Eating more produce and less meat like beef can help reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Eating seasonally and locally can benefit the environment

The taste and nutritional value of greenhouse tomatoes from supermarket stock year-round do not match those of the sun ripened in a public garden. You’ll get far more berries harvesting them yourself on the U-Pick farm than buying those packed in pint plastic containers and air-shipped from thousands of miles away. Sponsoring our neighboring farm markets also makes us feel good about learning about sustainable-minded producers and their eco-friendly practices while investing in the local economy.

But do personal food choices like these do much, if anything, to treat our sick planet?

And a new study Exploring the carbon footprint (Greenhouse gas emissions) Americans’ evolving eating patterns assure us that our efforts to shop and eat better have not been in vain. Some foods affect the environment in completely different ways. For example, animal products and highly processed and packaged foods require much more energy to produce than local foods and handcrafted foods at local farmers markets. Five commodities are responsible for more than 75% of the carbon footprint of the US diet, according to the study: beef, milk and dairy products, pork, chicken, and eggs. More than half of these greenhouse gases can be attributed to beef.

“The good news is that changes in diet are occurring,” said Claire Pacey, co-author of the study. According to her study, over a 15-year period, beef consumption in the United States has decreased by 30%, while mass changes in eating habits across all population groups have led to a 35% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. This is roughly equivalent to taking every passenger car off the road for about two years, she said in an email.

The study calculated greenhouse gas emissions based on individual diets reported by more than 39,000 adults in the United States National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 2003-2018. Pacey looked at how rates had changed over time and examined trends based on demographic factors, such as gender, age, household income, and race/ethnicity. The study was published in the Journal of Cleaner Production.

Other studies have shown that more than half of Americans are willing to eat more plant-based meat alternatives, and the global market for plant-based protein sources is expected to increase fivefold by 2030, Pacey added.

go through the distance

A common claim among local food advocates is that reducing “Food Miles” The distance our food travels from farm to plate can also help fight climate change. Some groups even have called labeling Indicates the miles the product has traveled to its destination.
This might intuitively make sense, but in the 2020 report, Hannah Ritchie, Head of Research at Our World in Datadescribes it as “one of the most misleading advice”.

Land use and farm stage emissions, including fertilizer use and methane production in livestock stomachs, account for more than 80% of the footprint for most foods.

Transport is responsible for less than 10% of the final carbon impact; For beef it is less than 1%. Most residual food emissions occur during processing, packaging and retail.

“Eating locally will only have a significant impact if transportation is responsible for a significant share of the food’s final carbon footprint,” Ritchie wrote in the report. “This is not the case for most foods.”

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However, I did notice one exception where seasonality and geography make a difference: products that travel by air. Most foods are transported by boat, which results in much lower emissions. Air freight is generally reserved for perishable foods where fast delivery is essential, such as blueberries or green beans. So it’s probably a safe bet that those crisp, on-farm fruits and vegetables will be a more climate-friendly option than their mass-produced out-of-season counterparts.

The practical solution: what to eat

as with RecyclingHowever, trying to offer one-size-fits-all solutions is difficult — and sometimes counterproductive.
Scientists and activists tell us that there will not be enough individual action to stop the catastrophic effects on the climate. They assert that global policies that hold the industry accountable for its role in the crisis are necessary to address the scale of the problem.

But this does not mean that consumers are helpless but to put pressure on lawmakers. “Small changes at home can have a huge positive impact,” Pacey said.

By far the most important thing we can do on the dining table to mitigate climate change, she said, is eat less meat and dairy, and incorporate a variety of healthy plant-based alternatives into our diets: fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes and nuts.

While eating less meat is one of the more measurable actions we can take, other actions add up as well.

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“Sourcing locally could be one of the driving factors to reduce the impact,” Pacey said. “But it’s often a very small or variable lever for change.” She and other experts stress that it’s important for consumers to understand that what we eat, not where it originated from and how it reaches us, is most important when it comes to trying to reduce our carbon footprint.

“Most consumers don’t want to invest a lot of time decoding these simultaneous equations in their heads in buying food,” said Ronnie Neff, associate professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and program director at The Johns Hopkins Center. For a livable future. Nor should they.

Neff said making these diet changes doesn’t have to be difficult. “If the goal is to reduce global warming, balancing the differences between this apple and that apple is less important than just knowing it’s an apple,” she said. “Think at the bottom of the food chain you learned in elementary school: the plants and seafood that eats plants.”

A practical solution: reduce food waste

Another practical way for people to control their carbon footprint is to reduce food waste.

Farmers have to grow far more food than we actually need, because about 30 to 40 percent of what they produce is thrown away, according to the United Natural Resources Defense Council. This comes at a huge cost in greenhouse gases, Neff said. In addition, it wastes land, water, labour, energy and other values Sources.

In this regard, she noted, controlling our portion sizes matters not only to our waistlines, but the planet as well. “It’s easy to buy more than we can realistically eat, especially when we’re shopping at a farmers market when everything is fresh and beautiful and we just want to try everything and buy it all,” she said.

How can the meat

Turning food waste into nutrient-rich compost can combat food waste while helping your garden grow. Neff also suggested getting creative with handling leftovers, following directions for freezing excess, and placing a special container in the front of the fridge for things that need to be consumed more quickly.

“One really helpful way to come up with solutions is to write down everything your family actually eats for a week,” Neff suggested. “Make a habit of reaching out to family members to coordinate schedules so you know who will be there for meals.”

Practical Solution: Variety

Scientists tell us that the great diversity of plant and animal life, from soil microbes to large predators like bears and wolves, is essential to maintaining a balanced and healthy ecosystem. Monoculture, the practice of growing single species with identical genes in the same domain, is responsible for many of the standardized products available to us year-round in supermarkets. While these methods have the advantages of mass-producing cheaply and consistently, they also destroy the biodiversity needed for long-term survival.

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“We have lost a lot of our biodiversity in our food supply and have cut back on a few of the types of fruits and vegetables we love and know and keep coming back to,” Neff said. ‘The farmers market is a great place to sample and try a lot of things you haven’t tried. You can be the first to try a new variety of peaches they’ve never heard of, and who knows – this could turn out to be more drought or pest resistant peaches than more commonly found on supermarket shelves.

From peaches and tomatoes in summer to citrus fruits and kale and winter, nature is our best teacher in helping us add variety to our meals, which is good for our diet and our planet.

The Seasonal Food Guide is a comprehensive national database with a downloadable app for seasonal foods (vegetables, herbs, legumes, nuts) available in every state year-round, based on data from the National Resource Defense Council, agriculture departments, and college extension programs across the United States. The guide offers recipes and tips to maximize their uses in your kitchen. For guidance on making more sustainable seafood choices in your area or at the supermarket year-round, check out Watch seafood at Monterey Bay Aquarium Application.

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