Food That’s Good for you is Good for the Planet

May 29, 2020

Is it time to be even more conscious about how you eat and produce food? The IPCC thinks so.

Climate Change and Land,  the latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), is a call to action for the world to embrace more sustainable land practices to keep a global rise in temperature below 2˚C. It asks for a revolution in the way food is produced and consumed, and recommends a balanced diet of plant-based and animal-sourced food that is produced sustainably.

“It’s about consumers making choices that are informed by knowing where their food comes from,” says Professor Mark Howden, director of the Institute of Climate Change at the Australian National University who works with the IPCC in an advisory role.

“Communicate with your food providers about what type of information you want,” he says. “What’s the sustainable certification process, what is the greenhouse gas footprint, what is the water footprint … it’s about making choices that are informed by not only personal health but also by planetary health.”

Mark says businesses don’t have to supply reams of information but rather “pithy” information that tells the story behind production. The recommendation is not to tell people what to eat – “I’m not saying we shouldn’t eat beef,” he says – but rather to think more carefully about how the food you eat or produce affects the environment.

“Generally speaking, a diet that is good for your health will be good for the planet, too,” says Rich Gilmore, country director (Australia) at The Nature Conservancy.

“As the IPCC recently highlighted, finding more sustainable ways to grow the food and fibre we need to survive is critically important to the overall health of the planet and the protection of its biodiversity. Choosing foods with a lower carbon footprint like local foods and altering our diets more towards plant-based foods all helps in reducing our impact on the land.”

Mark Howden agrees with the sentiment featured in an IPCC press release:  “Desirable outcomes will depend on locally appropriate policies and governance systems.”

“It’s not just about being good individual consumers, because that in itself isn’t enough to generate change,” he says. “We have good systems in Australia in terms of individual health… but we don’t really include the planetary aspects yet. So, I think it’s time to demand more from the political sphere, from producers… say, ‘We want better’.”

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