Diet is complicated. It is personal, it is not one-size fits all, and it can be highly linked to one's identity. I therefore entirely understand why, when it starts becoming a discussion within sustainability, people choose to often look the other way. Ditching a disposable cup isn't going to truly change much in our lives, but adapting your diet will and that can be scary. That being said, it plays a massive role in our environmental impact, and if you truly want to live sustainably you need to address the changes you can make to your diet in order to help the planet.
Consumption of Animal Products
I am not going to tell you to be vegan don't worry, but you can't discuss sustainable diets without addressing the world's need to reduce consumption of animal products. This can be anything from having a meatless day of the week to being fully plant-based. It can be as small or as large as you want but it is essential for the future health of our planet that as a society we reduce our consumption. 51% of global greenhouse gasses are attributed to live stock, and 59% of land is linked to grazing livestock and growing their feed. It is responsible for 20-30% of all fresh water consumption in the world today, and on top of all this it affects our oceans, rainforests, and wildlife. The list goes on and on, in fact it requires its own post, but you get the point. Simply search up 'animal agriculture and environment' into google and you'll get pages and pages of information on how it's negatively effecting our planet.
So what can you do? You don't want to go vegan but you can understand that reducing your consumption is necessary. Well that's already a start, simply being aware of how much you are consuming animal products can make a huge difference. You can start doing "meatless Mondays" (on any day of the week), eating one vegan meal a week/day, eating more chicken than beef, substituting certain dairy products such as milk for plant-based alternatives, simply trying out vegan recipes every now and then, and so on and so forth. You won't believe the difference these small actions can make, and hey vegan food can be yummy too! It can make you get a little creative in the kitchen, explore new dishes and cultures, and can even do a thing or two for your health. If this isn't something you are already aware of, I challenge you to try and take on one of the things listed above; try and find one way in which you can reduce your consumption of animal products, and update me! The documentary 'Cowspiracy' is great to learn more about the link between sustainability and animal agriculture.
This is an aspect of eating sustainably that can get glossed over but is nonetheless an important one. The most obvious environmental reason for eating local is food miles, which refers to the distance food travels from where it is grown to where it is sold. Because of globalisation the transportation of food has increased rapidly, for a multitude of reasons, and we are transporting food from one end of the world to the other every day. The biggest issue with this is the carbon footprint of these food items due to this transportation; in Hong Kong alone approximately 277,100 tons of food gets imported daily, employing 140 transportation vehicles, which ultimately results in the emissions of nearly 2000 kg nitrogen oxides.
Another reason, albeit a less obvious one, is that when you eat local you generally support smaller farms, which in many cases means more sustainable farming. Generally smaller farms use less pesticides and toxic chemicals that can be extremely damaging to the surrounding areas of nature, let alone for our bodies and biodiversity, in comparison to large industrial farms. They also generally have better practices in relation to water, respecting the surrounding environment, and creating less waste/using less plastic packaging.
On top of the environmental reasons there are health reasons for eating local and of course supporting your local economy and small businesses. Perhaps it's simply checking where your produce has come from and choosing the closest, minimising your consumption of imported foods (like delicious avocados, which I have learnt to eat in moderation), or switching to a totally locally based diet. In Hong Kong eating local year-round can be hard because we don't grow much, but if you go to the market over the supermarket and choose produce made in countries close to us (e.g. china) then you will already be making a difference. There are also loads of organic farms in Hong Kong that you can support. This page has a few listed and we've also enjoyed supporting magic seasons organic.
We can all carry around a water bottle with relative ease, but tackling your diet in relation to sustainability takes more effort. With climate change rapidly destroying our planet, we need to make the large changes as well as the small, and along with supporting and pushing for sustainable policy change, diet is definitely one of them.