People around the world are becoming increasingly concerned about climate change. Nearly eight of every ten people now see climate change as a major threat to their country and their way of life.
Your Food Choices Have A Direct Impact On The Environment
Food production is a major contributor to climate change and is responsible for one fourth of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. Your diet and food choices have a direct and significant impact on your carbon footprint. What steps can you take to reduce the carbon footprint of your breakfast, lunch and dinner?
What Is A Carbon Footprint?
Your carbon footprint is a measure of how much your personal day to day activities impact the Earth. One measure of your impact is the quantity of greenhouse gases produced because of your activities. Fortunately, there are some simple steps that you can take to reduce your carbon footprint and help prevent adding to the growing amount of greenhouse gases.
Your carbon footprint is the sum of all CO2 emissions that are directly and indirectly associated with your activities.
Start Living A Greener Life
Living a greener life is not only good for the planet’s health, it’s also good for your health and the health of your family. Maintaining a “green” kitchen – in terms of energy efficiency and energy use, not color – can reduce your carbon footprint, but it can also help you feed your family a healthier, more delicious and nutritious diet.
The way that you shop, cook, serve and clean up after serving meals all contribute to creating not just a healthy kitchen but a green kitchen.
Shopping Tips To Reduce Your Carbon Footprint
• Buy Local – Buy local when you can. It means less fuel was used to transport your food, and less carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
• Farmers’ Markets – Shop at farmers’ markets. You’ll be buying locally, and contributing to the local economy as well. Keeping local farmers in business is good for everyone.
• Buy In Bulk – Skip individual “serving sizes” of food and buy in bulk. It reduces the amount of trash going into the landfills.
• Reusable Bags – Bring your own bags. Every plastic bag you don’t use is one less bag in the trash. For an added bonus, many stores will take 5-10 cents off your grocery bill for every bag you bring.
• Recycle – Look for the recycle symbol on products that you buy in plastic bottles to make sure you’re buying containers that can be recycled.
Cooking Tips To Reduce Your Carbon Footprint
• Eat It Raw – Raw foods use no energy at all in preparation. Serve fruits and vegetables raw as side dishes, snacks and desserts.
• Correct Burner Size – Use the right size burner for right size pots and pans. Don’t put a small pan on a large burner – it wastes up to 40% of the energy used to heat the burner.
• Think Small – Use the smallest cooking appliance possible when cooking. A full-size oven wastes a lot of energy heating empty space. Try a countertop oven or slow cooker to use less energy when cooking.
• Use Gadgets Sparingly – Skip the food processor and electric mixer for small jobs. Some of the best kitchen appliances use no energy at all – an old-fashioned egg beater, for instance, can whip cream or egg whites with just a little elbow grease.
• Skip Preheating – Don’t preheat your oven, it is a tremendous waste of energy. Most modern ovens heat quickly enough that preheating is redundant.
Food Serving Tips To Reduce Your Carbon Footprint
• Use Paper Products – If you must use disposable plates or bowls and serving ware, use paper which can go into your compost, or look for post-consumer recycled materials for plastic ware.
• Use Less – Using fewer dishes means washing fewer dishes – less energy needed for cleanup. Use fewer pots and pans as well. There’s no need to pour purple vegetables from the cooking pot into a serving dish, serve from pot to plate.
• Use Simple Garnishes – Garnish food with edible flowers and fresh herbs from your own garden. Gardening is one way to reduce your carbon footprint by absorbing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
• Serve Hot – Serve food when it’s ready to avoid having to keep food warm and using additional energy on the stovetop or oven.
Kitchen Cleanup Tips To Reduce Your Carbon Footprint
• Skip The Dishwasher – If you only have a couple of plates and cups, wash them by hand instead of running the dishwasher. When hand-washing dishes or cookware, fill the sink instead of washing and rinsing under running water.
• Or Fill The Dishwasher – It’s actually kinder on the environment to run your dishwasher for a FULL load of dishes than to wash them by hand.
• Recycle – Recycle as much as possible – glass, cans and cardboard are all recyclable. The more you recycle, the less goes into the landfill.
• Compost – Compost fruit and vegetable peels and leftovers, any food waste. Good for your garden, good for the planet.
Reduce The Carbon Footprint Of Your Food
Support Local Agriculture – Every grocery shopping trip you take, you are supporting gas guzzling cross country shipping of foods. Cross-country (out of state or out of the country) foods typically cost much more than locally grown foods and they have the potential of harming the Earth because of the fossil fuels used to transport them.
While it’s naive to think that you can totally eliminate packaged or cross-country foods, you can do a lot to support local agriculture.
Join Your Local CSA – Consider joining a Community Sponsored Agriculture program (CSA). A CSA puts local farmers and residents in a mutually beneficial situation. The farmers co-op together to provide a weekly basket of locally grown produce. You will receive a diverse collection of fruits and vegetables, most of which are organically grown. You can find a CSA in your area by searching online or contacting local agricultural supply stores.
Shop Local – If there isn’t a CSA in your area, you can shop at a local farmer’s market. Local farmers benefit from your financial support and it encourages them to keep growing organic and more environmentally friendly foods. You will also get a chance to take part in an important local community social event.
Using Your Diet To Reduce Your Carbon Footprint
Even your eating habits can affect global warming. Your diet and eating habits can affect global warming through your carbon footprint, consider these changes to reduce yours.
Choose Low Carbon Foods – Meat, cheese and eggs have the highest carbon footprint. Fruit, vegetables, beans and nuts have much lower carbon footprints. If you move towards a mainly plant-based diet, you can make a large impact on reducing your personal carbon footprint.
Each food item you choose to consume has a life cycle that affects the environment, so the dietary choices you make, give you control over those environmental effects and the ability to minimize them.
Five Environmentally Dangerous Foods
Here are five environmentally dangerous foods that you should avoid or reduce in your diet:
Beef And Steak – Commercially raised meat is extremely harmful to the environment. Raising beef contributes to deforestation, meat packing plants waste energy and pollute both air and water and the raining the cattle produces abundant greenhouse gases (methane).
Farm Raised Salmon – Farming salmon is a very inefficient industry. It requires 3 pounds of wild salmon to produce 1 pound of farmed salmon. All while contaminating lakes and the surrounding environment with antibiotics and chemicals.
Bananas – One of the most popular fruits on the planet may also be one of the most environmentally unfriendly. While there is some deforestation involved, the real problem (and pollution) comes from the 5,000 mile trip from Central America to Europe. A journey that adds large amounts of CO2 to the atmosphere.
Avocados – Avocados are grown in parts of Mexico where there is no water available and their production requires a large amount of water. Like bananas, the real environmental problem comes from the shipping of the fruit by truck, cargo ship or even airplane.
Almond Milk – Almond milk is incredibly inefficient. Most almonds are grown in drought affected areas of California and it is estimated that growing 1 (one) almond requires 1.1 gallons or 5 liters of water! The production of 100 ml of almond milk, requires 100 liters of water.
Simple Dietary Changes That Reduce Your Carbon Footprint
Reducing your consumption of these (and similar) environmentally dangerous foods can be one Earth friendly solution. Start by replacing your beef entrees with chicken. You would need to consume nearly 10 servings of chicken to cause the same environmental damage as a single serving of beef.
Consider replacing your hamburger with a black bean burger for even more dramatic environmental results. Replace environmentally damaging exotic fruits and vegetables with locally grown, seasonal produce.
Plant-Based Diets Are The Most Environmentally Friendly
The carbon footprint of a plant-based diet is generally much lower than a carnivore diet. The average American diet of meat, prepackaged and convenience foods produces about three (3) tons of CO2 per person, per year. A plant-based (primarily vegetarian) diet has a much lower carbon footprint at about 1.5 to 1.7 tons of CO2 per person per year.
If you want to lower your carbon footprint, but you are not ready for a vegetarian diet, start by removing beef, pork and lamb from their diet and your personal carbon footprint will be reduced by as much as one (1) ton of CO2 per year!
A Note About Bottled Water
Reducing or eliminating the quantity of bottled water you consume can greatly reduce your carbon footprint. Producing and shipping plastic bottles of water produces a variety of harmful environmental chemicals in addition to the carbon emission from their transportation. Invest in a healthy and efficient filtration system and drink water from your home.