Food is delicious, food is fun and we cannot live without it. But our food is also responsible for no less than 30% of our climate impact. This is due to energy, land and water consumption, the emission of CO2 and other greenhouse gases, and environmental problems such as manure surpluses.
Meat, cheese and dairy products, as well as processed products such as sweets and snacks are particularly harmful to the environment.
If we continue like this, we will soon be exhausted. Fortunately, we can do something ourselves: make a conscious choice for more sustainable food. This means taking a critical look at what’s on our plate and where it came from, and wasting or throwing away as little as possible.
What is on your plate?
We all know that meat, especially red meat, has a major environmental impact. When producing a kilo of beef, 34 kg of CO2 is emitted. For chicken this is slightly less, namely 6.8 kg. The good news is that not eating meat or fish for two days a week can easily save 130 kilos of CO2 per person per year. At de Bijenkorf, every Monday is Meatless Monday when we do not serve meat in any of our restaurants.
If you also cut down on cheese and dairy products, the gains are even greater. There are many tasty and very healthy alternatives.
Choose local products
The Netherlands is the world’s second largest agricultural exporter after the US. On the other hand, about three quarters of our food is reimported. This includes fruit, vegetables, cocoa, wine and cereals, all of which have to be produced, transported, packaged and stored. All that has an impact on our environment.
Locally produced food causes fewer emissions and requires less transport and storage. Of course this does not apply if you want to eat Dutch strawberries in winter.
There are other fruits and vegetables whose environmental impact varies by season, origin, cultivation method, and so on. It’s hard to know what the best choice is, so try to take locally produced seasonal fruit and vegetables as much as possible. For products from further afield, look for quality marks such as UTZ for chocolate and MSC for fish.
Throwing away is a sin
Twenty percent of all the delicious and expensive food in the Netherlands does not end up in our stomachs at all. It gets lost somewhere in the chain from farm to fork, for example because it doesn’t look beautiful enough, or we throw it away ourselves, for example because we have too much or because it has gone off. Every year, 34 kg of food per person disappears into the green wheelie bin. Certainly a lot less than ten years ago, but if we store food better and weigh it better, there is still a lot to gain. Also for your wallet. Leftovers are often excellent for processing, storing, pickling or freezing for later.
(Facts and figures from MilieuCentraal, RIVM and Voedingscentrum)