When asked what they hope to accomplish in life, a lot of people comment they’d like to leave the world a better place than they found it. It’s a simple refrain that speaks volumes about our shared desire to add something to the world above and beyond what we’ve taken from it. Increasingly, companies are aspiring to similar impacts, whether they call Net Positive or Regenerative business practices. When it comes to food, regenerative opportunities fit into three general categories:

Upstream: Everything that happens before food reaches us.
Midstream: Everything that happens while food is in our possession.
Downstream: Everything that happens after we’re done with our food.

UPSTREAM: Support farming practices that support soil growth.

Regenerative Agriculture involves tools and techniques to make farming an act of nurturance; not just for the food we eat today, but for the soil that will grow our children’s food tomorrow. There’s no single definition of regenerative agriculture, but it encompasses organic farming practices and includes no-till farming, the use of cover crops, diversifying crop rotations, integrating animal rotations into fields, and holistic practices like agroforestry, silvopasture, and permaculture.

Regenerative farming improves the health of our air, water and soil. The healthier these are, the more nutritious our food. The more nutritious our food, the healthier our eating habits.

MIDSTREAM: Stewarding human and ecological vitality through the food choices we make.

Food choices matter, not just to our bodies, but to the planet. Diets and eating habits in the West have led to poor nutrition and high environmental impacts. Rethinking some of these habits can dramatically improve both trends.

It doesn’t make sense to support a food system that exacerbates climate change, ecosystems decline and animal cruelty in order to deliver increasing prevalance of diseases such as obesity, diabetes, cancer, high blood pressure and chronic inflammation. Yet, we’ve gotten very good at it. From portion size to protein choices, we can decrease both personal health problems and environmental and climate change challenges.

DOWNSTREAM: Return what we do not use.

If we don’t consume the food we buy ourselves (through food scraps and leftovers) it doesn’t mean the nutritional value ceases to exist. Nutrients are nutrients, where ever you find them. Food waste is as needless as it is devasting. About 38% of the 108 billion tons of food wasted in the US every year is residential. Luckily, reducing our food waste is not as hard as it may seem. All we have to do is steward those nutrients to a place where they serve their true purpose.

Composting is much simpler than it sounds. And its benefits are more expansive than most realize. It’s not just about diverting food waste from the landfill to reduce methane emissions. It regenerates the soil we depend on for our next meal. It enhances the planet’s ability to sequester carbon. And it contributes to biodiversity. So, when we compost, we go beyond merely reducing our impacts and step into regenerating Earth’s capacity to nurture us. And for food waste that can’t be composted, technology is available for more localized anaerobic digestion to convert oils, meat scraps and any other non-compostable food waste to electricity.

Whether you call it the circular economy, reverse logistics, or closing the loop, a hyper-connected network of food lovers that tends as carefully to their food scraps as they do their food will be healthier, more equitable, and more sustainable. That’s not only a beautiful things, it’s surprisingly easy once a few new habits are nurtured.


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