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Anatomy of Action: Food!

We are finally kicking off our 15-day Anatomy of Action challenge where we together encourage each other to make more sustainable choices in our everyday lives. This week's domain of action: FOOD!

While our current food system feeds a great majority of the world and supports the livelihood of over 1 billion people, according to the World Food Programme, at least 690 million people go to bed on an empty stomach each night. The United Nations estimate that in 2019, 750 million – or nearly one in ten people in the world – were exposed to severe levels of food insecurity. As for the environment, today’s food system is responsible for about 21-37% of total greenhouse gas emissions. Not to mention that about one-third of the food produced globally for human consumption is either lost or wasted. While our current food production and consumption habits have a considerable impact on the environment, the food sector itself is also being challenged as the global environmental crisis leads to issues such as drought, loss of crop diversity, or the decline of pollinators.

Therefore, both the effects on the environment that our food systems are currently creating as well as the general issues that the environmental crisis has on our food production, are exacerbating the issues we are already facing – global environmental degradation, inequality, and insecurity.

So, how can you be a part of the change towards a more sustainable food system? While we can do our fair share in mobilizing and advocating towards more sustainable food systems, pushing both businesses and politicians, some changes might just start with your own living habits!

Anatomy of Action brings forth tangible steps which you can take towards becoming a more sustainable consumer and contribute directly to the Sustainable Development Goal 12 on responsible production and consumption. As for the action on food, Anatomy of Action introduces three of the highest subdomains – which are #ProteinSwaps, #UseAllYourFood, and #GrowYourOwn.

The demand and production of livestock products are ever increasing – actually, never before in human history have humans consumed as much meat as we are today. As the demand for meat has rapidly increased in just a matter of decades, there has been a push towards

factory farming meat production in order to meet current demands. In 2017 it was estimated that, within the European Union, the livestock sector is responsible for 81-86% of EU’s total agricultural greenhouse gas emissions. In turn, globally, the livestock sector accounts for about 51% of the annual worldwide greenhouse gas emissions. Not to mention other issues that industrial factor farming may contribute to, such as water contamination and deforestation.

With all this in mind, being mindful of the food you consume is key. By switching to a more plant-based diet, you may help limit the impact that today’s meat production has on the environment. While everyone has different means when it comes to making changes, we hope that everyone at least finds something that they could challenge themselves to change in their own everyday life!

Here are some examples of changes you can try this week:

  • Try to eat more vegan or vegetarian food by switching your animal proteins for more plant-based proteins. For example, challenge yourself in trying to make your favorite dish into a vegan or vegetarian one!

  • Make more of your own food at home. How about inviting your friends or family for a (covid-safe) picnic where you show off your new, sustainable cooking skills?

  • Buy locally produced food. Why not pay a visit to a local farmers' market?

  • Eat what is seasonally available. Check out what fruits and vegetables are in season in your climatic region!

Buy Fairtrade and organically certified and start looking into where your food comes from and how it’s being produced.

Today’s food waste is an enormous problem as about one-third of all food produced globally for human consumption will be either lost or wasted. This is an especially tragic fact, as many people today are subject to food insecurity. Not only is the food waste a waste of resources, but the waste may often also end up in landfills, where it cannot be properly reused. The dumpsites where our food waste may end up in are the third-largest source of methane, which is 28 times more toxic than carbon dioxide. Today, a total of 20% of all foods produced within the EU will end up in either landfills or as animal feed.

So, what can you do in order to minimize your own food waste?

  • Use all the food that you have at home and don’t buy food you don’t need or won’t eat. Look in the pantry at what you have and make a meal out of what you can find!

  • Consider how much you actually consume and try to buy the right amount of food

  • Buy the “ugly” fruits and vegetables.

  • Bring your own reusable bags and containers when you go get your food.

  • Use your freezer to its full potential. A lot of products can be frozen and therefore also prolong their lifespan.

  • Use all your senses. While “use by”-dates are about safety and are, indeed, very handy, a lot of food doesn't go bad immediately once the date expires. Look, smell and taste before you throw your food away!

  • Start composting or look into communal composting in your area.

  • Donate whatever you can’t use or if you have an excess of food. Look into food banks in your area!

Lastly, packaging, transporting, and processing food long distances may leave a heavy carbon footprint. Often, food has to travel a far way and go through different processes and steps before it can reach our plates (or, sadly, our bin). As noted by the United Nations, the food system is highly energy-intensive and emissions related to the food system are growing rapidly, especially in developing countries. Moreover, while the benefits of packaging foods in a smart way may limit the general food waste that we produce, so-called single-use plastics are common in food packaging. Actually, the plastic that is used for foods amounts to almost a whopping 50% of all waste!

While it is truly a luxury to be able to grow your own food and it might not be something that is attainable for those of us who live in tiny apartments, here is some inspiration for you:

  • Farm and grow what you can. Have a balcony? Great! Then you can plant a potato or two

  • Regrow what you already have! Did you know that you can regrow a leek? Just pop the root section in a glass of water, place it in sunlight and you will have a new leek to eat soon!

  • Learn more about the food you eat. Consider where it is from and under what circumstances it has been produced and the supply chain it has to go through before it hits your plate.

  • If you’re able to, learn more about nature and what can be harvested from it in a sustainable way. How about going berry picking?

  • Support those farmers who are producing sustainable foods!

While the environmental issues that we face are of course complex, the choices that we make as individuals have the power to change the way we perceive, relate, and act on these issues. Choosing to live more sustainably or making more sustainable choices in your everyday life may not only affect you, but it can also encourage and motivate others.

Share your own Anatomy of Action journey, so others can do the same! We at ReGeneration 2030 would also love to see what you are doing this week with regards to food actions. Do you have any tips of your own you would like to share or perhaps a picture of your favorite sustainable snack? If so, tag us on your social media!

Don’t forget to use #ReGenAoA, and tag @ReGeneration.2030. The fourth Edition of RGW2021 will be built upon the five AoA domains, and the results will be shared at our RGW2021. We want to highlight your actions and make them known to policymakers in the Nordic and Baltic Sea Region!

Want to know more about ReGeneration, Anatomy of Action or ReGeneration Week? Here are some links which might be helpful:

Toolkit with graphics for the challenge. It's never too late to participate:

This post was written by a ReGenAoA team member: Johanna Ekebom.


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