By Ashley Priem, Co-Executive Director, EcoSuperior
Our diets are one of the biggest elephants in the room when we talk about climate change. We know a plant-based diet is healthier for us, but is it really better for the planet? Yes! What we eat and how food is produced directly affects the environment.
Food growth, processing, transportation, consumption, and disposal all create greenhouse gases (GHGs), contributing to climate change. A recent United Nations article shares, “About a third of all human-caused greenhouse gas emissions is linked to food.” Agriculture and land use make up the most significant chunk of these emissions. Looking at what types of agriculture and land use cause the most impact is essential as we look for sustainable solutions. Caring for, transporting, and processing animal products increases GHG compared to plant products. Livestock emits methane, a greenhouse gas 84 times more potent than CO2. While 41% of the world’s deforestation is for beef production, 18% is for oilseeds (soy and palm). Does that mean eating tofu is bad? No, as most of the global soybean production is used to feed livestock, with only 6% used for direct human food. Not to mention, most livestock eat more food than they produce. The most effective climate strategies include people minimizing consuming animal products.
Plant-based foods generally have lower GHG intensities than animal-based food and typically use less land, water, and energy. Shifting your diet to a more plant-based one means consuming more beans, lentils, tofu, nuts, grains, and chickpeas while eating less (or no) meat, dairy, and saturated fat products. Love the taste of meat and dairy too much to give it up? Plant-based substitutes have come a long way to meeting those cravings; give them a try. Many Thunder Bay grocery stores and restaurants offer plant-based alternatives. Plus, choosing more veggies is always a good idea for your health!
Reducing food waste is another great way to reduce food-related GHG emissions. Worldwide, 17% of all food available gets thrown away yearly. It’s a tragedy to produce, process, and transport food just to let it rot. If you need to throw out food, composting can reduce the amount of CO2 and methane released by organic waste.
To eat sustainably, start eating a more plant-based balanced diet and reduce or stop eating foods that are harder on our planet. The food we eat and how it is produced affects our health and the health of the planet!