Food and Nutrition

How Every Person Can Practice Food Sustainability in Everyday Life, According to an Activist

Emily Laurence

Actress and activist Sophia Bush sits down with experts to get the answers to our audience's most pressing questions about today’s most confusing topics, with emphasis on the straightforward facts you, ahem, need to know.

In the past several years, more folks have not only begun devoting more thought to the nutrient density of their food, but also how that food is impacting the environment, animals, and farm workers, as well. (Fortunately, the best foods nutritionally are also the best for the planet, so you don't have to choose between nutrition and sustainability efforts.) And while it's great that we're increasingly holding brands accountable for their impact, what about holding ourselves accountable?

In the latest episode of the Well+Good web series Need To Know, host and actress Sophia Bush and sustainability-focused writer and activist Alicia Kennedy explain why food sustainability is important, plus actionable ways folks everywhere can practice it themselves every day.

"The United Nations recently reported that the global food system accounts for 30 percent of global greenhouse gases," Kennedy says the video, explaining the environmental impact of food. One reason for this, she adds, is that 80 percent of global farmland is used to grow grain for livestock, which only provides 18 percent of our global caloric intake. This shows how land is being misused and creating greenhouse gases in the process.

"If you eat meat from local butchers who support local farmers, that's going to be the greatest thing you can do for cutting down on mileage or processing." —Alicia Kennedy, food sustainability expert

But land use isn't the only contributor to creating greenhouse gases. Kennedy says processing, packaging, and transporting food all factor in, too. So what can you do to help minimize the damage? A lot, as it turns out. One tip, she says, is to try to buy local, when possible. This cuts down on the distance your food has to travel to get to you. "If you eat meat from local butchers who support local farmers, that's going to be the greatest thing you can do for cutting down on mileage or processing," Kennedy says.

Of course, not everyone has the luxury of being able to decide where they will grocery shop or the suppliers they'll be supporting, depending where they live and how much they can spend. There are 13.5 million people in the U.S. who have limited access to supermarkets or large grocery stores, let alone local butchers or farmers' markets. In the video, Kennedy shares ways everyone can advocate for and support people who live in under-resourced communities in an effort to spark change, for example by seeking out mutual-aid and food-justice programs.

What's key to remember is that true sustainability in food encompasses people, as well as animals and the planet. "We're in a moment where so many of us are realizing that there are so many things we can do," Bush says in the video. "If each of us takes one step, everything starts to change very rapidly." Watch the video above to learn more about how to put food sustainability tips into action.

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