Communities around the world are proclaiming “Think.Eat.Save” today as they celebrate World Environment Day with actions to highlight food waste – the theme chosen by the United Nations Environment Programme in 2013. The deep connections between the food we eat and the environment that surrounds us are becoming ever more apparent and are the subject of much debate, especially in the face of continuing global population growth, the planet’s finite resources and the evidence of degrading ecological balance everywhere around us.
In the 20th century the Green Revolution was promoted as the answer to meeting the food needs of population growth, pushing mechanization, irrigation and greatly increased chemical inputs onto farmers. But this century, with demographic growth that continues at a sustained speed, began under the influential auspices of more ecological terms, rephrasing the question about how the Earth will be able to respond to the needs of its population – in a sustainable way. In other words, how can global food security be guaranteed whilst maintaining the health of the planet and the wellbeing of those involved in food production. Today it is very clear that is only by safeguarding our ecological capital that we can save the future of agriculture.
For this reason, “think, eat, save” is a motto that deserves to become part of our daily life. A reminder on the fridge or on your shopping list, to help each of us ease the burden on our planet with our daily choices. Everyone can contribute, and every little bit helps. By making food a conscious choice, we can start to understand on a deep level the strength of the link between the act of eating and that of saving.
And in a world that nourishes itself with an ever-diminishing number of species and varieties of foods, the choice to buy, cook and eat a food can also mean saving it. According to the FAO, today 60% of the calories upon which the human diet is based come from three grains: wheat, rice and corn. The simple act of choosing a “minority grain”, for example, has far-reaching implications. It is more likely to be cultivated by small-scale agriculture using sustainable methods, it helps preserve a small piece of our planet’s edible biodiversity and it supports the cultures that lie behind it.
Our shopping bag can be filled with many “no” and many “yes” foods, each with an impact on the state of the environment, economies and cultures and on our own health. Let’s take the opportunity to “think, eat, save” today and commit to sustainable choices for the rest of the year. And let’s not forget that our shopping bag doesn’t need to be overfilled, because reducing food waste – that today amounts to 1.3 billion tons a year – is a fundamental step to contributing to food security and to the health of the planet.
Download the Slow Food guide to responsible consumption: When You Shop, Use Your Head.