Your shopping decisions have a big effect on the environment. Most people don’t notice or care to realize their impact on the world around them, but agriculture and the production of food are linked with the environment, and decisions at the supermarket have an impact on that. Let’s explore this notion.
50% of the habitable world is used for agriculture. Agriculture requires 70% of the world’s fresh water supply and that food represents ¼ of all greenhouse gas emissions. Until relatively recently, most of the earth was a wilderness, including grasslands, forests, and deserts. Over the last few hundred years, however, as people have turned to agriculture to grow the food necessary to support human life, wild habitats have been replaced by farmland. About 1,000 years ago, less than 5% of the land that isn’t desert or ice (considered habitable land) was used for agriculture. Now, farmland takes up more than half of that available land. The rest is covered by forests, while about 10% is covered by grasslands and shrubs and another 1% is covered with fresh water. Another 1% represents urban areas including towns, cities, roads, and other infrastructure.
Animals that we grow to consume, also known as livestock, require much more land than the crops grown for our consumption. Pastures and farms that grow animal feed account for more than three-quarters of all agricultural land, even though they produce less than 20% of the total calories consumed by people. Eating less meat and using plant-based alternatives could help reduce the number of livestock required to feed people throughout the world and lessen the impact on the environment. To learn more about what you can do to help protect the environment, check out the accompanying resource.