Protect the Planet with Your Fork, Live Chat with Stacy Ramirez, Dietitian for the Planet
What you put on your plate may be the most powerful impact you make on the planet as an individual over your lifetime. An estimated 26% of the earth’s greenhouse gas emissions, 70% of its freshwater use, and 43% of the ice-free, desert-free land is linked to our food production. In addition, our food production degrades our soil, water, air, and ecosystems, drives climate change, and throws many species into extinction. At the same time, we’re throwing away 40% of our food! No wonder the act of eating has such a powerful influence on our environment.
As you know, I’m passionate about reducing our negative impacts on our big beautiful planet in order to preserve it for the future. That’s why I was so excited to have my dietitian friend and colleague, Stacy Ramirez, on my Live Chat today to talk about the ways you can lighten your footprint on mother earth with your fork.
Protect the Planet with Your Fork, Live Chat with Stacy Ramirez, Dietitian for the Planet
Check out my Live Chat with Stacy Ramirez, RDN, Dietitian for the Planet, as we talk about ways you can protect the planet with your fork. Stacy has dedicated her career to eating for planetary health, and we had such a great conversation on what you can do to make a difference. You can find our Live Chat below, as well as our show notes, more about Stacy’s career, and a written version of our interview with Stacy’s best tips for eating more sustainably.
What you put on your plate may be the single most impactful thing you do over your lifetime to influence your footprint on the planet. Join Stacy Ramirez, Dietitian for the Planet, and Sharon Palmer, The Plant-Powered Dietitian as they dig into how you can eat to lower your environmental footprint in this Live Chat at SharonPalmer.com. Read the full blog and show notes from this live chat here. https://sharonpalmer.com/protect-the-planet-with-your-fork-live-chat-with-stacy-ramirez-dietitian-for-the-planet/
Posted by Sharon Palmer: The Plant-Powered Dietitian on Friday, April 24, 2020
Things You Will Learn in This Episode:
- How to better the planet’s health through your food consumption.
- Stacy’s top 5 small eating tips that can make a big impact on planetary health.
- How farming impacts the food system.
Follow Along with Stacy’s Top Resources:
Live Chat with Stacy Ramirez, Dietitian for the Planet
Sharon: Why should we be so concerned about planetary health related to our daily diet habits?
Stacy: I think there is a lot of room for change. It’s kind of hard to tell what the future of the planet is going to be like because I think every year things just change. I mean, even in my lifetime and I’m 30, and I feel there is a big difference between what the world was like when I was a kid. Granted when I was a kid, things just seemed bigger than what it seems like now, you’re not seeing as many bugs outside. Even during summer, I remember there used to be millions of bugs and grasshoppers and things like that, and even now I’ve noticed things like these changes just in my own lifetime. I just feel like now is the time; if we’re going to make a change, we should really focus on it now. Because we have seen more extreme weather and just a lot of change in the way we manage our land, so I think our diet can make a big impact on moving forward. I think that our food systems and climate change go hand in hand, as we know food production is very intensive on the planet. One-third of green house gases come from the food production system. One-third of greenhouse gases are a direct result of food production, 70% of the world fresh water is used by the food production systems, 40% of the world’s land is used for food production, so making food for just humans is very energy intensive, very resource intensive. So if we can make better food choices by choosing to eat foods that are not as water consuming and don’t require as much land to produce. Simple food choices I think can make a big impact on the planet.
Sharon: How has our food system changed to become so impactful on the food system?
Stacy: Farming has changed, especially in the last century or two. A lot of good things came with the industrial revolution and green revolution. I kind of like to go back and study history to learn about food systems. We got a lot of good out of that, like technology advances and we have big tractors and things that have helped to speed the world. Really, I don’t know that we would be here, especially eating foods from anywhere in the world at any time of year, if it was not for all those huge changes that we saw take place. But I mean, the thing is. with all of that, that made us more reliant on gas, that we have eventually invented pesticides and synthetic fertilizers and a lot of chemicals basically that we are relying on to grow food. So, the way your grandparents probably did it was in a more circular system, with a lot more regenerative farming methods. A lot more bio/organic farming, whatever you want to call it. A lot of different ways to put it, but basically if you took something out of the soil, you put something back into it. Like you make your own compost, or put cows manure back into the fields, whereas now it’s a lot more like, lay down the seeds, give it water, put on some fertilizer and once the plants start growing, spray it with pesticides. It is different. And then we plough everything with tractors and use a lot of water. There are a lot of weather changes, sometimes we don’t get the rainfall we expect, there are droughts, freezes, and all kinds of weird times. Basically, I think there have been a lot of changes with how we take care of the land, and also with how we take care of the resources that go into the soil. If we don’t take care of the soil, then we have a harder time getting good food from the soil. So, that is one way; the way we treat soil or what we are putting into the soil for our food. Another thing is we have been clearing more forests, we cleared a lot of the Amazon rain forest; it’s being burned to make more room for cow production in Brazil, and so that’s another thing that is different. We want to clear land for more room for food production. Instead of focusing more on how we can take advantage of the space we already have and treat the land better so that we can get more food from what we already have.
Sharon: What are your top 5 small eating tips that can make a big impact on planetary health?
Stacy: I came up with 8 small eating tips. I am going to condense them into 5 because a lot of them go hand and hand anyway. I have done a series about this topic, and I plan on making it into a blog post at some point. I think there are many ways that we can make an impact on the planet through our diet.
1. Number 1, for sure, is to eat less meat, especially less red meats. The easiest thing you can do, it’s the most memorable, is Meatless Monday, replacing animal products with plants. Trying to eat more beans, nuts and seeds and soil instead of animal products, especially red meat. Red meat requires cows, which require a lot of land and water. They produce a lot of methane gas While they do serve a really important part in the food system, and in regenerative farming, the way we produce cows right now is mind blowing. You can find animal feeding and factory farms, whatever you want to call it, but it’s really bad for the planet, the way we raise animals right now. In summary, the easiest way is to eat less meat. If you are going to eat meat, find organic places to get it from. There can be sustainably produced meat, but you definitely have to be careful. Because the burgers from McDonalds, you can guarantee they are not sustainably produced. Try to eat less meat, eat more plants, number 1.
2. My second tip would be somewhat controversial, but I’m for organic. You do not have to eat 100% organic, by any means. I know it is expensive, we don’t know if there are any clear health benefits to eating organic versus eating conventional produce. I really believe that if you can afford to eat organic, you should. If the organic version is, for example, 10 cents more expensive, then pay the difference if you can afford it. However, price and availability can be an issue for people. If it is an option for you, I would definitely say to eat organic. I know organic is not a gold star for everything, there are loopholes in the system and there are documentaries about produce not producing as much of a high yield. That is to say, does it make as much food per acre, versus conventional? I have a big issue with all the chemicals that we are putting on the land, that end up in the water systems, they end up in the river, they take out a lot of species of animals, they end up in the oceans. This is creating dead zones and destroying diversification. There are a lot of issues with the chemicals that we put on the soil. It is not a human health issue; it is a planet health issue. That is why I think that eating organic is part of eating for the planet, if you can do it. It is not the most important thing, but I think it is certainly up there.
3. Third tip: Eating local and growing your own food. They kind of all go into one, really. Eating local, eating in season, and growing whatever you can at home. Then you know what is going into your own food. You are growing in seasons and you are not fighting nature basically, to grow some strawberries when they usually don’t grow. Eating local, obviously, you can come into contact with farms, and these small farms a lot of times do not have single practices, because they care about the soil. They have personal ties with the land, they have other incentives to why they want to make good food that does not end up being rough on their land. It won’t be trying on the planet. Many times, they are organic, but they may not be able to afford the certification.
4. My next tip would be to support biodiversity and eat a variety of foods. Humans only eat about 200 plants, and there are numbers, as high as 200,000 edible plant species, that are out there. We could be eating 100 times more plants, I’d have to do the math, up to 1000 times more plants than what we are currently eating. It is really difficult to get the average person on board with eating different kinds of foods. I know that quinoa has become really popular, about a decade ago or so. Another is chia seeds. I see a lot more purple carrots, and white carrots, so that’s good—promoting different varieties of foods. Even beyond that, whole plants species are edible, and I personally don’t know all of them that are available. If you can try new foods, and even such things like buying seeds to try and grow some new foods at home. Or trying new foods that are available at farmers markets or farm to plate restaurants. Try new foods that supports the biodiversity and the environment. This is really important as the climate keeps changing. I like to use corn as an example, if we start getting a lot more droughts, and the corn we currently rely on does not survive the drought, it is going to be really unfortunate if we do not have any backup corns species. However, if we do cultivate those other kinds of corns, and we are saving the seeds, then they won’t be lost. It is really important that we keep all of the species that are currently in our systems there; we do not know the affect it is going to have on the planet if they are no longer there. Or what is going to happen to our food supply if they are gone.
5. My last tip is not on what not to eat, but what to eat more of. You should always eat your leftovers. Food waste is something we have not touched on, but food waste is really up there. It is all important, but not wasting food is one of the most important things ever. When you waste food, you waste the water, peoples’ time, transportation, everything that goes into the chain. You waste the land, just everything and all the inputs that go into growing the food and making it are wasted. If you don’t eat it, it goes to waste. You might as well eat it, it already did its thing on the planet, did its time, so to say. If you don’t eat it, then it just is wasted, all of it goes to waste. On top of that it goes to landfills, where it probably creates more methane and carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, which is not something we need either. It doesn’t matter what you are eating, if it’s plants or animals, or something that came from the other side of the world, or your garden. If you do not eat it, then it’s no bueno.
About Stacy Ramirez
Stacy Ramirez is a registered and licensed dietitian with a passion for human and planetary health. As sustainable diets and eating patterns for a healthy planet have grown in popularity recently, Stacy started her blog (dietitianfortheplanet.com) and social media account (@dietitianfortheplanet) to help guide people about healthy eating for both beneficiaries, people and planet. Stacy completed her master’s degree and dietetic internship through Oklahoma State University in Stillwater, Oklahoma. She currently lives in Texas and is a stay-at-home mom of two, who motivate her to make the world a healthier and better place for all future generations.
Check out some of Sharon’s favorite interviews and chats on how you can live a healthy, sustainable lifestyle:
Image: Jackfruit Black Bean and Quinoa Tacos, Sharon Palmer, MSFS, RDN