We are all feeling an urgent need to reduce our impact on the Earth because of the catastrophic effects of climate change and resource extraction. There is a strategy to lower your carbon footprint, which is a measure of your total greenhouse gas emissions...not just from driving vehicles or using electricity but also lifestyle choices, such as the clothes you wear and food you eat.
Although there are many ways to minimize your carbon footprint, making dietary changes is a good place to start.
Stop Wasting Food
Food waste is a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. That’s because food that’s thrown away decomposes in landfills and emits methane, a particularly potent greenhouse gas. Over a 100-year period, methane is estimated to have 34 times the impact as carbon dioxide on global warming. It's currently estimated that each person on the planet wastes a staggering 428–858 pounds of food per year on average. This is one of the easiest ways to decrease your carbon footprint. Planning meals ahead of time, saving leftovers, and buying only what you need go a long way towards saving food.
Ditch the Plastic
Using less plastic is an important part of transitioning to an environmentally friendly lifestyle. Plastic wrapping, plastic bags, and plastic storage containers are commonly used by consumers and the food industry alike to pack, ship, store, and transport food. Yet, single-use plastic is a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions.
Here Are Some Tips To Use Less Plastic:
- Forego plastic bags and plastic wrap when purchasing fresh produce.
- Bring your own grocery bags to the store.
- Drink from reusable water bottles, and don’t buy bottled water.
- Store food in glass containers.
- Purchase less take-out food, as it’s often packed in Styrofoam or plastic.
Eat Less Meat
Reducing your meat intake is one of the best ways to lower your carbon footprint. Diets that release the most greenhouse gasses are highest in beef, veal, pork, and other ruminants. Meanwhile, the diets lowest in greenhouse gas emissions are lowest in meat. You can try limiting your meat dishes to one meal per day, going meat-free one day per week, or testing out a vegetarian lifestyle.
Try Plant-Based Protein
Eating more plant-based protein can dramatically cut your greenhouse gas emissions. People with the lowest greenhouse gas emissions had the highest intake of plant proteins such as legumes, whole grains, nuts and seeds. You don’t need to cut animal protein from your diet completely.
Cut Back on Dairy
Cutting back on dairy products, including milk and cheese, is another way to reduce your carbon footprint. Dairy products were the second largest contributor to individual greenhouse gas emissions — behind only meat. Dairy production is a major contributor to climate change. Dairy cattle and their manure emit greenhouse gasses like methane, carbon dioxide, nitric oxide, and ammonia. Try plant-based alternatives such as Soy, Almond, Hemp and Rice.
Eat More Fiber-Rich Food
Eating more fiber-rich foods not only improves your health but may also reduce your carbon footprint. Diets lowest in greenhouse gas emissions were high in Fiber-Rich foods and low in saturated fats and sodium. These foods may help keep you full, naturally limiting your intake of items with a heavy carbon load. Plus, adding more fiber to your diet may improve your digestive health, help balance your microbiome promote weight loss, and protect against illnesses like heart disease, colorectal cancer, and diabetes.
Grow Your Own Produce
Growing your own produce in a community garden or your backyard is associated with numerous benefits, including reduced stress, better diet quality, and improved emotional wellbeing. Cultivating a plot of land, no matter the size, can reduce your carbon footprint as well. That’s because growing fruits and vegetables reduces your use of plastic packaging and your dependency on produce transported long distances. Practicing organic farming methods, recycling rainwater, and composting may further reduce your environmental impact.
Don’t Eat Excess Calories
Eating more calories than your body needs may promote weight gain and related illnesses. What’s more, it’s linked to higher greenhouse gas emissions. People with higher greenhouse gas emissions consumed more calories from food and beverages than those who had low greenhouse-gas-emitting diets. Some options to reduce calorie intake include cutting out nutrient-poor, calorie-rich foods like candy, soda, fast food, and baked goods.
Purchase Local Food
Supporting local farmers is a great way to reduce your carbon footprint. Buying locally lowers your dependence on food transported vast distances and may increase your intake of fresh fruit and vegetables, helping offset your carbon emissions. Eating seasonal foods and supporting organic growers are additional ways to minimize your footprint. That’s because food produced out of season is typically imported or takes more energy to grow due to the need for heated greenhouses. Furthermore, switching to local, sustainably produced animal products like eggs, poultry, and dairy can slash your carbon footprint. You may likewise gain a greater appreciation for the unique foods that are native to your region.
Remember to keep in mind that efforts that seem small can make a big difference.
Bring your friends and family into the experience and make it an adventure!
xox, Dr. G