When it comes to Eating--You are the Sacred Earth Activist You've Been Waiting For
by Annie B. Kay
When it comes to food and eating, you are the Sacred Earth Activist and your actions are deeply connected to all that is. Can your food actions really impact climate change - does what you do really matter? It can seem an overwhelming question.
Fear not, my friends, because on this one, scientific consensus says a clear and resounding YES. Nutritionally, what’s good for you is good for the planet, and is a central global strategy that addresses all aspects of climate change.
This year, a United Nations commission of 37 scientists from 16 countries developed a set of guidelines to move toward sustainability of the global food supply. Their work translates into surprisingly simple and accessible actions for everyone: eat healthy, be mindful, and minimize food waste.
So, just what is sustainable nutrition?
We hear a lot about sustainability, but what is it with regard to food and eating? The United Nation’s definition suggests that sustainability refers to meeting our present needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet theirs. Here are five practices that you can do now to help shift the environment toward a more sustainable future.
5 Easy Sustainable Nutrition Practices
Take Your Next Step Toward a Whole-Food Plant-Based Diet
Happily, eating well for your own body is one of the biggest ways you can practice sustainable nutrition. Moving toward a plate half-filled with plants - featuring seasonal fruits and vegetables - is not only great for your own health, but the health of the planet. The CDC recommends that we eat somewhere in the area of 9-13 half-cup servings (most make it to 2) of plants each day. If you don’t eat that now, think about your favorites and enjoy another daily serving. Let sustainability motivate you to eat your vegetables and herbs (and send processed junk food on it’s way) for the future well-being of all! So, can you commit to try one or two more servings of plants every day? If you already eat loads of plants, can you minimize the plastics they come to you in? Can you grow more of your own for more of the year?
Support Sustainable Food Systems
Farmer’s markets are rocking, and are moving beyond the summer months, even here in New England. While it’s hard to eat 100% local through the winter, we’ve been enjoying delicious potatoes, sweet potatoes and cold-frame local herbs and greens all season. Nearly every community has a local sustainable food system sprouting up. Keep an eye out for your neighbors growing and raising local chickens and other animals, fish and seafood along the coast, fresh vegetables and herbs all year long, and other food in your community. It’s everywhere.
Practice Mindful Eating
Mindful eating is a contemplative tool that encourages us to slow down and savor each bite, moment by moment. As you breathe, relax chew and eat more slowly and with greater conscious attention, you might notice that you savor a connection to the food you eat, and the whole food system. Over time, a mindful eating practice can help you feed yourself with loving kindness and a deeper awareness of the nourishment you need to sustain your life. Connect with your food in the same way that you connect with the plants and Mother Earth.
Be a Food Waste Ninja
Are you a food planner, a saver or a composter? If you are a planner, you can sketch out a weekly game plan wherein you use leftovers from the day before for lunches and dinners the next day. So, you might begin the week with a pot of beans, a turkey or chicken and it all becomes a casserole or vegetable-filled soup by week’s end. I know of guests at Kripalu who save wilted veggies in the freezer to make a big pot of soup with it on the weekend. I am ever-amazed at the beauty of composting. If you have a yard and haven’t started your brew of gardener’s gold, let the fact that it helps be your motivator, global activist.
Small Steps are Big Steps in Disguise
Nearly anything you do begins a cycle of change. Any practice you launch to eat a whole-food plant-based diet that works for you, any scrap of food you save, and love and attention you give to your own nutritional well-being matters. Try and try and try again. For the many of you who I know are already practicing, think about your next step, and know that at least some of the world - and perhaps enough of the world, is working with you.
It’s really a change of mindset - of taking your personal food practices to their next simple and sustainable level, wherever they are right now. Everything you do impacts all beings everywhere, and the very earth itself. While these practices are simple, we as a country, and as a world have lots and lots and lots of room for improvement. When it comes to sustainable nutrition, you can make a difference and influence others in turn. Practice on, my brothers and sisters.
Read more about what everyone can do to practice sustainable nutrition.
Read the full report.
Food in the Anthropocene: the EAT–Lancet Commission on healthy diets from sustainable food systems https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(18)31788-4/fulltext
Annie B Kay MS RDN E-RYT500 C-IAYT is a leading integrative dietitian, yoga therapist and plant alchemist who writes, teaches and runs a telehealth private practice from her perch in Western MA. www.anniebkay.com