Eating sustainably: with just a few tips we show you how


If you buy food that has been produced in a fair, environ­men­tally and animal-friendly way, eating sustainably is not that difficult. Here are a few suggestions to get you started.

Effects of our diet

What we eat makes a difference to our personal well-being, and this is where everyone’s taste is different. But the effect our own diet has on the environment, the economy, society and animal welfare has become an important issue today. And there are times when you stand in the shop feeling helpless: can I still eat meat? Is fruit imported by air forbidden? And is it really bad to buy green­house tomatoes? The following points are well worth thinking about.

Origin and production conditions

According to WWF, conventional greenhouses that are heated with electricity, gas or oil have a poor ecological footprint. For this reason, sun-ripened food is more climate-friendly in winter than food from conventionally operated Swiss greenhouses – even if the products have been transported by train, ship or truck. What's also important is not to buy products such as baby bananas or ripe papayas imported by air. Transporting one kilogram of food by air causes 100 times more pollution with greenhouse gases than ship transport.

Focus on local produce and organic labels

If consumers pay attention to all these aspects, the environmental pollution caused by fruit and vegetables can be reduced by a factor of eight to ten. Not all products imported by air are labelled,for example with the «By Air» sticker. Consumers can find guidance from organic labels with high standards. These labels do not sell goods imported by air.

Meat production

On average, 52kg of meat are eaten per capita and year in Switzerland. This causes large quantities of greenhouse gases and consumes a lot of energy and water – more than 15,000 litres per kilogram of beef. According to the Swiss Society for Nutrition (SGE), this is exacerbated by high feed consumption and the fact that half of the concentrated feed has to be imported. For large-scale soy cultivation, rainforests are cleared and small farmers are deprived of their livelihoods.

Eat meat products in moderation

Avoiding meat altogether is the most environmentally friendly option. A vegan diet rates better than a vegetarian diet. However, Greenpeace calculations show that sustainable production would be possible if everyone were to eat only 10 to 15kg of meat per year. It's also important not to consume just the prime cuts such as fillets, but also ragout or offal so that as much of the slaughtered animal is used as possible.

Packaging waste

Everyone needs to act. Each person throws away an average of 320g of food per day – almost a whole meal. Only buying as much as you need, using up leftovers and taking any restaurant leftovers home are also important tips for eating sustainably.

The zero-waste approach is certainly good and we consumers can do without a lot of packaging.
Corina Gyssler from WWF Switzerland

In addition, what's also essential for sustainable consumption is careful food management. In Switzerland, food production causes almost 30% of environmental pollution. If food ends up in the garbage, scarce resources such as water, soil and fossil fuels are wasted – and all the efforts that have been made to achieve sustainability are for nothing.

Fabric bags and own containers

Avoiding waste and paying attention to how a product or raw material is cultivated is more important than food packaging – on average, this only accounts for between 1% and 5% of environmental pollution. But packaging also ensures that food lasts longer – which avoids having to throw away food that has gone off. If you want to reduce packaging and plastic waste, take a fabric bag and your own containers with you when you go shopping.

Tips for eating sustainably

  • Eat less meat, fish, eggs and dairy products, and more plant-based food.
  • Go shopping on foot or by bicycle.
  • Buy locally. This saves long transport distances and supports local producers and processors. Pay attention to which fruits and vegetables are in season and buy them from regional outdoor production.
  • Take note of environmental and social labels. Fairtrade certification guarantees small farmers and plantation workers living wages and basic labour rights. Other labels stand for environmentally and animal-friendly production or sustainable fishing.
  • Make conscious choices with regard to chocolate and coffee; giving preference to products with labels.
  • Drink tap water. It’s good quality, inexpensive and makes ecological sense, as unnecessary transport and packaging waste can be avoided.

Further information and shopping guides for sustainable consumption:

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