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by Meghan Morrison February 25, 2020 6 min read

Thanks to social media and greater social awareness, caring for the climate is in. Altering your diet and lifestyle to protect the environment has gained more attention, but what if you can’t say goodbye to meat? Understandably, this is the case for most people. In our opinion, it’s just not realistic to expect everyone to switch to an entirely plant-based diet. Cutting out meat entirely isn’t the only way to reduce your plates' environmental footprint. There are many things you can do to reduce your impact without putting down your fork and knife. Here are some tips and tricks from the Twenty5Degrees family to you! 

 

Be a conscious consumer. Buy local. 

You can cut down your impact even more by buying local and cooking your own food. Does your city have a farmers market on the weekend? There’s no better way to spend your weekend morning than strolling through aisles filled with the beautiful colors of fresh produce, all while supporting local businesses. When food travels great distances to get to your table, it has a larger ecological footprint. Reduce that footprint by buying closer to home. If it’s traceable, odds are it’s the greener choice! 

 

An excellent example of this is Empower Farms. Empower Farms is an eco-friendly USDA certified organic farm for people of all abilities. It practices a type of farming called permaculture. In other words, permanent agriculture. This type of farming uses a combination of native plants and food crops to make the farm more sustainable and self-sufficient. This invites nature to help increase the production of crops. 

 

Empower Farms obtains many of its customers through its CSA program. CSA stands for community-supported agriculture, and it works a lot like a subscription service. From mid-November to mid-April, customers receive weekly boxes of fruits, vegetables, eggs, and fresh herbs. This type of business model has a much lower environmental footprint than traditional industrial farming practices. Finding and supporting local farms like Empower Farms is a key strategy for reducing your environmental footprint. 

 

sustainable produce

Image retrieved from unsplash.com courtesy of Jakub Kapusnak @foodiesfeed

 

Seafood saves the planet.

When considering the environmental footprint from an agricultural perspective, two things were considered: freshwater use and carbon emissions. Using this method to calculate food’s ecological footprint, animal protein from the sea tends to have the lowest footprint when compared to chickens, pigs, cows, and other ruminant animals. 

 

This is because of many factors, but mainly because of a fish’s feed conversion ratio, or FCR. Fish are much better at converting food into biomass than other farmed animals like chicken or beef. If you think about it, it makes sense -- fish don’t have to deal with gravity while chicken, cows, and other land animals must put energy into continually fighting gravity. Therefore, fish can put more energy into growth, making them more efficient and environmentally friendly. 

 

Not all seafood is created equal. As mentioned at the beginning of the article, traceability is important. It is especially important when talking about seafood. Most of the fisheries around the world are either overfished or already at maximum sustainable yield. This means more fish can’t be taken without collapsing the fishery. Still, there are some good players in the seafood business. 

 

If you want to be an eco-conscious seafood consumer, a good place to start is by looking into the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch. This program rates seafood in three categories: best choices, good alternatives and avoid. It even comes with an app that you can download, which makes it simple to make the right choice on the go. 

 

Farm the Ocean…Sustainably 

If you haven’t seen in the news, aquaculture is on the rise. Globally, aquaculture now produces more than 50% of all seafood. The industry gets a bad reputation because of a few bad players. One must be cautious to write off an entire industry because of the actions of a few. The fact is, aquaculture is needed and it’s here to stay. 

 

Supporting the right aquaculture companies can make a positive impact on the environment now and into the future. An example of this is Open Blue. Open Blue is committed to developing offshore aquaculture. The high currents and open water dilute the environmental impact of the farm much better than a traditional inshore farm. Open Blue is based in Panama. Open Blue likes to brag that its Cobia (Rachycentron canadum) never sees the same water twice.

 

An interesting fact is that the cages act as fish aggregation devices (FADs), essentially creating an oasis for pelagic fish in an otherwise barren ocean dessert. Developing offshore aquaculture in a sustainable manner can provide humankind with a sustainable source of seafood into the future. You can find Open Blue Cobia throughout the United States and Europe

 

 

Oysters Anyone?

Oysters can have a negative environmental footprint. This comes from their feeding habits -- an adult oyster can filter as much as 60 gallons of water per day. In the past, wild oysters were harvested from the ocean in order to feed our ever-growing demand of these shelled creatures. This has changed as our desire for oysters and other shellfish continues to rise. Companies like Love Point Oysters, based in Harpswell, Maine, are figuring out ways to farm these tasty creatures in the most environmentally friendly way possible. 

 

Love Point Oysters offers farm tours so their customers can learn about not only the farming process but also snack on some tasty oysters while they are enjoying the beautiful Maine coastline. Visit lovepointoysters.com for more information. 

 

 

Reduce your food waste. 

We all know that one “fit inspiration” account on Instagram, which documents every meal, but meal planning isn’t just for the gym-goers. It helps reduce your waste by planning your meals. This means you aren’t coming home from the grocery store with extras that will inevitably get thrown out. 

 

Also, don’t be afraid to eat food after the “best by” date! Don’t make yourself sick, but be more conscious of what condition your food is actually in before tossing it, not just relying on the package.

 

According to The World Resources Institute, 25% of the world’s food is lost or wasted. Over half of that wasted food is due to it being thrown away because of the date printed on the package. Those dates are an indication of when it’s at its freshest, not when you need to eat it.

 

Inevitably, some of the food in the back of your fridge will go bad. A simple way to reduce your food waste is to start composting. You can then use the compost to fertilize your garden. If you can’t do it, find a friend, neighbor or local farm who will add your food scraps to their compost pile. Reducing your personal waste is a simple way to minimize the impact on the environment.

 

 

Avoid plastic. 

You knew this one was coming. It goes beyond just bringing your own bag to the grocery store (which you should do). Avoid plastic packaging altogether when possible. Did you know almost all the plastic that’s ever been made still exists? We’ll give you a second to process that…

 

So, you can significantly reduce your environmental impact by simply not buying food that comes in plastic packaging. This can be hard, even impossible, sometimes, but all you have to do is check to see if the packaging is recyclable. You may have to sacrifice your favorite brand for a new type of trail mix, but at least you’re not cutting out meat, right? 

 

If all else fails, do your best to buy the version that has the least amount of packaging and buy in bulk if the food will last. When you go to the farmers market, don’t just buy your produce – buy your meat, fish, bread and cheese where you can get it unpackaged. Bring your own type of packaging that is plastic-free and reduce the amount of plastic and waste you’re bringing home.

 

 reusable produce bag

Image retrieved from unsplash.com courtesy of Sylvie Tittel

 

Conclusion

Yes, going vegan reduces your personal carbon footprint. No, you do not need to cut meat out entirely to make an environmental contribution. Believe it or not, there are ways to eat meat sustainably. We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again: buy local. When you purchase your meat from small farms and you know where it is coming from, you can make sure you are buying from an ethical source. Be a conscious seafood consumer. If you want to reduce your environmental impact without sacrificing your favorite meal, choose your producers wisely and ask the right questions.

 

What will you make for dinner tonight?

 


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