What is a Sustainable Diet?
Our Opinion on a Tricky Subject.
A recently recommended book triggered this discussion at More Than Carrots HQ.
Sustainable according to Wikipedia (and other sources) has 2 definitions:
1. the ability to be maintained at a certain rate or level.
2. avoidance of the depletion of natural resources in order to maintain an ecological balance.
Nowadays, we tend to focus on the second definition, which can make us think that enjoyment and sustainability are in conflict. But we at More Than Carrots find that point of view limiting, because for my diet to be ‘sustainable’, it needs to:
1. Be enjoyable - otherwise I’ll stop and that’ll happen quite fast, within a couple of weeks
2. Keep me reasonably healthy - otherwise my body will stop me, probably within a couple of years
3. Avoid the depletion of natural resources - otherwise our environment will stop me eventually
Apart from the different timelines in which these three things affect us (immediate, medium- and long term), they are also very different when it comes to subjective opinions vs. facts.
Enjoyment is very subjective. If you love looking at photos of yourself in skinny jeans it’ll drive your diet in a very different direction than a love for eating chocolate will. And if you love feeling good about not eating animals, that is also a way of enjoying yourself. This is the first time in history when it’s our own choice which one we prioritize. If you can only eat what you hunt and gather you’re probably not going to pass by a hazelnut bush because you ‘don’t really enjoy eating hazelnuts’ or ‘because they contain too much fat’.
Health is different. While different bodies react differently to food and a variety of different diets can work, there is consensus around things that don’t work. From a personal experiment, I can report that consuming nothing but Pina Coladas makes you reach your body’s limits within a single morning! But, jokes aside, nowadays we know a lot about nutrition and, while living healthily remains a personal choice, what is ‘healthy’ is a lot less subjective than what is ‘enjoyable’.
Environmental Impact is the most interesting of the three, because what is good and bad for the environment is not subjective at all. The impact of our diet remains a personal choice (nobody stops you if you want to eat a steak twice a day), but the effects of your diet don’t just impact you personally. This makes this a tricky topic. This issue is also entirely new: previous generations simply didn’t know how to ‘deplete natural resources’ and things were either available or not.
It’s great that we are now able to do many things we never used to be able to do. And that we can put enjoyment first. We just need to find our balance between enjoyment, health and the environment if we want to avoid being stopped by our environment eventually.
We have spoken to a lot of people about this. Interestingly, we have yet to meet a person who isn’t interested in discussing the environmental impact of our food and who isn’t willing to adjust their diet to reduce it. However, it needs to be enjoyable and that’s the bit where it gets difficult. If you want to eat less meat without getting bored you have to be willing to explore: new ingredients, new cuisines, new restaurants. You are not likely to find the good stuff in the places you know (Pret being the notable exception, and they are doing astonishingly well with their veggie strategy).
Our call to action here is not to be more sustainable, it is to be more adventurous!
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