Eat Sustainably During the Festive Season

Contributed by: Chloe Ong

From the auspicious yusheng to the heartwarming reunion dinners, food is definitely one of the highlights of Chinese New Year (CNY). In this article, we will share some useful tips on how to eat sustainably during the festive season that is happening next month!

Also known as the Spring Festival or Lunar New Year, Chinese New Year (CNY) is no doubt the biggest event in the Chinese calendar. Every year, many locals will flock to the various CNY pop-up stores across the country to stock up on popular goodies, such as bak kwa, pineapple tarts, and love letters.

When it comes to good food, many of us are open to splurge. Unfortunately, this may be harmful to the environment. As we move towards a sustainable future, it is important for us to consider the environmental impact of our food choices. Here are some tips on how we can eat sustainably to prepare for the coming CNY.

Sustainable Eating: Tips for Chinese New Year

  1. Source for sustainable ingredients
  2. One of the key principles of sustainable eating is choosing the right products. If the food is produced locally, it will have a lower carbon footprint in terms of both transportation and storage (refrigeration, etc). Furthermore, we may obtain fresher and cheaper items from local producers.

  3. Opt for more plants and less meat
  4. In contrast to growing plants, rearing and transporting livestock often require large amounts of food, water, land, and energy – all of which take a heavy toll on the environment.

    For this coming festive season, we can consider replacing one meat dish with a tofu or mushroom dish as it is not only environmentally friendly, but also protein-rich and heart-healthy.

  5. Avoid highly processed foods
  6. Processed foods may seem like a good option as they often involve off-cuts of meats. However, much waste is generated from the production and canning processes.

    We also know that most processed foods are unhealthy. For example, nitrite/nitrate salts are often added to processed meats along with other additives such as monosodium glutamate and colouring. These added ingredients may be harmful to our body.

    While shopping for the upcoming CNY, we can try to purchase fewer highly processed food items such as bak kwa, lap cheong, and waxed duck. Instead, consider exploring alternatives like tempeh bak kwa.

  7. Reduce food packaging
  8. Non-recyclable food packaging, such as plastic and styrofoam, often takes many years to decompose, contributing to the accumulation of waste in landfills or oceans. Chemicals from the packaging materials, including ink and dyes, may also leach into groundwater and soil, posing a harmful threat to our ecosystem.

    To reduce packaging, we can choose fresh fruits and vegetables without additional layers of packaging and place several items together in one bag. Additionally, bringing our own reusable bags and containers wherever possible or opting for packaging that is biodegradable, reusable, or made from recycled materials can help to reduce our carbon footprint.

  9. Reduce food wastage
  10. In 2021, we produced roughly 813 million kilograms of food waste. Considering how Singapore imports over 90% of our food supply only to throw a bulk of it away, our food wastage situation is not only economically wasteful but also environmentally unsustainable.

    The first thing we should do in attempting to reduce food wastage is to plan ahead. Securing a guest list along with planning a suitable number of dishes to serve should be a priority on your to-do list before CNY arrives. Planning ahead will not completely eliminate leftovers, but it will certainly reduce the amount of wastage.

    We can also explore upcycling ingredients in order to use most parts of foods that would otherwise be thrown away as food scraps.

Towards a sustainable future

Many of us look forward to Chinese New Year because of all the delicious goodies it offers, but few of us are aware of how such festivities can harm our environment.

Being sustainable during CNY does not necessarily mean that you need to sacrifice all the joy and traditions of this important holiday. In fact, it is perfectly okay to start small by making conscious choices about the food you eat and serve.

By incorporating such habits, we will contribute to a more sustainable future and continue to enjoy the exciting celebrations of the Spring Festival for many years to come. Let this coming Chinese New Year be a time of renewal for both your family and the Earth that we call home.

POSTED IN Nutrition
TAGS cancer diet & nutrition, healthy food, healthy food & cooking, healthy lifestyle