In the increasingly dire environmental crisis that we find ourselves in, it’s more important now than ever to make positive environmental impacts that lower our individual carbon footprints. With the climate crisis threatening our food production systems, the future of food security is, unfortunately, bleak. Already, the changing climate has led to lower food security, and projections show this pattern will continue to worsen without serious and time-sensitive intervention, according to a report issued by the United Nations. Thus, by eating climate-conscious foods today, we can help slow the process of climate change, giving our world leaders and food producers more time to innovate and hopefully mitigate the detrimental results of human habits.
Eating in a climate-conscious manner has a ton of benefits that extend past its namesake. Climate-conscious eating doesn’t just support a healthier earth, but it contributes to a healthier you! Eating green is often an easy way to lower your intake of saturated fats, cholesterol, and unnatural sugars and sweeteners.
Top 3 Ways to Eat in a Climate-Conscious Manner
1. Be Intentional with Produce Purchases!
Eating fresh fruits and vegetables is a surefire way to ensure you are getting the nutrients you need to fuel your body. Not only this, but it’s also a way to make your diet a tool for creating a healthier Earth. If possible, embrace local, sustainable farms as your source of produce to cut down on extensive packaging, transportation-related carbon emissions, and large quantities of harmful chemicals like pesticides. Shopping locally will also help you to steer towards seasonal fruits and veggies which means they will be fresher and contain fewer preservatives, leading to healthier and better-tasting food. Local eating also contributes to a reduction in the carbon footprint associated with transport.
Check out your local farmer’s markets to shop small and eat green!
2. Lower Your Red Meat Intake!
There are plenty of ways to “meat” your daily protein needs outside of cheeseburgers and steaks. Typically, plant-based foods will use less land, water, and energy and have fewer carbon emissions and greenhouse gases than food produced within the animal industry (Ritchie, et al., 2022). Knowing this, lentils, beans, edamame, chickpeas, green peas, and more are excellent plant-based protein sources.
Raising animals for production is an environmentally costly industry. Beyond the fact that it uses a massive amount of fresh water and land, it has also contributed to a loss of biodiversity which helps keep our environment stable. Beef and lamb production, the two most environmentally harmful types of meat to produce, contribute to an outpouring of methane which, when released, traps more heat than other gases ultimately leading to the warming of Earth. By substituting your beef products with greener alternatives like eggs, chicken, and line-caught fish, you can lower your carbon footprint (Ritchie, et al., 2022). However, even though some meats are better than others, fruits and vegetables are almost always more environmentally friendly than animal products.
3. Cut Out Food Waste!
Growing, producing, and exporting food to our homes is a considerable effort that contributes to carbon emissions, so it is disheartening to learn that over one-third of all food in the US is wasted according to the USDA. Thus, it is critical to be mindful of the amount of food wasted in individual households. If something on your shelf has an upcoming expiration date, google a recipe incorporating expiring ingredients with some local produce to cook up! Bonus points if you find a way to compost in your community or home. Not only will cutting back on food waste be sustainable, but it is budget-friendly too!
Hannah Ritchie, Pablo Rosado and Max Roser (2022) - "Environmental Impacts of Food Production". Published online at OurWorldInData.org. Retrieved from: 'https://ourworldindata.org/environmental-impacts-of-food' [Online Resource]