HYDERABAD: The food and beverage industry is said to be one of the most environmentally wasteful ones, with humans abusing large quantities of water and other resources while producing vast greenhouse gas quantities. Food sustainability is the only solution to the problem of a bleak future. CE speaks to eco-warriors and a nutritionist who share how an individual and society can achieve a greener system.
To put it in context and help us understand the urgent need to shift to sustainable food habits, Arjun Ayyagari, CEO and co-founder of Urban Tiller, says, “In general, the much bigger problem today is the gap between the food demand in the next ten years versus the land available for cultivation or food production. This gap is going to dramatically increase over the next decade and a half - this is why we need a sustainable solution to producing food for the growing demand.”
With dairy, meat, rice and pulses being the broad category of food India consumes, Arjun says it’s now time to look for alternate means to procure protein. “Dairy and meat production are some of the biggest causes of the carbon footprint on the planet. Protein is one of the most important macronutrients we need and there’s no ignoring that. But since meat, egg, milk, etc., are all products from animals we ought to look for a sustainable measure to meet that demand for protein. Otherwise, carbon footprint, electricity, antibiotics and cancer — all of these will go up. Hence the need to extract protein from leaves - all leaves have it. The West has already started innovating on the same and Asian countries are picking it up too,” says Arjun, who heads Asia’s first leaf protein company. Urban Tiller uses its proprietary technology to extract protein from various kinds of leaves thereby making the most abundant and sustainable protein available for human consumption.
The rise and popularity of urban farming and soil-less cultivation trends too have successfully led to the production of greens. “This surplus can be used for the extraction of proteins,” Arjun suggests. Vyshnavi Gudivada, a city-based vegan blogger and founder-CEO of EcoStudio says that the best way to ensure your food is sustainable is to eat what’s grown within 100 km of your surroundings. She explains, “For example, if you’re from Karnataka, include millets a lot in your diet.
Whatever is grown locally, should be consumed more. This restores the fertility of the soil, is good for the body and overall has less impact on the earth.” About the misconception of only vegan food being synonymous with sustainable food, she says, “Vegan food is nothing but food that is directly grown on the earth. So there are no middlemen/animals like the chicken or a cow or a goat that need a lot to survive —A lot of food and water is fed to livestock which is again used to make meat for humans, which in turn, reduces the amount of food that is available for us, as animals eat a lot more than humans do.”
Holistic nutritionist Sridevi Jasti says that one can have sustainable food by making very simple choices every day. “A lot of resources go into procuring one kilo of meat and a lot less when procuring a kilo of vegetables. Both have the same nutritional and caloric value.
Another step is to ensure there’s as little wastage as possible and whatever there is, can be used for composting. Next, choose to shop from local markets and farmers over packaged food. You can also grow your own food on the terrace, balcony or backyard garden. And finally, consume plant-based foods - they are a hoard of them — fruits, seeds, nuts, sprouts, grains, millets, fermented foods, vegetables, herbs, spices, and cold-pressed oil, all of which have been proven to not only improve our health and sustain it but also keep chronic illnesses at bay.” One doesn’t have to take big steps, says Sridevi. “You can start with a ‘once-a-week plant-based diet and level up slowly. Once you experience the joy of feeling light, it is sure to grow to become a habit,” she signs off.