Environment, food and what we can do to help

Maja Söderberg lectured about environment and food and gave some chocking figures on how the climate is affected by what we eat. She also shared concrete tips on what we can do to lower our own carbon dioxide emissions.

Maja Söderberg runs a company in Sweden working holding lectures, writing cook books and trying to get people more conscious about what they can do to help the environment.
Maja reported that the leaders in the world had agreed that the global warming should not continue for more than 2 degrees, but it had already increased 0.7 degrees. Even if all the carbon dioxide emissions ceased immediately it would not be possible to reach the goal. So, what can we do ourselves whilst the world leader continues their discussions?
As an ordinary consumer 30% of the carbon dioxide emissions are from food and what we eat. The rest is shopping, travel and living. Maja’s argument is that food is easy to change and to eat “climate smart” is also healthy.

It’s complicated to figure out just how much emissions come from a specific tomato. It depends on where it is grown, which method is used, which fertilizers are used, which type of tomatoes that are grown and how much will be wasted on the way to the consumer. Maja has 6 rules that are a little simpler to follow:

  1. Use locally produce that is in season
  2. Eat a sustainable amount of meat
  3. Don’t throw away food
  4. Don’t use a car to shop
  5. Choose organic
  6. Choose fish from sustainable fishing

Use locally produce that is in season
The first rule is simple enough to understand. Eat what is fresh right now and grown in your own garden or by a local farmer. There are a lot more nutrition in ripe fruit and vegetables and it is fun to experiment and invent new recipes. If you are not particularly creative in the kitchen try to find a cook book that is done by season. By using this rule you don’t have to eat food that has traveled far or been grown in greenhouses.

Eat a sustainable amount of meat
Rule number two. If you eat a lot of vegetarian food, this will come naturally. But for carnivorans it is better to think of which vegetables are in season than to think “Meat or fish tonight?”. Make the vegetable the main ingredient of the meal and use the meat or the fish on the side.
A sustainable amount of meat is 20-40 kg per person per year, that is 55-100 g per person per day. Today we eat 86 kg per person and year, or 236 g per person and day. Look at the meat as a spice, do meat free days and do recipe makeovers. In a recipe makeover you take an ordinary recipe, for example hamburger, and swap half the meat for chickpeas or lentils. See here how to add more greens in the meat.

Choose organic
I have to admit that my own first reason for eating organic is because it’s healthy and saves me from eating a lot of pesticides. But, that it’s good for the environment is also an added bonus. The drawback is that it can be a bit more expensive and that a bit more is wasted. Non-organic citrus fruits are dipped in an anti mould agent before they are sold and will last longer. But, if you shop smart you don’t need to throw away anything.

MSC märke

MSC – or Marine Stewardship Council means the fish is caught using sustainable fishing methods.

Choose fish from sustainable fishing
Choose fish that has the MSC label, since it will be fished using sustainable fishing. Even grown salmon is an environmental problem, since growing 1 kg of salmon will take 2.5 kg fish as feed for the salmon.

Shop without a car
50% of the food emissions are emissions from taking the car trips to and from the food store. If you live in town it’s not difficult walking to the store, or perhaps taking the bike. But, if you live far out in the countryside you don’t have much of a choice. Perhaps better planning is a little help on the way.

Don’t throw away food
A third of all food that is produced in the world is thrown away. A third!!! That is a lot. In the poor countries it’s thrown because – for example – storage spaces are bad. In rich countries we throw a lot away in stores, restaurants, canteens and at home. Maja has a few tips for decreasing the waste at home:

  • Use a best-before-shelf where you put things that should be eaten soon.
  • Clear the cupboards frequently. Cook on stuff that has a short date.
  • Have a left over dinner of stuff that is left in the fridge.
  • Use small plates and small glasses. Then you won’t take more than you can eat.

It was an inspiring evening listening to Maja. I have definitely taken a few of her tips on board and feel much better about eating for the environment.

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