Did you know that our dietary choices may not only affect our health but also have significant consequences for our environment?
Here are 5 simple ways to be more mindful about what you consume:
1. Opt for more greens, less meat
Rearing and transporting livestock requires large amounts of food, water, land and energy – which takes a toll on the environment.
Reducing the amount of meat you eat and replacing it with plant-based proteins can significantly reduce land-use, water-use and harmful emissions. For instance, reducing 25% of red meat consumption in Singapore may help lower annual greenhouse gas emissions per capita by 8%, according to a 2019 study conducted by A*Star and Deloitte. This would in turn help limit global warming and reduce the number of people being exposed to climate-related risks such as extreme weather events.
For a start, consider replacing one meat dish with vegetables or tofu every day.
2. Avoid highly processed foods
Processed foods have a higher carbon footprint as they are made with different ingredients from all parts of the world – each requiring multiple steps of traveling, manufacturing, and distribution.
Most processed foods are also unhealthy. Avoiding food in this category will help eliminate waste, reduce energy-use in the food production process, and help individuals stay healthy.
Avoid highly processed snacks such as potato chips, cup noodles or chocolate bars when you are hungry. Instead, opt for a handful of nuts or fresh fruit.
3. Choose whole-grains
Non-refined carbohydrates are generally less resource-intensive to produce than refined ones as they require fewer processing steps.
They are also good for your health, and reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease, Type 2 diabetes and being overweight.
Opt for whole-meal bread, whole-grain pasta, unrefined barley, buckwheat products or quinoa as a source of daily carbohydrates. Whole-grains may be an acquired taste, but you can try mixing them with other ingredients to add interesting textures to your dishes. For instance, adding whole-grain cereals to your yogurt, or preparing a sandwich with slices of white bread and whole-meal bread.
4. Reduce food packaging
Food packaging, especially when made of non-recyclable materials (e.g. plastic, Styrofoam), can be extremely harmful to the environment. This is because the process of creating such materials use a lot of resources such as energy, water, chemicals, petroleum and fibers. The manufacturing process also generates harmful emissions and wastewater containing toxic contaminants.
Non-recyclable food packing often take many years to decompose, leading to the accumulation of waste in landfills or oceans. Chemicals from the packaging materials, including ink and dyes, may also leach into groundwater and soil, posing a harmful threat to our ecosystem.
To reduce pollution, choose fruits and vegetables (e.g. bananas, potatoes) that require minimal packaging, or reduce the amount of food packaging by placing more items in a single bag.
Bring your own reusable bags/containers wherever possible, or opt for packaging that is biodegradable, reusable, or made from recycled materials.
5. Limit your number of grocery trips
While heading out to your favourite mall or grocery store may not be as harmful as you think, limiting the number of trips you make, or buying from locations near you is a quick and easy way to reduce your carbon footprint.
Try walking to your nearest supermarket for your groceries next time - it can be a fun way for you and your family to keep fit. If that’s not possible, try cycling or using public transport – it increases fuel efficiency and reduces pollution.
For more ways to reduce your carbon footprint: How to Reduce, Reuse and Recycle (in that order)