How to reduce food pollution
Updated: Mar 17
Globalisation and modernization of farming techniques & transportation has enabled high income countries to adopt more diverse diets. There is an increased demand for resource-intensive foods like meat and dairy as well as a shift away from local and seasonal foods, to non-seasonal and exotic produce. The high outputs of food have led to a number of environmental concerns including soil erosion and eutrophication, deforestation and desertification, greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution, water consumption and pollution.
Here are a couple of tips to reduce the environmental impact of your food.
1. Eat local and seasonal
Consumption of imported foods leads to increased transportation and energy use. Eating local and seasonal does not necessarily mean shopping from the butcher’s or farmer’s market where pricing is high. There are many resources online listing when fruits and veggies are in season, including this one. Keep these lists in mind when shopping. Supermarkets may pride themselves in boasting diverse foods, but you can choose to purchase only those that are 'in season'. If you want to extend the availability of certain produce beyond their production season, why not try freezing, canning or preserving them? As for other fresh foods like dairy and meat, you can check the labels on the packaging to determine where the food has been produced.
2. Eat organic
Organic does come with a heftier price tag, yet it does reduce the serious impact of fertilisers and pesticides. Use of fertilisers and pesticides has been associated with direct emissions of nitrous oxide from soil processes. Nitrous oxide holds a global warming potential approximately 265 times greater than carbon dioxide and remains in the atmosphere for 114 years on average. Another by-product of the dissemination of these chemicals is the release of ammonia following denitrification, which contributes to acidification and eutrophication of soils and waters. Availability of organic produce & fresh foods in supermarkets is increasing as consumers become more conscious of environmental and health implications.
Labels to look out for:
3. Eat less meat and dairy
Livestock farming is one of the most intensive sectors of agriculture and is responsible approximately 14.5% of greenhouse gas emissions. Methane derived from enteric fermentation and manure storage has a global warming potential 28 times greater than carbon dioxide. Nitrous oxide is another by-product of manure storage. On top of direct emissions, feed production is also an important emitter of greenhouse gases. Reducing consumption of animal goods is not only beneficial to the environment, but also to your health as red meat is considered carcinogenic.
4. Buy what you need
The entire supply chain of food production is source of major pollution and greenhouse gases. Carbon dioxide is a by-product of soil carbon dynamics like decomposing plant residues and land use change. It is also emitted during the manufacturing of synthetic fertilisers and pesticides as well as through the combustion of fossil fuels in on-farm agricultural operations and transportation. In Europe alone, an estimated 88 million tonnes of food are wasted annually. If we reduced overconsumption, less pressure would be placed on the agriculture system and all the above mentioned processes that contribute to the climate crisis.