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Teens focus on sustainable, local foods

Posted by Seattle Youth Climate Action Network

We're inspired by all of our SYCAN teens! 2018 Photo: Kirsten Pisto/Woodland Park Zoo

The Seattle Youth Climate Action Network—known as SYCAN—empowers teens to address climate change in their communities through education, leadership, and action. This year, the SYCAN teens gathered remotely to create digital engagement tools focused on food and food-related business sustainability. Here is a post from that group in their own words, sharing what they were up to this summer—which included putting together a downloadable cookbook of sustainable recipes for you to try, share and enjoy. Just in time for the holiday feast you might be planning, we hope this is a delicious and inspiring read!

Photo by Calum Lewis on Unsplash

One of the biggest trends to hit at the start of quarantine was home baking and cooking. Even in isolation, many found ways to connect by sharing recipes online. But what kinds of foods were being popularized? How can we use cooking at home to support a diet that is sustainable for the environment, our bodies, and society? We decided to take advantage of this opportunity and explore the topic of food sustainability.

This snow leopard cub knows that everyone can enjoy fresh, local, and healthy seasonal foods! Photo: Dennis Dow/Woodland Park Zoo

Food sustainability is the method of production and consumption of food that maintains a positive impact on the environment, the economy, and the individual. Food sustainability can include:

Reducing Meat Consumption: Meat production is one of the major contributors to climate change. It’s a major cause of pollution, depleting water and other resources in an effort to grow and process livestock and their food. As a result, sustainable diets include cutting down on meat and meat products.

Our grizzly bears love fresh local fruits and vegetables! Photo: Dennis Dow/Woodland Park Zoo

Eating Local: Eating locally sourced food reduces the need for long-distance transportation and thus minimizes the carbon footprint of the food source, while also supporting local businesses.

Health-conscious Eating: Sustainable diets also consist of healthy food, including produce and non-meat protein, in order to best maintain an individual’s health and nutrition.

We're grateful to pollinators, like bees and butterflies, for enabling our local farmers to grow healthy and sustainable crops. Photo: Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren/Woodland park Zoo 

Food sustainability is incredibly important. Many people do not realize it, but food systems account for 37% of global greenhouse gas emissions. The majority of these emissions are caused by the meat and dairy industry. Furthermore, livestock require an immense amount of both land and water to maintain. It takes 10 gallons of water to produce one pound of chicken, and 150 gallons for a quarter pound of hamburger meat.

However, while reducing meat consumption or adopting a plant-based diet integral to food sustainability, it is important to note that this lifestyle is not universally accessible. For many people who live in “food deserts”, fresh produce is difficult to obtain. And others might find it difficult to find time to cook from scratch among other responsibilities. Speaking out against inequalities within our food system—whether it's the exploitation of farm workers, the nutritional disparity among communities, or the harmful environmental effects—is a crucial aspect of food sustainability.

Prepare a sustainable meal with one of the recipes from the SYCAN cookbook. You can download it here. Photo by Edgar Castrejon on Unsplash

Our main summer project at SYCAN was to compile and create sustainable food resources for the greater Seattle community. Through this project, we hope to bring about awareness to our own local food system, highlighting some farms right here in the Seattle area. We hope you enjoy the resource we put together, including a downloadable cookbook with lots of sustainable recipes to try, share and enjoy! You can find a link to that here

Want to learn more about SYCAN? Check it out on our webpage. Happy cooking!

Get fresh and inspiring new recipes like these scrumptious muffins with the SYCAN Sustainable Food Recipe Book: