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5 foods affecting the  environment

Most of us are aware of many of the things having a negative effect on the environment in the modern world, but how many of us consider how the food on our plate impacts things like climate change and deforestation? In this article we talk you through 5 foods that are negatively affecting the environment.

Palm oil

Palm oil is a hidden ingredient in so much of what we consume on a daily basis, from bread to ice cream. It is used in many products because it is so cheap compared to other oils. However, the production of this oil is having a huge impact on the environment and the wellbeing of wildlife. Palm oil is big business and is produced on a huge scale in the tropics but this comes at a cost to the local forests in these areas. Vast expanses of forest are being cleared for palm oil plantations in countries such as Indonesia, Malaysia and Colombia. Campaigns have been established by many environmental organisations to raise awareness of the damage caused by the production of palm oil, often showing species such as the critically endangered orangutan, which have been affected by habitat loss.

Flickr | CIFORBeef

Beef is a heavily consumed meat; the production of beef has a number of harmful impacts on the environment. Firstly, in general a lot of space is required to rear cows, it is thought that up to a quarter of the world’s land area is used for the grazing of animals. On top of this, further land is required to grow feed for cattle, which includes crops such as soybean. In the Amazon rainforest a lot of the deforestation is for one of these two purposes, resulting in loss of habitat and a rise in global warming. Another requirement of beef production having a detrimental effect on the environment is the amount of water needed to rear cows. It is thought that as much as 2500 gallons of water is needed to produce 1 pound of beef, meaning that the water usage involved in this industry is also excessive.

Flickr | AgriLife TodayFarmed salmon

The demand for farmed salmon is increasing due to the overfishing of wild salmon. From topping scrambled eggs to being wrapped in rice for sushi; salmon is a popular fish to eat. Salmon are often farmed using nets placed into the sea and while this is a good system for the salmon being farmed; it’s not so beneficial for wild salmon and other sea creatures sharing the nearby ocean with them. Anything other than the fish themselves that is placed into the salmon nets can easily leach out into the surrounding water; this includes chemicals and vaccines, as well as parasites such as lice from the farmed salmon. On top of this, the feed that farmed salmon consume is often thought to contain high levels of wild fish, such as anchovies. This is ironic considering that salmon farms are often established to account for the depletion of wild salmon stocks.

Flickr | Ben TurnerSugar

It’s official, the world has a sweet tooth, sugar is added to so many foods these days and not just the ones you’d expect. However, the production of sugar isn’t quite as sweet and is having negative implications for the environment. Sugar plantations are notorious for their effect on local biodiversity; wherever sugar is growing the local plant life has been eliminated, resulting in vast areas of deforestation in the tropics. Another way sugar production impacts wildlife is through the leakage of fertilizer from farms. Fertilizer from sugar plantations can often find its way into waterways, which can lead to problems such as algal blooms in rivers and lakes and pose a serious threat to many species, both aquatic and terrestrial.

Flickr | Ernest C.Avocado

Avocado is the food of the moment, everyone is posting photos of their avocado on toast brunch online and its popularity has grown immensely in recent years. This fruit seems innocent enough with all of its health benefits but the process involved in getting it onto your plate isn’t helping the environment too much. The problem with avocados is that they are often grown in places with little rainfall, yet they require a lot of water to grow. In California, avocado farms are common, yet the growth of the fruit here simply isn’t sustainable. California is notoriously dry, while 70 gallons of water is required to grow just a single pound of avocados. Another problem with the boom in popularity of this fruit is the rise in air miles it takes to distribute them. The UK consumes a lot of avocado but they are often being transported from somewhere half way across the world.

Flickr | Quinn Dombrowski
So there you have it, five foods we produce that are having an effect on our planet and some of the wildlife that inhabits it! So what can we do to counteract these problems? Cutting down on the amount of these foods we consume will reduce demand and could lead to a decline in their production. There are more sustainable alternatives to all of the foods listed above, and even small changes can add up to a big difference!

By Gabrielle Brooks - Online Journalism Intern

Frontier runs conservationdevelopmentteaching and adventure travel projects in over 50 countries worldwide - so join us and explore the world!

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