A Sustainable Diet: Watching How You Eat

Carolina Chavez, Maroon-News Staff

With the increasing threats of climate change, it has become clear that immediate action should be taken to mitigate and adapt to this imminent crisis. It is time to accept the fact that we have an unsustainable food system. We need to understand the complex multitudes of how the fragility of food security can be affected by climatic, socio-economic, political or financial crisis and better adapt and respond to these issues.

Today, more than three billion people are malnourished, yet our planet is rapidly expanding. According to a Harvard study, we are expected to surpass 10 billion inhabitants by 2050. Food production already contributes to approximately 30 percent of greenhouse gas emissions while also occupying 40 percent of global land. It was found that there is a direct relationship between our meat and dairy manufacturing industry with the increase in land- clearing in tropical regions that harbour high levels of biodiversity. To simplify, food production is not only a large threat in the extinction of species but it also intensifies the pre-existing impacts of climate change massively. 

A way of adapting and mitigating in terms of reducing our anthropogenic actions is changing to more plant-based diets. By replacing animal products with plant-based alternatives, global demand for agricultural land could be reduced by 11 percent, which would lead to enormous benefits for the greenhouse gas and soil quality of the Earth. Researchers at Barnard College also found that vegan and/or vegetarian diets are associated with the “greatest reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.” 

But just going vegan isn’t enough. We shouldn’t just transform what we eat, but also how we eat as well. In 2015 alone, more than 39 million tons of food waste were generated, with only 5.3 percent diverted from landfills and incinerators for composting. The EPA estimates that more food ends up in landfills and incinerators than any other piece of trash. Food waste that ends up in landfills produces methane gas that further intensifies greenhouse gas emissions. 

As Colgate students, we should be taking pride in our “sustainable campus.” However, there is still so much we can fix and change. Take a walk into the C-Store and make your own smoothie, hopefully you’ll be able to notice the mass amounts of food scraps that are thrown into the trash. This is “trash” that is biodegradable and can easily be compostable. 

As a school we should be proactive in what we value and push initiatives that further invoke sustainability. We should be creating initiatives such as providing compost bins, not only in the C-Store, but in all our dining halls for food scraps. So next time you go to one of our dining halls on campus, remind yourself of the impacts your food can have on the environment, and make a sustainable choice.