The agriculture industry has lots of room for sustainable improvements. Equipment, soil products, and farming strategies have all contributed to environmental harm. However, agricultural practices are starting to change for the better.
Here’s how you can support the growth of eco-friendly agriculture in your daily life through mindful consumption habits:
How Does Agriculture Impact the Environment? The Greatest Environmental Threats from Agriculture
Eco-friendly farming has made great strides in recent years, but outdated agricultural practices continue to pose many threats to the environment.
These are the five most concerning threats that eco-friendly agriculture professionals are addressing:
1. Land Degradation
Intense cultivation has caused the degradation of millions of acres of land. The same locations get farmed year after year, sapping the soil’s nutrients. With fewer nutrients and less underground water, farms continue to yield poorer crops. Studies have found that some nutrients in garden crops are 38% lower compared to the same crops from 1950.
As the global population grows, so does the need for more food. Forests stand directly in the path of agricultural expansion. Forest fires caused by irresponsible farming practices have also become more common. Deforestation is responsible for about 10% of global carbon emissions. It also displaces entire communities and ecosystems.
3. Fuel Consumption
The lack of eco-friendly farming also harms the surrounding biodiversity. Excessive fuel consumption is primarily to blame, as most farms use heavy equipment that runs on fossil fuels.
The emissions from these machines ruin the air quality, contaminate water supplies, and threaten other species. Some plants and animals are forced out of their native habitats. This chaos disrupts local food chains and accelerates land degradation.
4. Food Loss and Waste
Farmed food often gets destroyed or contaminated during production, storage, or shipment. Insufficient storage and spills are the two main causes of food loss. Food waste occurs primarily due to improper planning and negligence. These losses squander incredible amounts of food, money, and other farming resources. Both problems are huge contributors to global pollution.
Agriculture’s rapid industrialization has allowed pests to spread to new locations. Pests destroy our crops and contribute to pollution in many ways. They rob crops of precious nutrients, spread diseases, and compromise essential farming equipment. Chemicals in pesticides can also do more harm than good.
New Eco-Friendly Agriculture Practices
The future of sustainable agriculture should serve one singular purpose: To feed the growing population.
The agriculture industry has started making positive strides in achieving this goal. Check out this video by Freethink for more:
1. Sustainable Machinery Saves Money on Fuel Costs
Farms are adopting advanced machinery that is built to benefit the environment, rather than deplete it. Here are some of the most relevant examples:
- Aerial imaging
- Internet of things (IoT) sensors
- Farming robots
- Biomass reactors
Eco-friendly farming equipment can increase productivity, reduce emissions, and yield better crops. The money saved from these efforts can then go towards other sustainability efforts, such as alternative energy sources or farming practices.
2. Renewable Energy
More farms are using solar, wind, and hydroelectric power over fossil fuels. This trend is a huge step toward making farming carbon-neutral. It also enables smaller, local farmers to stand out. They can adopt these renewable energy sources, save money on fuel costs, and provide sustainably sourced food to their communities.
3. Agroecological Farming
Agroecological farming aims to maximize what nature provides us. It reduces the need for chemical products and relies on the land’s shape instead. It swaps out harmful fertilizers and pesticides for biofertilizers and other natural solutions. This eco-friendly agriculture technique can help prevent land degradation and biodiversity disruption. Take a look at this video by TABLE for a quick overview:
4. Crop Rotation
Crop rotation is an ancient farming method that’s regaining popularity. Farmers plant and pick crops in specific patterns to allow the soil to replenish its various nutrients. For example, row crops such as corn get planted after grains to keep the soil nutrients balanced. This practice helps maintain the crops’ nutritional value and keeps ecosystems intact.
5. Encouraging Education
Most importantly, sustainable agriculture requires a widespread investment in education. Farmers, manufacturers, and consumers need to be on the same page. People should know where their food comes from and who handled it. Raising awareness of eco-friendly agriculture issues will benefit today’s population and generations to come.
10 Tips for Supporting Eco-Friendly Farms
Despite advancements in the agricultural industry, there’s still lots of work to do. Shelves are still full of irresponsibly farmed food with low nutritional value. How can the average consumer support farms that utilize sustainable practices? Here are 10 essential tips to keep in mind.
1. Grow Your Own Food
If your property has sufficient space, start growing your own food. This practice might not directly support eco-friendly farming efforts, but it does raise community awareness. Your friends and family members might start a garden as well. The more people engaged in sustainable farming, the better.
2. Buy Local
The first thing shoppers should do is narrow their searches. Purchase your products from local vendors who have a stake in the community. Smaller farms are more likely to have eco-friendly agriculture practices than big-name manufacturers. Buying locally also helps reduce carbon emissions by contributing to shorter farm-to-table times.
3. Buy In-Season
Fruits and vegetables have specific harvesting seasons. Buying during these seasons ensures you get fresh and nutrient-rich products. It also contributes to the aforementioned crop rotation strategy. It incentivizes farmers to focus on their crops’ appropriate growing seasons and establish eco-friendly planting cycles.
4. Avoid Plastic Packaging
You should also avoid food with plastic packaging. Buy from companies that use corrugated cardboard, biodegradable materials, and other green materials. Local farmers often use these materials to stand out from competitors and establish unique brand identities. The food should still be your main focus, but you can’t forget about the packaging.
5. Look for Farms With GBCs
One of the most surefire ways to support sustainable farming is to look for green business certifications (GBCs). These certifications verify the farm’s commitment to eco-friendly practices. They might also help you identify products made from recycled or organic materials.
However, you must be wary of a deceptive marketing strategy called greenwashing. Some companies “greenwash” their products and lie about their sustainability. Make sure the farmer’s certifications come from a trusted third party before making the purchase. Mindful consumption often requires meticulous attention to detail.
6. Join a Food Club
If you want to make a bigger difference in your community, joining a local food club is a good start. Food clubs work to find the most sustainable food products in the area. They post their findings on a community website or another public forum. Members are eligible for special discounts on certain products, so it will save you money in addition to helping the environment.
7. Adjust Your Diet
If you eat lots of processed food and buy from international food manufacturers, you need to change your diet. Cut out the processed stuff and eat organic food from clean sources. You’re more likely to get the best ingredients from local farms than from big-name brands. You should also eat more fruits and vegetables, for your health and the environment’s health.
8. Reduce Food Waste
As previously mentioned, food waste is one of the agriculture industry’s biggest problems. You shouldn’t add to the problem by discarding good food. Only buy what you plan to eat. Stop ordering too much at restaurants and overspending on snacks. You don’t need them. Consolidate your spending habits and engage in mindful consumption to help the environment.
If your community has a food justice organization, consider becoming a volunteer. You can play a direct role in growing local green farming initiatives. Millions of people worldwide don’t have access to fresh food. Some of them might be within your community. You can become a key player in your town’s organized efforts to provide healthy food for all.
10. Buy for the Future
Most importantly, you need to shop with the future in mind. Don’t just buy for the here and now. Think about how your shopping habits will benefit your community. Buy from farmers that want to make a positive difference in the industry. Set an example for your family and friends. As the old saying goes, be the change you want to see in the world.
Eco-friendly Agriculture: Finding New Ways to Feed the World
The agriculture industry won’t become sustainable overnight. It might not even happen in our lifetimes. Nonetheless, we must continue to find new ways to feed the world. Adopting new technologies and implementing smart eco-friendly farming strategies are two huge steps. You might be just one person, but you can make a difference in your community for years to come.
About the Author
Olivia Elsher is a Senior Writer & Editorial Manager at Renovated. She has over 5 years of experience writing about eco-friendly living and sustainable practices.
Frequently Asked Questions
Will eco-friendly agriculture set back the industry’s technological advancements?
No, eco-friendly agriculture uses a mix of old and new technologies to help with resource management. The farming industry continues experimenting with state-of-the-art tools, equipment, and techniques to improve food quality while minimizing the environmental impact.
What constitutes healthy soil for farming?
The National Resource Conservation Service classifies healthy soil as being able to sustain an ecosystem of humans, animals, and plants. This type of soil contains high amounts of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. It also has natural pesticides to ward off threats, such as predators and weather conditions.
Is buying from sustainable farms more expensive?
Yes, buying organic food from sustainable sources is usually more expensive than processed food. Farmers pay more money to carefully grow organic food, so the price tag must also be higher to give them steady profits.
How can I start my own eco-friendly farm?
If you’re looking to start a small-scale sustainable farm, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), National Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), and Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) have great online resources, tools, and programs to support your efforts. Contact these groups and tell them about your plans.
Grantham Research Institute: What is the Role of Deforestation in Climate Change?
UCSUSA: What is Sustainable Agriculture?