I could write for days and days about all the ways that fast food & soft drinks are horrible things to do to your body. There are oh so many reasons to avoid both at all costs, but I’ll rein it in and mention a few that are most closely related to sustainability, as there are plenty of resources to learn about all the nasty effects on your health of these nutritionally depleting grab-bags of chemicals, neurotoxins, carcinogens, and endocrine disruptors. If it sounds like I’m being harsh, you should read more about what these do to your body over time. For example, here, and here.
Sustaining your family – the economics
Despite what many people think (I don’t know why) it’s not more economical to buy fast food rather than regular food at a grocery store to make at home, if you buy the right things. It’s also often pointed out that soft drinks are commonly cheaper than other drinks. True, for many drinks.
But what about water? Or make yourself tea or coffee. Jasmine iced tea and mint iced tea are two of the most refreshing drinks I’ve ever had, and you can’t buy them just anywhere. You have to buy the tea and make it at home. Much less expensive and much better for you than any bottle or can of soda.
The problem here may well be the food deserts that many lower-income families live in, and the lack of education regarding food economics. These are problems that desperately need to be solved, for the health and welfare of everyone.
The amount of garbage produced by these businesses is astronomical. Everything comes individually wrapped. Some of it ends up in the dumpster and some of it ends up graciously adorning our streets and parks. A study was done in the San Francisco Bay Area to determine the sources of litter. 49% of the litter collected in random samples from four Bay Area cities was from fast food.
According to the ‘Waste Disposal and Diversion Findings for Selected Industry Groups‘ (2006), fast-food restaurants generate about 6,528 lbs of waste material per employee per year. Per employee! How many employees does McDonald’s have? If you let that sink in for a moment, it’s horrifying. A staggering 42% of what gets thrown away, winding up in a landfill, is classified as “disposed, easily divertible,” which means it’s recyclable or compostable and it wouldn’t take that much effort to do it. And that doesn’t include the 2.5 million plastic bottles that North Americans throw out every HOUR. And THAT doesn’t include all the aluminum cans that don’t get recycled, each of which could save the amount of energy produced by half that can full of gasoline. (For those and other fun facts, click here.)
Accountability for sustainability
Did you know that We need to start holding these businesses and ourselves accountable for this waste. By making the choice to make food from scratch at home, you improve your own health and the health of your finances, as well as living more sustainably. Of course, the packaging of items at grocery stores is also typically very wasteful, but, again, you have the power of choice; find as many products as possible that are less wasteful or whose containers can be reused. Example – stay away from unnecessarily pre-packaged vegetables. Those things do no one any good. They don’t save you any time – they still need to be washed.
This is a simple, real way we can each contribute to sustainability – say no to fast food, soft drinks, and other things that are wastefully packaged.