When it comes to food, there are so many delicious choices. Some healthy, some unhealthy… But the question we’re looking at today is the impact our diet has on the planet. Can our diet really help fight climate change? The answer is yes. Around 25% of all the climate change problems we experience stem from the food choices we make. Did you know that our diet actually produces approximately twice as much pollution as cars? The connection between diet and climate change is related to the greenhouse gases like carbon produced. Long story short, personal diet decisions really can make a big difference. What better way to save the planet than through one of life’s finest pleasures? So, let’s takes a look at some delicious diets that fight climate change.
First up, let’s talk about meat. For some, cutting out meat may not be a sacrifice you are willing to make. A sustainable diet doesn’t have to mean cutting out meat. Actually, it’s about making more conscious choices. Take the example of a single serving of beef, you end up emitting about 330 grams of carbon. Whereas a single serving of chicken emits around 52 grams. In terms of emissions, this drop is huge and definitely worth taking into consideration for a lower environmental impact. Lamb is the meat with the greatest impact, generating approximately 39.3 kg of carbon dioxide per kilo.
Meat products, in general, have a large carbon footprint per calorie because of the inefficient transformation of plant energy to animal energy. Keeping livestock involves a lot of unsustainable fossil fuels to power the farm, as well as huge amounts of land, water, grain, and fertiliser. So, you may be wondering why beef and lamb take such a toll on our planet in comparison to other meats? Ruminants like cattle, sheep, and goats are extremely gassy. The methane gas they produce is at least 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide. Though sustainable farms do exist, the extent to which the industry contributes to climate change is detrimental. In short, reducing your overall meat intake and switching to less carbon-intensive meats is the way to help the environment and fight global warming.
Diets that Fight Climate Change
Vegan and Vegetarian Diet
A vegan diet has the least carbon footprint. The University of Oxford concluded that cutting meat and dairy from your diet can potentially reduce your food carbon footprint by up to 73%. So, what about a vegetarian diet? Surprisingly, it’s not that much different when it comes to emissions. It all depends on the amount of dairy consumed. Alongside beef and lamb, cheese also has one of the highest emissions, again due to the extent of methane gas ruminants produce. It’s worth noting that a vegetarian diet with a low dairy intake will lower your carbon footprint, while a vegan diet is the best option for sustainability purposes.
And what about soy? It often gets a bad wrap due to its huge environmental impact. It’s produced on a colossal scale, but perhaps not for the reason you may think. In fact, 80 – 90% of the world’s soybeans are fed to farm animals, while the minority is for human consumption. Soy is considered unsustainable as its cultivation results in deforestation and, in turn, higher carbon emissions. However, when soy is consumed directly by people instead of livestock, it’s incredibly land-efficient. Beef, for example, requires 32 times the area of land as soy for the same amount of protein. This makes soy a more environmentally-friendly product compared to its animal counterparts. In order to eat soy more sustainably, buy local produce as much as possible and opt for organic to reduce your environmental impact.
The Mediterranean Diet
The Mediterranean diet also has a low environmental impact. This is because, in general, red meat is eaten infrequently and more low-impact foods such as fish and poultry are consumed. Plant-based foods also constitute a great part of this diet, including fruits, vegetables, beans and pulses, and olive oil. If everyone switched to a Mediterranean diet would reduce global warming pollution by 15% by 2050. In terms of vehicle emissions, this would be the equivalent of removing around 1 billion cars from the roads. This is one of the least restrictive diets that fight climate change.
In a nutshell…
The good news is that all the aforementioned, more eco-friendly diets actually invite you to make healthier lifestyle choices. It’s a well-known fact that the consumption of red and processed meat increases the risk of cancer. Similarly, dairy products are high in fat, increasing the body’s cholesterol levels and the risk of heart disease. Indulge in the Mediterranean plant-based, vegetarian or vegan diets that fight climate change and they happen to be good for us!
What we eat plays a big role in reversing global warming. Our food choices affect global warming more than we may think. Be conscious of how much red meat and dairy we eat because of its huge environmental impact. You don’t need to sacrifice eating animal products, just reduce your intake. Make conscious choices by switching to fish and poultry. Always try to buy local and organic produce to reduce your carbon food footprint too. Opt for a more plant-based diet or even make the leap to a fully-fledged vegan or veggie diet. Check out the benefits of a plant-based diet here.