“At a time where there is a bit of a nihilistic narrative emerging about the environment, people can feel a bit hopeless about our future,” Damon Gameau, director of the documentary 2040, tells SBS.
And yet, he says, the reality is that there are a lot of small, simple things people can do daily to help regenerate the planet.
2040, which is out in cinemas across Australia now, sees Gameau travel across the globe in search of new approaches and tangible solutions to global warming. Many of the solutions he discovers now feature in a new book by Gameau, '2040: A Handbook for the Regeneration', which is based on the documentary.
“Food is one of the most important areas where we can all make changes,” Gameau says. “Renewable energy may get a lot of attention. But agriculture is only marginally behind renewable energy in terms of its impact on the planet. Every decision we make about what we eat has an impact on the planet and our children’s future.”
Here are 7 ways that you can eat to save the planet, according to Gameau.
“Every decision we make about what we eat has an impact on the planet and our children’s future.”
1. Wipe your plate clean
If everyone’s food waste were combined to form a country, it would be the third biggest global greenhouse gas emitter behind China and the USA, the United Nation Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) states.
Although food waste is a huge environmental issue, it’s something we can all address.
“Finish your next meal – don’t throw it away,” Gameau says. “In the absence of a landfill collection service, if you do throw your food away, it could go straight to landfill. That food waste will emit methane gas straight away and that’s a massive contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. In fact, methane gas is about 30 times stronger than C02.”
So try to always eat everything that’s on your plate, in your fridge and in your kitchen cupboards.
Steps to reduce your food waste:
- Start composting. If your local council doesn’t have a composting service, make one yourself.
- Only buy food that you need.
- Use whole vegetables in your cooking. That includes roots, stems and leaves.
- “Store fresh food to maximise its lifespan: keep spuds and onions in a cool, dark cupboard plus other root veggies if your house is cool enough,” the handbook reads.
- Cook ready-to-go meals in bulk and store them in the fridge or freezer.
- Loosely wrap leafy veggies in clean tea-towels and store them in your fridge’s crisper to elongate their life span.
2. Eat less meat
The world certainly loves its meat. A review, published in the journal Science last year, estimates that the global consumption of meat, per capita, is rising. The downside is that the steep rise in meat consumption may increase carbon emissions and reduce biodiversity.
Gameau recommends that Australians reduce their meat consumption to better the planet. “It’s not about going completely vegetarian or vegan unless you choose to. Instead, try to reduce your meat consumption from the average 110 grams a day to 55 grams a day.” [project drawdown]
The 2040 handbook contains a hearty vegetarian recipe section, divided into breakfast, lunch and dinner, to help home-cooks to reduce their meat intake with delicious vegetarian meals.
3. Choose chook over beef
When you do eat meat, Gameau recommends you choose chicken over beef.
“Chicken is far better for the planet than beef. In terms of emissions, it’s about three-to-four kilos of carbon per kilo produced while beef is 33 kg. So there’s a huge difference there.”
4. Know where your meat comes from
It’s also important to know how your meat was farmed. Find out whether the meat on your plate is biodynamic or grass-fed and derived from regenerative farming practices, or sourced from industrial farms.
“The emissions from the type of meat that comes from industrial farms is astronomical compared to meat farmed through regenerative practices,” Gameau tells SBS.
The cost of meat farmed through regenerative practices may be more expensive than industrially farmed meat. “So the people who can afford to be doing it should be doing it. It’s not fair to lump this on people who are struggling and finding it hard to survive. We need the people who can afford to do it to take responsibility for the type of meat they eat to do so.”
5. Choose seeds, nuts fruit and vegetables wisely
Gameau advises people to avoid or limit their intake of monocropping (the only crop grown on a section of land) grains and cereals like corn, soybeans and wheat. It’s thought that growing only one plant may deplete the soil’s nutrients over time. They are also harvested once or twice a year, as per their growing season, releasing a lot of carbon into the atmosphere.
Instead, Gameau says, choose perennial foods that grow all year round like macadamia nuts and avocados. “You don’t need to dig these plants or trees up and release carbon into the atmosphere.
If people start demanding more macadamia nuts and avocados, and other foods that are helpful for the soil, then we are going to get a bigger supply of them from the farmers who produce them.”
6. Grow your own food
According to 2040, growing your own food is one of the best things you can do for the planet. Owning a garden means you can choose which foods to plant and then eat.
Opt to grow carbon-sequestering foods, “where every kilogram of vegetables you grow reduces emissions by roughly two kilograms, if you also compost organic waste,” the 2040 book says.
Four kinds of carbon-sequestering vegetables you can grow at home:
- Warrigal greens
- Queensland arrowroot
- Garlic chives.
- Greek basil
7. Eat ingredients bought at bulk-food stores
Herbs spices flour, nuts, seeds and legumes sold at bulk-food stores do not use any packaging. Shoppers are encouraged to bring their own re-purposed jars and containers. Or, you can use re-usable paper bags that may be supplied by the shop.
To find out more about the solutions raised in the documentary, 2040, visit What's Your 2040 online.