Foreign Foods – Eating foods that are produced locally is probably in the top three most important things you can do in living an eco friendly lifestyle. The carbon that is emitted by shipping foods half way across the world is astronomical. There is no reason why somebody living in Alaska should be eating Papaya grown in Ecuador. If you buy local you are decreasing your carbon footprint, you are decreasing the amount of harmful chemicals being released into the earth, and you are supporting your local economy by killing the middle man.
Shrimp – The shrimp industry is a tough one. Mass harvesting of wild shrimp was having terrible effects on other sea creatures; dolphins and other fish were being caught and killed by shrimping nets. The alternative became aquaculture, or shrimp farms. However, it has been estimated that over 3 million hectares of mangrove habitat has been killed off, mostly in beautiful tropical nations. Mangroves serve as habitat for a large variety of fish, crab, shrimp, and mollusk species.
Packaged Foods – This one is pretty self-explanatory; packaged foods are one of the most wasteful productions on the planet. Do we really need all that plastic wrap, cardboard, aluminum with all that marketing and nutritional data on every single item? No. Landfills are filling up all around the world with trash from packaged foods. We must try to decrease the amount we throw away.
Rice – Rice producers use up to three times the amount of freshwater than most other crops for the same amount of food produced. Freshwater is not an unlimited resource. Less than one percent of the world’s water is freshwater that humans can use for irrigation, industry, drinking water, and sanitation. With a world population of 7 billion and limited freshwater, we should be utilizing that water on healthy nutritious crops that use less water. Rice is not that.
Genetically Modified Organisms – GMOs are plants that have been genetically engineered. These creations do not occur in nature and no other humans in history have eaten GMOs. We are leading the way in fake food. Because GMOs are genetically engineered to resist herbicides like RoundUp, spraying has increased up to 15 times since the introduction of GMOs. And unfortunately, in the United States GMOs do not have to be labeled in the grocery stores like many European countries. For a list of non-GMO foods, visit nongmoproject.org.
Palm Oil – Similar to shrimp farming, the palm oil industry has clear-cut vast areas of tropical forests to make room for monoculture oil palm plantations. Thus destroying critical habitat for tigers, elephants and other species throughout Malaysia and Indonesia. Over 50% of our foods currently contain palm oil and we’d never know it because it is mostly labeled as “vegetable oil.” Thankfully, there are alternatives to this type of palm oil: see the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil.
Tuna – One bluefin tuna can sell upwards of $200,000, mostly to high-end sushi restaurants in Japan. There is an interesting Netflix documentary about how the current sushi industry is not sustainable: Jiro Dreams of Sushi. Apart from overfishing of bluefin, canned tuna is perhaps a greater danger because of the “by catch” of countless dolphins, sea turtles, and other marine species that get caught in the fishing nets. For starters, look for the dolphin safe label on canned tuna next time you visit the grocery store.
There you have it. Seven of the worst foods for the environment that we consumer ALL the time. I hope this isn’t overwhelming. I’m taking “baby steps” in a lot of these areas. I don’t believe you can do it all overnight but I do think those little changes in our shopping habits can go a long way. I hope this helps.