Eating right, for the environment: WWF’s diet chart to help curb climate change, biodiversity loss

Ahead of World Food Day, WWF outlines sustainable diet plan that's healthy for humans & environment alike  

By DTE Staff
Published: Friday 14 October 2022

Cutting down on meat consumption can reduce global greenhouse gas emissions is well known. But global non-profit World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) says much more is needed to slow climate change and biodiversity loss. 

Ahead of World Food Day (October 16), WWF outlined a sustainable diet plan that can help address a host of environmental challenges while also providing health benefits. 

“Our global food system is one of the primary drivers of biodiversity loss, with agriculture alone being the identified threat to 22,500 of the 41,000 species at risk of extinction,” the intergovernmental wildlife conservation body said. 

But emissions burden from the world’s food production is also massive: A quarter of global greenhouse gas emissions are associated with food, WWF observed.

Wasting less food, looking out for eco-labels and following a more diverse diet can go a long way, the organisation suggested. 

It encouraged the following consumption patterns: 

Plant-heavy diet: Growing plants requires less water and land and emits lower volumes of greenhouse gases than meat, dairy and egg production. Incorporating more fruits, vegetables and wholegrains in our diet can reduce the impact our food system has on the environment.

Diversify the platter: “Seventy-five percent of the global food supply comes from only 12 plant and five animal species,” WWF noted. The global dependence on a small range of food threatens the diversity of species in agriculture, weakens our food systems and is also not the most nutritious. 

Cut food waste: Planning meals, shopping smart and more efficient storage of food items can help reduce food waste, the wildlife organisation said. “Nearly 570 million tonnes of the global food waste occurs at the household level.”

Proteins beyond meat: Around 60 per cent of the greenhouse gas emission from agriculture is due to animal farming, according to WWF. Consuming more mushrooms, peas, beans and nuts to meet our protein requirements can help reduce this burden, it said. 

Pay attention to logos: Being aware of and choosing food packages based on eco-labels can go a long way, WWF suggested. The organisation listed out some logos one can look for while grocery shopping. These include: Organic, Rainforest Alliance (for sustainable agriculture), Fairtrade (protecting farmers and workers in developing countries), Freedom Food (animal welfare), MSC and ASC (Marine stewardship council and Aquaculture Stewardship Council, for seafood) and RSPO (Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil).

Fat, sugar, salt best avoided: Cultivation of sugarcane and sugar beet causes soil erosion and is often associated with intensive use of water and pesticides, said WWF. Simple lifestyle choices such as choosing water over sugary drinks and saving cakes, sweets, chocolates, cured meat, fries and crisps for special occasions can make a significant difference. “New sugar plantations are replacing natural habitats, leading to biodiversity decline,” the non-profit added. 

The advantages of such a global shift towards the above diet are plenty, WWF observed. These include combating climate change and food insecurity, reducing biodiversity loss, improving human health, significantly reducing premature mortality and helping decrease the risks of future pandemics, it added. 

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