it take for manufacturers to deliver the food in its current form? 

Even seemingly comparable foods may have vastly different carbon footprints. For example, an apple imported from another country and wrapped in plastic to prevent pests during transit contributes more emissions than the same red delicious snagged from a nearby farmer’s market.

Benefits of Eating Sustainably 

Fortunately, eating sustainable food isn’t only good for the planet. It also benefits your health. Consider these perks you can reap from eating more sustainably:

  • Consume fewer chemicals: Pesticides and fertilizers can linger on foods. Sustainably grown food eliminates this use, opting for organic production methods.
  • Control your weight: Plant-based foods are among the most sustainable choices you can make. Most are also low in calories, helping you control your weight without dieting. 
  • Reduce your cancer risk: Another reason to choose plant-based eating more often is that the WHO classifies red and processed meats as carcinogenic, and recent reviews of the research reinforce this view. 

6 Fascinating Facts About Sustainable Food 

To boost your appetite for sustainable food, consider these six fascinating facts. 

1. Shifting to Plant-Based Eating Can Make a Big Difference

How big a difference could switching to a plant-based diet make in your overall carbon footprint? According to a recent study, cutting your meat consumption in half could lower the greenhouse gas emissions related to agricultural and land use by 31% by 2050, compared to 2020 figures. A cleaner air future partially rests on your mealtime decision-making.

Switching to plant-based eating doesn’t necessarily mean going fully vegan, but simply reducing how much meat, especially red meat, you consume. For example, turkey and chicken are more sustainable than beef or pork because the animals are smaller and reach maturity more quickly, meaning they require fewer resources to raise. 

However, experimenting with plant-based dishes could mean you find new recipes you like better than the original. For example, many people prefer hemp and black bean burgers because of the lower fat content and superior texture — no accidental bone bits enter the mix. A vegan bolognese with red lentils provides plenty of filling protein without any fear that an undercooked bit of meat may make you sick.

2. The US Wastes a Third of Its Food Supply 

How much food do you scrape into the garbage bin? Getting mindful at the grocery store can make a big difference in climate change. The United States throws away 30% to 40% of its food, often because it lies uneaten in a pantry or refrigerator until it becomes a science experiment. 

If concern for the planet isn’t enough to give you pause before buying that economy-sized bag of cereal you doubt you can finish, consider your pocketbook. The average family of four wastes $1,500 yearly on uneaten food — enough to finance a nice getaway. 

Reducing food waste means making a list before shopping and sticking to it. However, you’re human and will inevitably buy more than you need sometimes. Consider composting instead of tossing it in the garbage, at least if it is plant-based and won’t contaminate your garden. 

3. 783 Million People Face Hunger Daily 

While you can’t send your leftovers to the hungry, learning the facts about hunger may further inspire you to reduce food waste. According to the World Food Programme, a division of the United Nations, 783 million people face hunger daily. Even more have nutritional deficiencies. 

Worse, the climate change created primarily by waste in wealthy nations hurts vulnerable populations the most. More than 3 million people have already become climate migrants because of a mix of natural disasters and food insecurity, and officials expect that number to skyrocket by 2050. Some indigent farmers must leave lands worked by their families for generations with no certain source of income or secure future in sight. 

4. 3 Billion People Rely on the Sea for Nourishment 

Climate change also impacts the world’s oceans, which are a crucial food source for many. Globally, 3 billion people rely on the sea for their daily diet. Rising water temperatures impact entire ecosystems, from destroying coral reefs and the fish that live among them to causing toxic red tides that choke out life below or render it inedible. 

What happens on land affects the water. Agricultural runoff can contaminate coastal areas used for fisheries people rely upon for food supplies. Increasingly stronger and more devastating storms due to climate change make the issue even worse.

5. Cattle Take Up 80% of Agricultural Land but Supply Only 20% of the Calories

Even if you don’t rely on the ocean for sustenance, opting for fish over beef more often reduces your carbon footprint. Cattle take up 80% of agricultural land that could otherwise be reforested to fight carbon emissions or used to grow food for humans. However, beef provides only 20% of the calories produced by such spaces. 

Combine that with the methane emissions cattle create, and cutting back on beef could be the single best choice you can make to eat more sustainably. Decreasing demand will also stop farmers from burning more of the rainforest to increase cattle production, doing double duty to clear the planet’s air. 

6. Just 200 Square Feet of Space Could Feed You and Your Family 

The ultimate in food sustainability is growing what you need organically at home — and you don’t need to buy a farm. According to homesteading experts, 200 square feet is all you need to feed yourself for a year. 

It takes time to learn what plants grow best in your area and produce winning crops. However, even a single container of tomatoes can start your journey toward greater sustainability and self-sufficiency. 

Whet Your Appetite for Sustainable Food 

Eating more sustainably is a simple way to reduce your carbon footprint. All it takes is a bit of mindfulness at the grocery store. 

Adopting a more plant-based diet, reducing beef consumption in favor of other proteins and slashing food waste can combat climate change. Use this guide to reform your habits and eat more sustainably. 

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