Today is Earth Day, a day we celebrate how beautiful and important our planet, our home truly is. I know global warming is a concern of yours and it's something I take very seriously as well.
To better protect our planet, we all know we should recycle, turn the lights off, drive less etc. But what about our food choices? What impact do they have on climate change? It turns out that our food system, what we eat, has a greater climate-change impact than the transportation sector (1), (2), (3).
So this Earth day, I’m giving you 3 ways you can reduce your food carbon footprint by 60%, from the book 'How Bad Are Bananas? The Carbon Footprint of Everything' (4).
Now just a heads up, when I say carbon footprint, I’m referring to the carbon footprint equivalent (CO2e). That is, the total impact of all the greenhouse gases caused by an action and expressing it as the amount of carbon dioxide that would have the same impact of all the greenhouse gases combine. It's a more comprehensive measurement than just carbon dioxide.
How to decrease your food carbon footprint
1. Eat what you buy
Eradicating your waste can reduce your carbon footprint by 25% (4).
In Western or privileged countries, “we are thought to waste about ¼ of the edible food we buy” (4). Wow!
Make sure your food doesn't go to waste by storing it properly. Then, make sure you eat it!
2. Avoid animal products
The author states that “sensible” reductions in meat and dairy can reduce your food carbon footprint by another 25% (4).
He says “food from animals turns out to be more greenhouse gas intensive than food from plants.” It’s far more efficient for humans to eat plants directly so all the plant's energy goes to us humans, not the animal.
In addition, the average water footprint per calorie for beef is twenty times larger than for cereals and starchy roots (5).
Beef and lamb are especially high in carbon because they are belching ruminants. 2.2 pounds (1 kg) of beef equates to about 37 pounds of CO2e! Dairy foods have the same emissions problems as beef because the product is still coming from a belching ruminant animal. 2.2 pounds (1 kg) of cheese equates to about 29 pounds of CO2e.
To implement this guideline, consume no more than 2-3 ounces of organic meat per week or, none at all!
And tip #3 for reducing your food carbon footprint...
3. Go seasonal
This can help you reduce your food carbon footprint by another 10% (4).
You want to avoid foods grown in hothouses that are artificially heated. You also want to avoid foods that have traveled via planes.
Ships can carry food around the world 100 times more efficiently than planes (4). Ships are also more efficient at shipping food than food that has traveled 1000s of road miles like from one side of the U.S. to the other. These road miles are roughly as carbon intensive as plane miles (4).
“As a guide, if a food has a short shelf life and isn’t in season where you live, it was probably grown in a hothouse or traveled via plane. In the U.S. in the winter time, examples include lettuce, asparagus, tomatoes, strawberries, and cut flowers. Apples, oranges, bananas on the other hand, almost always travel on a boat" (4).
There you have it. Three ways you can reduce your food carbon footprint by 60% -- eat what you buy, avoid animal products and go seasonal.
If you’re interested in learning more about food and the environment, here is a paper I wrote on the environmental impact of food that is filled with scholarly references.
Now I want to challenge you to put this information into action into your personal life. Today’s Take Control Now Challenge is….
Take Control Now Challenge
Don't eat any dairy or meat products for one day -- tomorrow, in honor of Earth Day.
Do you think you can do this?
Put your answer and experiences in the comments section below this video.
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Thank you so much for joining me this Earth Day for Take Control Tuesdays. Get educated, make a change and get support. You can get the healthy body of your dreams.
1. Castel, V., Gerber, P., Haan, C. Rosales, M., Steinfield, H. & Wassenaar, T. 2006. Livestock’s long shadow. Environmental issues and options. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.
3. Vermeulen, SJ., Campbell, BM., and Ingram, J.S.I. Climate Change and Food Systems. Annual Review of Environment and Resources. 2012. Vol. 37: 195-222 First published online as a Review in Advance on July 30, 2012. Accessed online April 2014.
4. Berners-Lee, Mike. How Bad Are Bananas? The Carbon Footprint of Everything. London: 2010.
5. Hoekstra, A.Y. & Mekonnen, M.M. 2010. The green, blue and grey water footprint of farm animals and animal products. [online] UNESCO-IHE Institute for Water Education. Value of water research report series no. 48, volume 1: main report. Accessed 24 November 2012. Available at: http://www.waterfootprint.org/Reports/Report-48-WaterFootprint-AnimalProducts-Vol1.pdf