Interview about the Eat4Change program
A few weeks ago, we celebrated the international day of food. In this context, the Association Natureza Portugal highlighted the project “Eat4Change”, implemented by WWF in 11 countries in Europe and South America. Promoting food as a “Superpower against climate change”, this initiative is aimed at more sustainable diets and food production practices and the fight against food waste.
We were curious about it so we decided to interview the WWF Portugal about it!
What are the main objectives of the programme?
This project aims to promote the transition to sustainable diets, also seeking to work together with companies and authorities to adopt more sustainable production practices. There are 3 objectives of this project:
– To make young Europeans aware of their role in the world and their responsibility to other citizens and the planet
– Encourage young people to take an active role as global citizens and address sustainability and development issues
– Encourage young people to adopt a sustainable lifestyle.
How does the project try to achieve these objectives?
By 2024, the Eat4Change project will develop several initiatives aimed primarily at young people but also at authorities and businesses.
Recently we carried out awareness and information actions on the subject in the schools of hospitality and tourism of Lisbon and Porto and launched the challenge to future cooks for the creation of sustainable recipes. This idea will culminate with the presentation of the delicacies, scheduled for April, where they will be evaluated by a jury and according to various sustainability criteria. At the same time, we are developing a Protein Consumption Guide that aims to help consumers understand the impact each type of meat has on the environment. Throughout 2022, we also intend to build an app with various contents on the subject and that essentially serves to help the Portuguese make more conscious food choices.
We are also preparing a study that will compare the various options that exist on the market and allow us to build a basket of sustainable food products.
Climate change, biodiversity and environmental protection are hot topics at the moment. Why has the food sector been chosen as the focus of this initiative?
The way we produce and consume food is putting at risk not only our health but also the health of the planet. Poor diet is the leading cause of death in the world.
Currently agriculture occupies about 50% of the planet’s habitable land and is the main driver of biodiversity loss. Food production contributes to around 29% of global greenhouse gas emissions, and this share is expected to double in the coming years. Meat, aquaculture, eggs and dairy products use more than 80% of the world’s agricultural land and contribute to almost 60% of food emissions. It should also be noted that European consumption accounted for 16% of deforestation associated with international trade.
We know then that our eating habits have a profound impact on the planet, and it is urgent that we look for more sustainable ways of consuming: eating more variedly and reducing excessive consumption (mainly meat and dairy products), avoiding processed foods, and favoring fresh products, especially fruits and vegetables, respecting seasonality, and if possible, organic farming and/or from fair trade.
What is the biggest challenge in terms of how we produce our food?
With the global population expected to increase by more than 2 billion by 2050, and with an expected increase in wealth and urbanization, the planet as we know it is at risk. If we maintain our current diets we will create potentially irreversible impacts on the planet, making it an increasingly unusable place. Given this scenario, the great challenge is in fact to drastically reduce our impact on the destruction of ecosystems around the world.
What are the concrete impacts of switching to a plant-based diet?
Measuring this impact is quite complex and difficult to measure. However, there are some tools that can give us a rough idea of these impacts, and these tools are based on the latest scientific data. One of these tools is this calculator: https://planetbaseddiets.panda.org/impacts-action-calculator/
For example, in Portugal, the adoption of a vegan diet could mean a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions of up to 107%, reduction of biodiversity loss by up to 44% and a reduction in premature mortality of up to 18.5%.
Overall, the adoption of a sustainable diet can mean directly reducing food-related greenhouse gas emissions by 124% and reducing wildlife loss by up to 46%.
However, it should be noted that Eat4Change does not advocate for any specific diet and calls for a reduction in animal protein intake but encourages the search for alternatives such as plant protein.
As a responsible tourism company, we are also interested in the social dimension of this topic. Many people do not make changes in their eating habits because they believe it is more expensive or for lack of time. What do you think is the right way to deal with this reality?
Information and education are key aspects for an effective transformation of consumption habits. Throughout this project we will seek to create tools that help to uncomplicate the theme of sustainable food.
Can you give an example of the Sustainable Development Goals to which Eat4Change contributes?
There are several Sustainable Development Goals to which Eat4Change intends to contribute, namely: Goal 2, which, in addition to seeking to eradicate hunger, also provides for “ensuring sustainable food production systems and implementing resilient agricultural practices that increase productivity and production, which help maintain ecosystems that strengthen the capacity to adapt to climate change, extreme weather conditions, droughts, floods and other disasters, and which progressively improve the quality of land and soil.”; Goal 13 with regard to climate action; as well as Goals 14 and 15 that refer to the preservation of ecosystems.
Why is the campaign focused on young people?
Environmental concerns occupy a prominent place in public debate, and it is quite visible to the younger sections of the population, the commitment with which many young people have taken an activist role in promoting the adoption of more responsible consumption habits.
It is urgent that we demand that governments and companies practice more responsible production and regulation and actively protect the planet, biodiversity, and all ecosystems.
As for the choice of young people, we believe that they have an enormous capacity to amplify the urgency by structural changes and adopt positive consumption habits for the planet.
It’s been a year and a half since launching in 2020. What’s changed? Have there been any improvements, new opportunities or challenges since then?
This project started in force in 2021 and since then much has been done: the Eat4Change Menu that presents not only the project but also the various challenges we currently face with regard to food; a campaign on social networks that brought together several public figures to talk about sustainability and how they practice it in their daily lives and also a campaign launched on October 14, focusing on the importance that our choices have for the planet.
There is still a lot that will be developed over the years, but the feedback we have received so far has been very positive. The Portuguese are aware that food plays a key role in protecting nature and that world food production directly affects climate change.
There are still some challenges such as lack of information and all the issues related to the supposed cost that a sustainable diet will have compared to the rest, but this is really the role of Eat4Change – to inform and uncomplicate healthy eating for the planet and for human health.
About the author
ANPIWWF Food Specialist
Degree in Environmental Science – Environmental Quality Branch from the University of Évora. He has worked in the Rural Development Program since 2010 and has been a member of the ANP | WWF team since June 2019 as a food technician, working in areas such as sustainable diets, food waste and the reform of the Common Agricultural Policy.