With Earth Day upon us, have you considered the carbon footprint your dietary choices leave?
A carbon footprint is the total set of greenhouse gas emissions caused directly and indirectly by an individual, organization, event, or product. As individuals, the foods we choose to purchase and eat can have an impact on our planet. And different foods have different impacts.
The article, Mediterranean diet: Not just healthier but also better for the environment?, discusses a recent study in which researchers compared the carbon footprint of daily menus served in Spain to those served in English-speaking countries like the UK and US. The study’s findings indicate that the Spanish menu leaves significantly less of a carbon footprint than that of the menus in the UK and US. Why? Based on the Mediterranean diet, the Spanish menu, places a greater emphasize on fruits and vegetables – foods with a smaller carbon footprint, and less emphasize on beef – a food with a larger carbon footprint. Lead researcher, Rosario Vidal says, “Therefore, it is not only healthier, but our diet is also more ecological.”
By making small changes to way to you purchase and consume food, you can make your diet more ecological too. Here are a few simple tips to reduce your food’s carbon footprint:
- Eat less meat. Add Meatless Mondays to your routine. Try meat as a side dish instead of as the main course.
- Choose fish and poultry. Ruminant animals, such as cattle, goats, sheep, bison release the most greenhouse gas emissions.
- Eat more plants. Pick lower-impact plants proteins, such as grains, legumes, nuts, and tofu.
- Don’t waste food. Buy the correct portions and eat what you buy.
- Purchase seasonal and regional food when possible. Opt for frozen fish, as fresh fish is often air-freighted.
- Avoid processed and packaged foods. Cook from scratch and make your own. Choose the least processed alternative, such as brown rice versus white rice.
- Choose organic food products when possible.
Curious about your carbon footprint? The Nature Conservancy’s calculator measures how many tons of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases your choices, including food and diet, create each year. For a guide of twenty common foods and their green house gas emissions, check out Eat Smart, created by the Environmental Working Group.
And Don’t forget – your food choices can affect your waistline and our plant. Happy Earth Day!