Think green, eat green
Bridging World Earth Day on April 22 and World Ocean’s Day on June 8, the Chronicle aims to run a series of articles that hope to help address the various ways people can ‘Restore Our Earth’, this week it is the food we eat.
In August last year the Gibraltar Government pledged to provide more vegan and vegetarian dishes when catering for officials meetings and functions as well as Government supported events such as Calentita.
This aim formed part of a policy regarding the adoption of sustainable catering practices including procuring food and food services by the Government.
In addition, the Government wanted the caterers it engages with to provide foods that have lower food miles by sourcing regionally rather than further afield.
On the Government’s environmental website Thinking Green it notes the following: “Animal agriculture and meat production consumption are major contributors to climate change. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that livestock production is responsible for 18% of all greenhouse gas emissions.
In terms of resources, the growing of livestock is also inefficient – it takes around 5-7 kg of grain to produce 1 kg of beef. Bear in mind that each kilogram of grain also takes considerable energy and water to produce, process and transport.”
“Arable farming, the growing of crops and vegetables, negatively impacts the environment in many of the same ways as animal agriculture; however the impacts tend to be lower. For example, potatoes, rice, and broccoli produce approximately 3–5 times fewer emissions than an equivalent mass of poultry and pork,” the website adds.
Production, processing, distribution and consumption drives the environmental impact of the food we eat.
According to ‘Our World in Data’ 94% of mammal biomass (excluding humans) is livestock. This means there are 15 times more livestock animals than wild animals in the world. In addition it adds that of the 28,000 species listed as endangered 24,000 of these are under threat due to agriculture and aquaculture.
Approximately half of the world habitable land is used for agriculture which draws 70% of freshwater on the planet and creates 78% of pollution in earth’s waters.
According to the EU agriculture contributes 50–80 % of the total nitrogen load transported into Europe’s freshwater ecosystems and, ultimately, coastal waters and seas.
It states: “critical nitrogen loads are still being exceeded throughout much of Europe.”
Habitable land does not include the desserts or ice masses.
Of the remaining 50% not used for agriculture 48% comprises of forests and green areas, 1% for freshwater leaving a mere 1% for urban areas such as Gibraltar.
As the population grows globally so does the demand for food.
In turn the need for more agricultural space leads to deforestation. According to the Thinking Green website, it has been estimated that 5% of deforestation is due to cattle ranching, 22% due to the growing sector of palm oil plantations, 54% due to slash-and-burn farming and 19% due to logging.
Almost 20% of all global carbon dioxide emissions are caused by deforestation.
While some argue that non eat meat eaters are also responsible for some of this agricultural impact this is true but the vast majority of soy grown is used to feed animals not humans and the quantity one cow could eat in a day would far outweigh what a human could.
It has to be acknowledged that is very hard to have little or no impact on the environment in a place like Gibraltar where we cannot grow our own foods.
It is unrealistic to expect people living on the Rock to not have a carbon footprint greater than someone living on their own sustainable plot of land.
With this in mind a decision to eat locally sourced when possible plant based foods, i.e. the food element of being vegan, would clearly be the ideal way forward.
However, ideals are not always practical for everyone for whatever reason and some people just do not want to give up meat and dairy, but reducing the amount of these products in a diet will impact the environmental in a positive way. This attitude has seen a rise in people taking up routines like Meat Free Monday.
Lastly it is not just the food that we eat that is important. Food wastage also has a significant impact on the environment.
Food wastage is a global problem with the United Nations estimating that food wastage accounts for 8-10% of global greenhouse gas emissions.
There are many internet memes about people who buy fruit for a fruit basket just to throw it out a week later.
Is that you? Do you cook more than you need and throw it in the bin instead of using it for leftovers or freeze it? Do you buy the buy one get one free item and waste the majority of the item you got free if not all of it?