There is a strong argument to be made that more of us should follow a low-carbon diet. Food production and dietary preferences are linked to climate change by altering the amount of carbon in the atmosphere. A recent report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) found that food production (including post-harvest activities like transportation) accounts for up to 37% of human-generated greenhouse gas emissions. Consumer food purchases account for about 16% of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. Climate change influences food production by disrupting growing seasons and crop yields leading to food insecurity and less nutritious food. Eating closer to carbon-neutral will help an overstressed climate.
Consider serving beans instead of beef. Researchers at the University of Michigan noted that dietary sourced greenhouse emissions would drop by about 35% if Americans replaced half of the animal-based products in their diet with plant-based foods. An American Journal of Clinical Nutrition study found food eating patterns leading to lower greenhouse gas emissions are healthier in several ways including providing more dietary fiber and less saturated fat.
When making food choices with the climate in mind, be sure they support sustainable farming and manufacturing practices. This includes opting for certified organic when possible and seeking out meat products from producers who practice regenerative agriculture, which involves grazing practices that rebuild topsoil, a carbon-sequestering resource. Organizations like Climate Neutral are now certifying food and beverage brands that have taken steps to measure, offset, and reduce their carbon footprint to net-zero.
A low-carbon diet also includes local foods. This not only cuts down on transportation- generated greenhouse gases but beets and berries from the farmers market and Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) programs are also less likely to be packaged in plastic, which is another way they are lower on the carbon scale.
Cooking from scratch is a big step too. Owing to manufacturing, packaging, transportation, and waste management, packaged, processed food is very expensive when it comes to environmental impacts.
And finally, eat more of your food to support the planet. Americans discard about a quarter of the food they buy, and food waste is a contributor to planet-warming methane emissions. Not only that, the carbon-emitting resources involved in producing the food are likewise wasted. So take measures like buying perishables in only amounts you’ll eat to cut back on food waste.
(Reprinted with permission from Environmental Nutrition, a monthly publication of Belvoir Media Group, LLC. 800-829-5384. www.EnvironmentalNutrition.com.)
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