Love tortilla chips? This one's for you! Did you know that these chips are made from corn tortillas and are popular in many places around the world? Corn, otherwise known as maize, is pretty much a food staple, which means that it makes up a major part of people’s diets and contribute to a significant part of their caloric and nutritional needs. Other staple crops include rice and wheat!
Despite how common it is for us to eat corn, lots of people don’t really know that much about it! Did you know that corn can be classified as either a vegetable, fruit or grain? It depends on which definition you’re using! Vegetables refer to any edible part of the plant, which is why corn can be seen as a vegetable. But individual corn kernels are also grains because they are the seeds of a grass plant! And finally, when you pop corn kernels into popcorn, there’re seeds inside them, which technically makes them fruit as well! Plus on average, one ear of corn has 800 kernels arranged in 16 rows - so that’s actually a lot of popcorn if you think about it!
Besides that, did you know that approximately 19,400 gallons of water are needed to grow the amount of corn consumed by a person in just one year? That’s the amount of water you need to fill up an average-sized swimming pool! Many people don’t really notice the amount of water we really use every day, but it’s actually a lot more than we think. Besides the water we use to quench our thirst, cook, bathe, and many other day-to-day activities, water is also necessary for growing the fruits and vegetables we eat, and it’s also used to manufacture lots of items we use in our daily lives, such as plastics or clothes!
That’s why it’s important to think about the water we use and make sustainable choices, even while we’re enjoying our favourite food. This will help safeguard and protect our limited natural resources and ensure that we enjoy a rich variety of food for years to come. Every little action can contribute to a more sustainable lifestyle - here are some easy steps you can take:
1. Support sustainable farming practices
Sustainable farming refers to any production of food, fibre, or plant and animal products which uses techniques that protect the environment! Some of these include rotating the crops planted to avoid depleting nutrients in the soil, which reduces the need for artificial fertilisers. Other methods include avoiding pesticides, or planting shrubs and trees alongside crops, which can offer shelter and possible additional sources of income!
Supporting sustainable farming whenever possible is one way to protect our environment. Try to source food from farmers who practice such methods! One way to do this is to shop at local farmers markets, where you can obtain fresh, local food. An alternative method is to go organic, as organic farmers do not make use of artificial fertilisers or pesticides for their crops, nor do they use antibiotics or growth hormones on their animals. This reduces chemical waste produced by the farm, which contributes towards a healthier environment as well!
2. Talk to the supermarkets about food waste and management
Many supermarkets maintain high standards for their food, which is a great thing! But some of these standards apply only to physical appearance. Often, fruit or vegetables that are still very much edible are thrown away because of minor flaws in their appearance, such as perfectly harmless bumps or scratches.
Not only is edible food being thrown away, but the scarce resources used to grow these crops are wasted as well. There are alternatives to simply tossing away imperfect fruits and vegetables. For example, some supermarkets may choose to sell imperfect food at discounted prices, which works out to a win-win situation since consumers get to eat at cheaper prices, and the supermarket doesn’t lose as much money when they sell at a discount. Alternatively, there are charities and soup kitchens which obtain their raw ingredients by collecting ‘imperfect’ food items from supermarkets to cook and provide for the poor and the homeless.
There are lots of ways to cut down on food waste, and you can begin by slowly getting used to the idea of eating food that doesn’t look as perfect as you’re used to - they taste just as good ;) You can also volunteer at places which collect and use unwanted food, or even better, start a charity of your own!
3. Shop local
Shopping locally is another easy way to conserve resources and help save the environment. It is common nowadays to see fruit, vegetables and other food products imported from countries far away. It might be tempting to try a deliciously ripe apple from Japan, or to pick up a box of juicy grapes from France, but before you grab your fruits, think about how far your food has travelled.
The further away the country of origin is, the more resources are required to transport the food to your supermarket. If you live in the U.S and you’re buying pears from China, those pears have flown a significant distance! And every flight requires fuel, time and other resources that could have been channelled to other uses. Shopping locally and sticking to produce that was harvested or obtained nearby helps to reduce the amount of resources used to transport food to you.
When eating, it’s not just the food itself which matters - we must also think about the resources which went towards growing and harvesting the food, and the resources used to transport the food to our kitchen tables and local restaurants. Trying to slowly lower all these is just one small step towards a sustainable lifestyle, and it’ll help ensure that you have your favourite snacks to eat in the years and decades to come! By the way, don't forget to join our Earth Hour event on Facebook to connect with Earth and other like-minded individuals ;)