25 July 2008

eating less: good for more than health

"Eat Less Fatso..."

This is something I've been thinking about lately -- that eating less is good for me and the planet. Now, I love to eat, and while I try to be a responsible eater, I can be a little indulgent sometimes. I don't think there's anything wrong with treating yourself once in a while, but it's neither healthy nor responsible to eat more than your share.

Maybe I'm not like most Americans when it comes to demanding large portions, but I find it off-putting when a restaurant serves a big pile of food that no human should consume in a single sitting. It's just wasteful. And I'm not just talking about the food waste, it goes deeper than that.

For every bite of food we eat, there was soil tilled, water sprayed, and fuel spent. If it was conventionally farmed, there were chemicals used. For meat, all of the aforementioned applies, as the animals were fed farmed and processed grain. Animal waste has to be managed. And their waste pollutes. Pollution control from farming is subsidized, as is the grain for animal feed. Not to mention the gaseous waste from the animals' rears, contributing to climate change. Or the fact that all of this animal farming takes up vast swaths of land, where trees were felled to make way for grazing habitat.

Once the raw products leave the farm, there's processing, and often packaging, involved. So eating minimally processed foods -- whole grains, fruit, vegetables, etc -- also helps reduce waste (and your waist).

As I was thinking about all of this, two articles came my way, reporting on the same study that says eating less is one of the best ways to save the planet. A couple of excerpts:

According to researchers, by just reducing junk food intake and converting to diets lower in meat, the average American could have a massive impact on fuel consumption as well as improving his or her health... They contend that the most dramatic reduction in energy used for food processing would come about if consumers reduced their demand for highly processed foods.

...the consumer is in the strongest position to contribute to a reduction in energy use. [The Economic Times]
A link to the abstract here (you can purchase the full journal article for $32).