How to Reduce Your Carbon Footprint Through Food
With rising concerns for global warming, many consumers are wondering how they can help fix the problem or, at the very least, decrease their contribution to it. This has increased thrift shopping, recycling, and even vegetarian or vegan diets. Why? Because these actions help to reduce what is known as your carbon footprint and minimize your impact on the environment. In fact, adjusting your diet is one of the most significant ways you can help address climate change and shrink your carbon footprint. Let’s take a closer look.
What is a Carbon Footprint?
Before we dive in, it is essential to understand what a carbon footprint is exactly. Over the past several years, this term has been thrown a lot with corporations vowing to reduce their carbon footprints to a certain level within a specific timeframe and individuals discussing ways to minimize their own. But what is it?
Put simply, a carbon footprint is the total amount of greenhouse gases, such as methane and carbon dioxide emissions, that are produced by the actions of an individual, event, organization, service, place, or product. Globally, the average carbon footprint is about 4 tons per person. However, in the United States, that average is 16 tons per person, making it one of the highest rates in the world. This highlights why it is so important for individual consumers to take action and reduce their carbon footprints, especially here in the U.S.
How to Reduce Food Carbon Footprint
Believe it or not, one of the most impactful ways to reduce your carbon footprint is by adjusting your diet. Raising livestock is a significant contributor to the prevalence of damaging greenhouse gases in the Earth’s atmosphere. In fact, it is estimated that animal agriculture is more responsible for gases like nitrous oxide and methane than all of the world’s transportation systems combined. These greenhouse gas emissions are among the most notable and widely recognized contributors to global warming and overall climate change.
For example, chickens, turkeys, pigs, and cows are collectively the largest methane producers in the United States alone. More specifically, cows are believed to account for almost 10 percent of our country’s greenhouse gas emissions. In addition, the greenhouse gases produced by chicken and pork are thought to be about 20 percent than that of a serving of red meat. Combining all of these emissions leads to a notable environmental impact which is why the United Nations has stressed that a global shift toward a more plant-based diet is necessary to combat these effects. Here’s how you can help make a difference and reduce your carbon footprint through food.
- Reduce Meat Consumption The average American consumes about 274 pounds of meat each year, not including fish and other seafood. In addition, the total amount of meat consumption has increased by about 40% since 1961. This is a problem because livestock is one of the leading contributors to greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S., as discussed above. As a result, reducing your meat consumption can dramatically reduce your carbon footprint.
While completely eliminating meat from your diet would have the biggest impact on your carbon footprint, even reducing your consumption to a few days each week can be significant. Some researchers (1) found that even reducing your meat consumption from about 3.5 ounces of meat per day to less than 1.7 ounces per day will cut your carbon emissions by about 35%! In other words, you don’t have to eliminate meat from your diet completely to make an impact.
Not sure where to start? Check out our plant-based products for an easy and satisfying way to make the switch!
- Cut Back on Dairy A similar and often overlooked way to reduce your carbon footprint is to cut back on your consumption of dairy products. Why? Because as discussed above, cows are one of the largest contributors of methane gases in the earth’s atmosphere, and the vast majority of our dairy products are made using cow’s milk. Just as reducing your meat consumption would significantly lower your carbon footprint, minimizing your dairy consumption would have a similar effect.
- Minimize Food Waste Unfortunately, it is estimated that approximately 30% of the food we produce globally is not consumed or wasted. While meat and dairy products are some of the most significant contributors to greenhouse gas emissions, all food we produce generates greenhouse gasses in order to reach our plants. As a result, minimizing your food waste can help to cut back on emissions and reduce your carbon footprint.
So there you have it! Three easy and impactful tips for how to reduce a carbon footprint through food. Want to learn more about the
environmental impact of meat production? Check out our blog post!
Ready to make the switch to plant-based meat? Read more about how to start a plant-based diet in our latest blog.
About the Author
Angela Walker is a BANT and CNHC registered nutritional therapist with over 12 years of clinical experience, including 8 years with the award-winning, Optimum Health Clinic. Angela is a Nutrition Consultant for Meatless Farm, where she develops nutrition research and communicates the personal health benefits of eating plant-based foods. Angela is also a nutritionist and performance coach of Food for Thought, a program designed to change the way people think about food, diet and nutrition, based on the principles and practices of personalized nutrition and functional medicine. Angela is a published author of many well-known articles including ‘Case Studies in Personalized Nutrition’, a core text at many of the training providers for nutritional therapy and personalized nutrition in the UK and US.