Think * Eat * Save, the theme for World Environment Day 2013 celebrations, is an anti-food waste and food loss campaign. To explain it in simple terms – it is about food that was intended for human consumption but is instead lost or wasted (in quantity and quality) – throughout the food supply chain. From food that gets spilled, spoilt and lost at production, post-harvest, processing and distribution stages, to waste at retail and consumption stages, it all makes up our food-print!! “Every year roughly 1/3rd of food produced for human consumption is lost or wasted globally, i.e. 1.3 billion tonnes. This is equal to the amount produced in the whole of sub-Saharan Africa! At the same time, 1 in every 7 people in the world go to bed hungry and more than 20,000 children under the age of 5 die daily from hunger.”- UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)
Beyond the adverse humanitarian impact, this global crisis also has grave environmental and financial repercussions since food waste inevitably also implies huge amounts of production resources and greenhouse gas emissions (caused by the food production) are wasted. But an even more alarming statistic is – Almost half of this massive food loss is the result of retailers and consumers in industrialised regions i.e. you and me!! That’s enough to feed the 900 million people hungry in the world. (according to the FAO) But the good news (yes there always is) – is that this means that you and I can change the world, feed the hungry and save the environment! “Sometimes to move forward we must revisit the past” — in this case, we must look to ancient medicine for modern day answers. A simple common-sense way comes from the Vedic traditions of ancient India – ‘conscious eating’.
As like all the other Vedic sciences, Ayurveda, the oldest living medical science in the world, approaches diet and health from a holistic perspective. It provides us not only the medical diagnosis and treatments of healthcare but also a spiritual approach to eating! The Vedas explain that ‘conscious eating’ nourishes beyond the body, it nourishes one’s soul and that of others. To promote your health through the food you eat, says Ayurveda, you have to internalise the process of selection, cooking and serving and spiritualise your eating.
‘Conscious eating’ is basically eating with attention and intention! Here are some very easy ‘conscious eating’ tips that you can incorporate into your life that while being of great benefit to your health also help you do your two-bits for the environment and fellow earthlings.
Eat real food: Food made by nature not industry. No processed, pre-packaged, refined food. This will reduce the eco damage done by processing and packaging food.
Eat local: Eat nature’s produce, as fresh and as close to the source as possible so that it retains its living intelligence or – Prana. This also helps the environment since foods are not flown halfway across the world and therefore limit emissions.
Eat seasonal: Ayurveda says when you eat food that is locally grown, you benefit from the intelligence in nature that sustains seasonal balance. This limits greenhouse gas emissions and also sustains the small-scale food producers and farmers.
Eat living food: Cook food the right way to keep it alive – with its nourishment alive. Avoid microwaving food – this disperses energy rather than condenses energy and this weakens the body with time.
Eat organic: As they are richer in trace minerals and without the undesired chemicals. This also has less of an environmental impact as organic foods do not use toxic harmful pesticides in their production process.
Eat with mindfulness: It is not just about what you eat, how you eat matters just as much. Ayurveda prescribes – Cook as if you are in a hungry state and eat as if you are beginning to meditate, with perfect equanimity in both the states. This leads to less food wasted. You will eat just enough and not more.
Eat moderately: Ayurvedic guideline – Eat as much as you can carry into your two hands cupped together. Health is not dependant on how much we eat, but on how much we are able to digest and absorb. For optimum digestion, fill your stomach 1/3 with food, 1/3 with water and leave 1/3 for air. Serve only as much as you can finish. Eco gain – waste less. Throwing out ½ a hamburger equates to the same water usage as taking a 60-minute shower.
Eat authentic: In Vedic tradition, food is sacred, food is divine. It is created and shared in abundance where there is real hunger and not disrespected by dropping food where there is no hunger i.e. dustbins, filled stomachs or even your own satiated stomach when there is no more hunger.
Once done, donate the non-perishable and unspoiled perishable food (to the needy on the street, local food banks, soup kitchens, pantries, and shelters) and compost the one that is not. (Composting food scraps can reduce landfill-caused methane.) This leads to the completion of a Karmic cycle – all that is born, must perish, to be born again. So think before you eat and help save our environment!
By Priti Mehta is the Founder & Director, Omved.
This post appeared in Idiva:http://idiva.com/news-health/8-ways-conscious-eating-can-help-save-the-environment/21982