What is a FoodPrint and Why Should I Care about Mine?
Whether it’s a salad, a juicy steak or your morning bowl of cereal, your meal has an impact on the environment and animals and on people. Your “foodprint” is the result of everything it takes to get your food from the farm to your plate. Many of those processes are invisible to the public. But it doesn’t take much to learn a little bit more about where your food comes from and how it got to you, or to learn how to choose products and practices that do less harm to the environment, animals and people. At FoodPrint, we’re here to help you sort it all out.
What Does it Take to Reduce Your Foodprint?
Here are 7 ways you can begin to dig deeper:
Learn about Industrial Food Production and the Environment
In the US, the majority of food — from animal products like beef, pork, chicken and eggs to crops like tomatoes and almonds — is produced using an industrial approach.
It’s called “industrial” because it employs the principles of industrialization to maximize production and reduce cost, and functions a lot like a factory. When maximizing scale is the number one priority, other concerns get overlooked — like the treatment of animals and the treatment of workers, both of which we’ll get to below. Another important consideration that doesn’t take priority in our industrial food system? Taking good care of the surrounding land and community. Industrial food production takes a tremendous toll on our soil, air and water.
Pay Attention to Animal Welfare
There’s a big difference between making food and making car parts. When making animal products, you’re working with living, breathing animals. The predominant way in which we produce meat, eggs and other animal products has turned animals into units of production in a factory. Animals in so-called “factory farms” are treated terribly, subject to awful living conditions and then cruel deaths. That’s because in this system, it’s all about maximizing efficiency and profits, without much or any attention to animal health and welfare.
But there are farmers raising their livestock with animal welfare in mind. And there are trustworthy labels that make it possible for consumers to find products that align with their values. By choosing these products, and supporting farmers who raise their animals in a humane way, you can lower your foodprint.
Support Fair Labor
The production of most of our food, from fruits and vegetables to meat and eggs, relies on human labor – these workers make it possible for our food system to function. They pick strawberries, stooped over in blazing heat, and they slaughter animals without the right protective gear, on assembly lines that are too fast to be safe.
Their work pays poorly, is often unregulated and falls to those who are stuck with tolerating these conditions because they don’t have a lot of other choices. Thankfully, there are labels you can look for so that you know you’re supporting food that was produced in a way that is fairer for the workers, including more comfortable working conditions and fair pay. By choosing those products, you’re reducing your foodprint.
Go Small, Go Local
Food that is produced locally has a smaller foodprint. Purchasing locally-grown food helps support local farms — and therefore the local economy — and maintains farmland and open spaces in your community.
Local growers can tell you how the food was grown. When you buy directly from farmers, you can ask what practices they use to raise and harvest the crops. When you know where your food comes from and who grew it, you know a lot more about your food and you’re lowering your foodprint.
Commit to Reducing your Food Waste
America wastes roughly 40 percent of its food. Of the estimated 125 to 160 billion pounds of food that goes to waste every year, much of it is perfectly edible and nutritious. Some is lost on the farm, some is lost is lost in transportation, some in restaurants, but a whole lot is also wasted at home. Food that you throw away ends up in landfills where, as it breaks down, it forms methane, a greenhouse gas that’s up to 86 times more powerful than carbon dioxide. Food waste also represents a huge waste of the finite resources, like energy and water, that were used to produce that food. By committing to reducing your personal food waste, you lowering your foodprint.
Use Less Food Packaging
Food packaging poses two important problems: the problem of waste — and all of those wrappers, cups, bags and plastic “clamshells” that end up in the landfill— is the most obvious one. Worse still, when these pieces of food packaging get out of the landfill stream and wind up in the environment where they pollute ecosystems and kill and maim wildlife. But there’s also the public health risks associated with the chemicals used in and on that packaging.
Encourage Your Legislators to Do Better by Letting Them Know You Care
Personal changes can only accomplish so much. Many of the ways our food system is set up can only be changed by legislation, whether local, state or federal. Learn about the Farm Bill, the biggest piece of legislation that governs how food is grown in the US. Find out if your city has a Food Policy Council or maybe even somebody in local government who is focused on food issues. Let your legislators, both local and federal, know that food — how it is grown, raised, harvested, processed and distributed — is important to you.
Helpful Tools and Resources
At FoodPrint, we try to make it as easy as possible to make food choices that are better for animals, people and the environment. So, we put together the following tools and resources to help you out!
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