You hear about a lot of diets or challenges, like the 100 Mile Diet, or people only eating locally or organically as part of their experiment to live a more green lifestyle. And, lord knows, we've done the same on this blog.
But, one thing you generally don't hear about, related with all this food talk, is total consumption and the effect on the environment. You see, it's all fine and dandy to focus on only eating locally and organically or growing your own, but what is the impact of eating too much food? I suspect it's a subject not generally discussed because of American's obsession with eating and size. Just look at the headlines of "who's fat now!" countered with "who's anorexic now!" Not to be confused with the "look who was fat and is now anorexic!" Whee! We can't seem to decide which is worse.
So, I want to bring your attention to the other part of the food puzzle and that is eating only what is necessary to maintain your proper weight. Now, I'm sitting in a very big glass house over here as I'm a stress eater and, well, there's a lot of stress over here. And, I've gained a few pounds. Okay, maybe 15. And it popped into my head this morning about the environmental impact of overeating (among other things).
According to this article in the Journal of Agriculture and Human Values, titled Luxus Consumption: Wasting Food Resources Through Overeating:
Between 1983 and 2000, US food consumption, including waste, increased by 18% or 600 kcal per person. This consumption required 100.6 million hectares for the US population, and 3.1% of total US energy consumption.
A 3.1% energy consumption increase - just from overeating. And that's only since 1983, we're not talking about since 1910 or anything. (For your reference, a Big Mac® is only 540 calories.)
Getting Jiggly With It
In addition to the resources required in the manufacture of the extra food consumed, there's also the resources required in dealing with the additional health problems created by overeating and obesity. With diabetes on the rise, high cholesterol, heart disease and all manner of other associated problems that means that there are more drugs, medical procedures and surgeries as a result of this overeating.
This creates an environmental impact due to the resources used in pharmaceutical development, manufacturing and distribution, all the paper, plastics and other materials needed for care, therapies and surgeries. The list goes on and on. All for health issues that are, for the most part, preventable.
So, next time you're sitting down with that big slice of organic, local pie, don't forget about the other consequences of hoarking down that extra 600 calories.
In thinking about food, has the environmental impact of overeating ever crossed your mind?