The 2016 Rio Olympics are over. I know a lot of people just don’t care about sports, but I love them. I know a lot of people think there are more important things in the world. Of course there are. There are floods in Louisiana, and the horrible presidential race. Not to mention the “controversies” of the games themselves.
“Controversies?” Zika, sewage in the streets, polluted bay, crime. These things weren’t necessarily controversial until American and European athletes were going to be exposed to them. The 6.3 million inhabitants of Rio experience these things every day. Some people argue that a country where about 26 percent of people live below the poverty line shouldn’t spend the money to host the games. Does that mean that the Olympics should only be held in Europe and North America? Does that protect poor people from indiscriminate spending, or does it just protect the rest of us from having to see poor people? The first Brazilian to win a gold medal in these games was Rafaela Silva, a judo athlete from a dangerous favela. Would her victory have had the same meaning in Paris or Los Angeles?
If you missed the opening ceremonies, the creative team put together a beautiful production that told the story of how colonialism, slavery, immigration, and climate change have shaped the culture and environment in Brazil.
What does all this have to do with you? Or food? A lot, it turns out. If you found yourself offended or inspired by reports of the conditions in Rio de Janeiro, try making these 4 easy changes to reduce your negative impact on the world.
Use Less Plastic
Use reusable bags when you grocery shop (including produce bags). Don’t buy plastic water bottles or other disposable plastic items. Reuse any plastic things you do have as many times as possible. It’s easy to forget that plastic is a petroleum product, and its manufacture and use contributes to global warming. Plastics are also a big part of the litter problem is most places. Plastics don’t break down in the environment, and are very hard to recycle. Avoid them as much as possible.
Buy Local, In Season Food
Check the labels on the things you buy in grocery store, or visit your local farmer’s market. Most food travels 1500 miles before we buy it. This contributes to global climate change. Also, many poor countries destroy their forests and other natural habitats in order to plant commodities to export to other countries. The destruction leads to climate change, species extinction, and the loss of local economies. Remember the story of the Irish potato famine, where crops were being exported while an entire population starved because their staple crop failed? That’s still happening all over the world. Local food systems help everyone stay fed.
Eat Less Meat
Meat production is very labor and resource intensive. The food system is responsible for a quarter of all greenhouse gas emissions, and livestock production is responsible for 80% of that. In addition, forests are often clear-cut to make room for grazing land, further contributing to the damage.
Reduce Food Waste
Food waste costs the average American family $1500 per year. Plan your meals and shopping trips. Check the refrigerator and pantry before shopping. Learn to decipher “best buy” labels. (Hint: they’re mostly lies.) Learn to use less than perfect produce. (Yes, a post is coming, but you can get started today.) When you toss out food from your refrigerator, you’re also tossing all the water, fertilizer, and other inputs that went into producing that food.
Do you have other ideas for reducing your negative impact in the world? How about improving your positive impact? Did you take anything else from watching the 2016 Rio games? Leave a comment!