How to save Mother Earth
Naini Setalvad points out practical ways to preserve your health as well as sustain the environment
Over the last few years, I have realised that sustainability is the only way forward. A sustainable lifestyle is not limited to using metal straws and jute bags, and segregating garbage. We need to adopt an environmentally friendly approach in every aspect of life, including our diet. Sustainable eating goes far beyond just limiting the environmental burden. It encompasses a minimally processed, nutritionally balanced diet with as little exposure to fertilisers and pesticides as possible. Now, who wouldn’t choose to secure their health and protect the environment? Below are 10 easy steps you can take in order to embrace sustainable eating.
• Opt for organic
Opt for organically grown fruits and vegetables wherever and whenever you can. Not only are you saving your body from the clutches of toxic fertilisers and insecticides but also preventing them from leaching into waterbodies and fields.
• Prioritise plants
Make plant-based eating a priority. It has a positive effect on our health as well as the environment. Plant cultivation limits rainwater and waterbodies from flooding nearby areas by holding on to the water. The more plants are grown, the lesser the deforestation. Now, isn’t this a win-win on both counts?
• Minimise animal products
I know, for many in the world, burgers and chicken lollipops are close to their heart, but one must understand that meat production is a substantial contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. The breeding and grazing of livestock puts enormous stress on water, land, and energy resources when compared to plant produce.
• Look local, select seasonal
Understand that when food travels across the world to get to your plate, the repercussions on the environment deepen. More energy is required to transport, refrigerate, and store it and, often, greater quantities of packaging and chemicals are used to preserve it. While the world fawns over quinoa and couscous, our farmers have been growing alternate grains and seed grains like millets for centuries. Of all grains, millets require the least amount of water and are considered a superfood. Thus, eating local, seasonal food is a straightforward yet effective way to help the environment.
• Milk mistakes
In the quest for plant-based milk options, we often derail the sustainability train. Almond milk has grown in popularity as a milk substitute, but its overproduction has serious environmental consequences. Did you know, growing a single almond requires five litres of water, and, thus, to produce only 0.1 litre of almond milk, it takes 100 litres of water? The increasing demand for soya beans is one of the leading causes of deforestation. Almost four million hectares of forest land are destroyed every year to suffice for the agriculture of soya beans alone. Now that’s counterproductive, isn’t it?
• Select seafood smartly
I have always supported the notion that if we look after nature, it will look after us. I believe it is just as important to maintain biodiversity as it is to protect the planet, as you can’t have one without the other. Over-exploitation of a single species of fish pushes them towards extinction. Keeping a variation in your diet or selecting more plant-based options can save our marine friends from endangerment.
• Avoid avocados
Oh my! I can’t look up a single health site without the mention of avocados. The trees use up twice as much freshwater as regular trees. The rise in production and demand of avocados has caused the loss of more than 1,700 acres of land each year in Mexico, let alone the rest of the world. As avocados are highly perishable, a large amount of energy is required to transport them.
• Lean towards lentils
In India dals, sambhars, and pulses are an integral part of the diet. I recommend them not only for their nutritional benefit but also their ability to be natural soil fertilisers. Pulses contain nitrogen-fixing bacteria that reduce dependency on other artificial and energy-consuming processes.
• Strike out sugar
Rising diabetes is not the only reason to ditch processed sugar. Research indicates that sugar production excessively destroys natural habitats, requires large amounts of water, calls for the use of damaging agrochemicals, and causes air pollution. Sugarcane plantations may use a small portion of land, say three per cent, but make use of 60 per cent of its water supply, risking drought and water shortage in the areas around.
• Kitchen control
Sustainability doesn’t end with the food we eat but also includes how it’s cooked. I try to ensure that my kitchen is environmentally conscious. Steaming and sautéing are energy-efficient cooking methods that help retain micronutrients as well. Limited use of multiple utensils saves water. Using every bit of fresh produce with minimal wastage should be our goal, like mentioned in the recipe below.
So, strive for sustainability with these simple tips and safeguard your health and the environment.
Ridge Gourd Skin Chutney
1 cup clean ridge gourd skin
1 cup coriander leaves
4 tbsp peanuts
2–4 green chillies
1 sprig curry leaves
¼ tsp cumin
¼ tsp mustard
2 tsp desi cow’s ghee
Lemon juice and salt to taste
• Blend the ridge gourd skin, coriander leaves, peanuts, green chillies, lemon juice, and salt into a smooth paste.
• Heat ghee in a pan, and temper the rest of the ingredients.
• Pour the tempering over the chutney and serve.
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