Plant Based Diets for Sustainability
Carbon Footprints and Food Footprints
One effective way to reduce your carbon footprint is to reduce the amount of animal products you eat and to consume more plant foods. A 2018 study found that meat and dairy products are responsible for 75% of greenhouse emissions from the EU diet (1).
The production of meat and dairy products causes direct emissions from animal production, as well as contributing to deforestation when trees are cleared to grow animal feed.
Perhaps surprisingly, the study found that emissions related to the international trade of food were marginal compared with other sources.
Better Health, Better Planet
It is widely and internationally accepted that reducing the consumption of animal products has beneficial outcomes for human health (2). Great news that what is better for human health is also better for the environment – a win win situation!
You do not necessarily need to become a vegan or vegetarian in order to derive the health and environmental benefits of a plant based diet. Reducing the amount of animal foods you eat and being conscious of how the animals were raised are important first steps.
Protein is a vital macronutrient needed for growth and maintenance of body tissues as well as some hormones. Animal foods provide complete proteins with all the amino acids needed for health. Most plants contain protein that can be combined with other plant foods to provide a complete protein eg: lentil dahl and rice, or hummous with pitta bread. Good sources of plant protein include beans, peas, nuts, seeds, quinoa, amaranth, tofu, tempeh and green vegetables.
Plant based protein powders and protein bars can be a convenient and tasty way to ensure you get your daily protein requirements.
Organic Food for Sustainability
Feed the World and Save the Planet
Organic agriculture has many positive ecological effects due to the reduction in the use of fertilizers and pesticides and reduced greenhouse gas emissions. Evidence from the World Food and Agriculture Organisation indicates that if current practices persist the negative consequences of agriculture on the environment will increase dramatically over the next 30 years and beyond.
The good news is that a global conversion to organic farming could create a sustainable food system that would feed the human population if combined with:
• A one-third reduction in animal-based products in the human diet.
• Reduced use of concentrated feed in livestock production.
• Reduced food waste.
The good news is that these measures combined would not lead to increased land use for food production (3).
Go Organic and Boost Your Health
As well as being better for the environment there is evidence that organic foods are higher in antioxidants, some vitamins and minerals and omega 3 fats (4,5,6,7)
Plastic vs Glass
We’ve all heard about the problems of plastic ending up in the oceans with devastating effects on wildlife. Packaging really matters when it comes to sustainability. Glass can be recycled over and over again without the quality being affected. Plastic bottles, on the other hand, are not recycled into plastic bottles but are used to make things that don’t require the same quality of plastic. This is sometimes referred to as down-cycling rather than recycling. It’s better than plastic ending up in landfill but each time plastic is recycled quality is lost and its viability decreased.
Tom Oliver supplements are in attractive glass bottles that can either be recycled or re-used. For example why not use your used supplement bottles to store herbs and spices? Brown glass keeps things fresher than the clear glass often used in spice jars.
Health Protection – Prevention Better Than Cure
Huge amounts of time, money and the earth’s resources are spent on dealing with health problems which might have been preventable, or at least delayed, through a healthy diet and lifestyle. Eating a healthy diet, taking regular exercise and learning to manage stress through meditation or breathing techniques are some of the most important things one can do to support health. Supplements can help to address any shortfalls in nutrients from the diet and may help speed healing and recovery from some conditions or injuries.
Above all be conscious of the impact on the environment of your buying choices and lifestyle habits. Often environmentally healthy choices are better for human health as well.
- Vilma Sandström, Hugo Valin, Tamás Krisztin, Petr Havlík, Mario Herrero, Thomas Kastner. The role of trade in the greenhouse gas footprints of EU diets. Global Food Security, 2018; 19: 48
- Paul Behrens, Jessica C. Kiefte-de Jong, Thijs Bosker, João F. D. Rodrigues, Arjan de Koning, Arnold Tukker. Evaluating the environmental impacts of dietary recommendations. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2017; 201711889
- Adrian Muller, Christian Schader, Nadia El-Hage Scialabba, Judith Brüggemann, Anne Isensee, Karl-Heinz Erb, Pete Smith, Peter Klocke, Florian Leiber, Matthias Stolze, Urs Niggli. Strategies for feeding the world more sustainably with organic agriculture. Nature Communications, 2017; 8 (1)
- Baranski M et al (2014) – Higher antioxidant and lower cadmium concentrations and lower incidence of pesticide residues in organically grown crops: a systematic literature review and meta-analyses. British Journal of Nutrition, 112, 794-811
- Soil Association (2001) – Organic Farming Food Quality and Human Health, A Review of the Evidence.
- Soil Association (Undated) – Policy Document – Pesticides in your food
- Srednicka-Tober D et al (2016) – Composition differences between organic and conventional meat: a systematic literature review and meta-analysis. British Journal of Nutrition, 115, 994-1011