Foods in your kitchen that are hurting the environment, along with sustainable alternatives in Singapore
Carbohydrates or carbon footprint?
In the world today where everyone is so woke, we present a few surprising details of how your pantry at home could potentially affect the environment. Unfortunately, stocking up on metal straws isn't enough for a breakthrough in climate change... if only it was that easy.
Beef & Lamb
While we indulge in a vin-chaud red cut of medium rare steak on a happy occassion, meat is one of the biggest culprits of greenhouse gas emissions from food. And if we are talking numbers, livestock contributes to around 14% of greenhouse gas emissions. To put that into perspective that's the same amount of emissions produced from transportation like cars, buses and planes. This is more so for cows and sheep, which are ruminant animals (read: producing methane that is 25% more potent than carbon dioxide). It is no wonder that beef and lamb are topping the charts for being one of the worst foods that you could drop into your shopping cart.
Alternative: Try the Mediterranean diet, a daily consumption of vegetables, fruits, whole grains and healthy fats with weekly servings of fish, poultry and eggs and limited intake of dairy and meat. Instead of completely restricting your diet to being plant-based (although that has its own pros as well), eliminating up to 90% of your meat intake can cause a great decrease in the amount of carbon emissions that you are contributing to the environment. Doctors recommend a portion size of four ounces of meat, which could cut down the amount of carbon footprint you are contributing by half.
Coming in hot will be dairy products, which makes sense considering that they come from cows. Butter and cheese are the main culprits of this due to the subsequent processes needed to produce and refine them. In fact, three different kinds of cheeses were listed as some of the top foods that contribute to greenhouse gases as well, namely American, mozzarella and other Italian cheeses. Italian cheeses have to be imported which increases its emissions by 50% and also the refrigeration needed plays a part. American cheese is a household staple, which boosts its ranking up due to the sheer volume consumed. And almost everyone is a fan of mozzarella.
Alternative: Making the switch to oat, hemp or even coconut milk.
Grain & Soy
Livestock feed heavily on grain and soy, 75% of the world's soy to be exact. That's before you count how much us humans eat, and specifically Asians due to the all too familiar rice bowl at every meal. And due to the rising demand for meat, so does soy in tandem, making it become the second largest agricultural driver of deforestation. We all know that trees play an integral part in reducing the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, hence a deforestation comes as a massive blow to the earth.
Alternative: Quinoa, a pseudo-cereal grain that's high in protein and way healthier than white rice.
This next contender may come as a surprise — it certainly did for us. Avos have been marketed by many fitness junkies — on slices of toast and smoothies as a good source of healthy fat, but they are also killing the planet. Avocados are grown as single crops, meaning that an avocado tree grows on the same land no matter how long it has been planted there. This leaves its soil vulnerable to diseases due to the vast depletion of its natural minerals and nutrients, which then increases the need for the use of pesticides. By doing so, it contaminates the soil further and could affect the surrounding biodiversity if it gets dragged by water or rain. Farmers have also been taking drastic measures to meet the demand of avocadoes by planting young avocado trees beneath forest canopies, subsequently deforesting the surrounding shrubs and older trees to let more sunlight reach the avocado plants.
Alternative: Look for fair trade labels on avocados or any vegetable or fruit for that matter, as it certifies that farmers are working in ethical conditions and are getting wages that are fair and better than most in their industry. You can also opt for broccoli and cabbage for Vitamin K, sunflower seeds for Vitamin E, and kidney beans and lentils for folate and Vitamin B9.
Seeds and nuts have been known to be good for your overall health and are guilt-free snacks when you feel those mid-day hunger pangs. Almonds, albeit one of the most popular nuts, have recently been making headlines for the wrong reasons. 82% of the world's almonds are grown in California, which have been experiencing drought for years. One single almond would set a farmer back around four litres of water and in 2014 alone, California reaped over 952 million kilograms of these nuts. You can do the math. This nut takes up around 10% of the region's agricultural water supply, and though the drought killed 62 million trees in 2016, that has not stopped the demand and supply of the almond trade, worsening the drought. To combat this, farmers have been dropping wells and drawing down the state's aquifers faster they can be naturally replenished. Honeybees are becoming a part of this equation as they are needed to pollinate the crop. 60% of the nation's bees (1.6 million to be exact) are deployed for this task alone. Yet in recent years, they have been dying due to the poisonous cocktail of fungicides that are used on the almond crops, to the extent of killing off whole hives.
Alternative: Cashews or pistachios