4 min read.Updated: 27 Feb 2019, 11:04 PM ISTVasudha Rai
Whether it is opting to be a vegan or using more millets, people are now choosing to not just eat healthier but also do their bit for the environment
A new study of the journal Science attempted to calculate exactly how much impact our food choices can have on the environment
While Anushka Manchanda, 35, singer, songwriter and actor found the spotlight with her singing and songwriting, she’s now using her fame (and her Instagram account) to promote veganism and environmental consciousness. “I’ve always loved animals, but when I started to find out the truth about what happens to these beings before they arrive at my table, I felt like a hypocrite," she says. She started by eliminating meat, then chicken and dairy, and finally, fish and eggs from her diet. “These choices also extend to my wardrobe, skincare and makeup," she says.
A new study published in the June 2018 issue of the journal Science attempted to calculate exactly how much impact our food choices can have on the environment. The researchers from Oxford University and LCA Research Group, Switzerland found that in 2010 the world’s food supply chain generated a whopping 13.7 billion metric tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions, a quarter of total emission by humans. They also found that shifting to a diet without animal products had the potential to cut these emissions by half. It’s no wonder then that many millennials are looking to turn vegan. But even if you don’t want to completely give up meat, you can do your bit by choosing your food (including animal products) consciously and minimize the impact on the environment. We spoke to four millennials who think about the environment when they choose what they eat.
“A quick Google search will tell you that eating a vegan diet could be the single biggest way to reduce our environmental impact on earth," explains Mumbai-based Manchanda. In terms of personal benefits, she says, dropping dairy from her diet has helped clear her skin and helped her drop weight too. “Also, my extremely painful, seven-day periods have become four-day periods with lighter cramps," she says.
But even if you don’t choose veganism, Manchanda has many tips for you to contribute positively. “You can start by reducing your consumption of meat and dairy, buy local, seasonal foods, avoid foods with plastic packaging (this is a hard one), and take your own bags for shopping." Before you buy anything, ask yourself: can I reduce, reuse, recycle?" she says, adding that small gestures make a difference.
Film producer Shanti Sivaram, 38, partner at Mumbai’s Bling Entertainment, has always been a vegetarian. “My parents are big nature and animal lovers, so we were brought up very consciously by our parents."
As she grew older, she became more aware of how milk is produced. “I decided to go off dairy and eventually, became vegan," she says. After turning vegan, she says she has more energy and the quality of her sleep has improved.
In fact, she even uses vegan leather. “Growing up we never used leather, since my parents were particular," she says. These days her favourite vegan leather is Matt & Nat and Rheson for their non- leather bags. Even brands such as Charles & Keith, Zara and H&M, she says, have non-leather products but you need to ask for them.
As far as sweeteners are concerned, Sivaram likes to use unprocessed options such as jaggery, coconut sugar and dates. “Processing any food uses up a lot of energy and I avoid these products," she says.
Be a conscious consumer
As the founder of Rumi, a company that makes biodegradable yoga mats and athleisure (among other things), Ritesh Kalati, 36, knows more than a thing or two about conscious consumerism. He calls it consequential thinking—what will happen to a product once I’ve used it? The same goes for what he eats. “Food decides how you feel more than activity or exercise," he says. He’s a moderate meat-eater but doesn’t eat beef or chicken. “There’s a lot that you can do to a chicken in terms of injecting it with hormones, so I don’t eat it," he says.
He chooses to buy fresh meat, and get fish directly from the fish market, rather than packaged and processed versions. He says eating lamb over beef also ensures lesser emission.
While eating local and seasonal is another change you can make for better environmental impact, these choices are not relevant for Kalati, because he is based in Dubai, where there aren’t many local vegetable options. “Some countries have adapted new-age farming like hydroponics and aquaponics to make up for their environment’s inability to grow vegetables, but it is yet to come to Dubai," he adds.
Change buying patterns
As the founder of a company that creates bespoke content and marketing solutions, Delhi-based Pritha Sharma, 34, of The Good Show, needed to get creative with her diet when she got diagnosed with allergy to wheat, soya and shell fish in 2013. “After I was forced to give up things like gluten, shellfish and soya due to my allergies, it pressured me to start reading about what I ate." While she preferred eating a vegetarian diet because meat never made her feel good, with the new allergies she was forced to really understand the impact of food not just on her body but the environment.
“Ever since I started researching the effects of milk consumption, I found more information on the malpractices of the dairy industry," she says. It has been difficult, but along with staying away from gluten, soya and shellfish, she stays away from dairy. Sharma tries to consume lesser, and also buys directly from farms that use no pesticides. “I also like to use more indigenous grains such as millets—they’re better for the environment as they’re naturally drought- and pest-resistant," she adds.
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