Welcome to Food For Thought, a new series that we will be releasing monthly as part of the Plant Futures newsletter. In this space, we'll dive into various topics, conversations, challenges, and triumphs related to the plant-centric food system revolution and explore them in-depth.
Today, we’re discussing the terms sustainable and regenerative – the differences and commonalities between the two, how to ensure your plant-centric plates are working to be both, and more!
Sustainability is a term that has been used to mean and signify a variety of things, both correctly and incorrectly. At its core, sustainability refers to the ability of a system to continue functioning over time without depleting resources or causing harm to the environment or society. Sustainable practices focus on minimizing negative impacts and preserving resources for future generations.
On the other hand, regeneration is a term that has been gaining popularity and takes a more proactive approach. Regenerative practices are by no means new, but rather in many instances a return to traditional processes and methods with the aim to restore and enhance the natural systems on which we depend. Regenerative agriculture, for example, goes beyond sustainable farming practices by actively rebuilding soil health, promoting biodiversity, and reducing the use of chemicals and artificial inputs. The goal of regenerative practices is to create a positive impact and leave the environment better than it was before.
Overall, sustainability is an important step towards responsible environmental and social practices, but regenerative practices take it a step further by actively working to restore and improve the natural systems we rely on.
Plant-centric diets have been proven to be more sustainable than diets that are high in meat and dairy. Studies have shown that plant-based diets have a lower carbon footprint and require less land and water to produce than animal-based diets.
But how can we work to ensure that choosing a plant-forward plate is a more regenerative practice as well? Here are some tips:
Support Regenerative Agriculture – Aim to purchase food from companies that practice regenerative agriculture by actively improving soil health, increasing biodiversity, and sequestering carbon in the soil. This can help to mitigate climate change and restore degraded ecosystems.
Advocate Locally – Ask your local grocer, farmers market stand rep, etc. about their existing regenerative practices and standards, or if they’d consider implementing them in the future.
Choose Whole Foods – When possible, opt for minimally processed plant-based whole foods including vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, whole grains, and legumes.
Eat More Diverse Foods – Of the 31,000 plant species that humans can eat, just 9 make up 2/3rds of all crop production. The result has been a loss of nutrition, soil health, and community resilience. The goal in diversifying diets is to reinvigorate soils, agriculture, and cultures with nutritionally dense, regionally appropriate food grown regeneratively.
Grow a garden – Experiment with and adopt regenerative agriculture practices, such as crop rotation, cover crop use, no till etc. on your own plot of soil.
Support efforts by Black, Indigenous, brown and other traditional communities to protect and renew their food cultures and diverse diets – The Reawakened Initiative is a fantastic example, and a call to action to defend agricultural biodiversity around the globe.
Fight Against Food Apartheid – Confront injustices within the food system to ensure that all people have the access and agency they need to nourish themselves, their communities, and the land.
We all have a crucial part to play in building a sustainable and equitable food system for the future. Whether it's taking small steps to adopt a more conscious approach to food purchasing and consumption, or working to address injustices in accessibility, every action counts.
One of the most impactful steps we can take is to shift towards a more sustainable and regenerative plant-centric diet. By doing so, we can all contribute to creating a healthier, more resilient food system that benefits both people and the planet.
Here at Plant Futures, we are committed to educating ourselves and our community, advocating for change, and striving to make more sustainable and regenerative choices every day. We’re excited to be on this journey with you!
Are you passionate about cutting through the noise in the food system revolution and educating others? If you have any ideas for future Food for Thought topics, or would like to be featured as a guest writer, please don't hesitate to reach out!