- Individual carbon footprints can be reduced by decreasing red meat consumption, limiting sweets, and reducing intake of tea, coffee and alcohol.
- Food items like meat, dairy, and sweets have a surprisingly high contribution to dietary-related greenhouse gas emissions.
- Diets that are rich in red meat and sweets tend to have a high negative impact on the environment.
- Non-vegetarian diets generally result in 59% higher greenhouse gas emissions compared to vegetarian diets.
- Minor changes like reducing red meat consumption and choosing healthier options for sweets and beverages can make a significant difference in reducing individual carbon footprints and greenhouse gas emissions.
Do you have concerns about climate change as an individual? A new study presents an opportunity for you to contribute to climate change mitigation with each meal you have.
You can decrease your individual carbon footprint by consuming less red meat, limiting your intake of sweets, and reducing your consumption of tea, coffee, and alcohol, the research discloses.
“We are all seeking ways to contribute towards saving our planet,” said the chief researcher, who is a reputable lecturer in biostatistics at a well-known University in the United Kingdom. “Diet modification can be an effective approach.”
A unique aspect of this is that the foods that are most beneficial for the planet also tend to be very beneficial to your health.
“It is probable that foods that are healthy for us are also better for our planet,” the researcher affirmed. What an appropriate conversation to have, especially as we approach the festive season of large meals with family and friends.
Looking Deeper into the Environmental Implications of our Diet
The researchers conducted an in-depth study examining the greenhouse gas emissions from the production of more than 3,000 different foods. Meat was associated with 32% of dietary-related greenhouse gas emissions, an unsurprising conclusion for environmental specialists.
Fossil fuels incorporated into pesticides and fertilizers used to nurture animal feed, as well as waste gases and manure from livestock, also escalate meat’s carbon footprint.
According to the director of health campaigns for a prominent Natural Resources Defense Council’s health and food division, cattle and sheep produce considerable methane, a highly potent greenhouse gas. “If every American removed the equivalent of one burger a day from their diet, it would equate to taking 10 million cars off the roads annually. The climatic effect cannot be underestimated.”
The study also revealed that other food and beverages have a high impact on the climate:
- Tea, coffee, and alcoholic drinks contribute towards 15% of diet-related greenhouse gases.
- Dairy products account for 14% of foods’ carbon footprint.
- Sweet foods such as cakes, cookies, and candies contribute almost 9%.
Dietary Habits and Greenhouse Gas Emissions
In general, research has shown that non-vegetarian diets result in greenhouse gas emissions 59% higher than vegetarian diets. Men’s diets emit 41% more greenhouse gas than women’s diets, mainly due to a higher meat consumption.
Lastly, individuals who stick to the recommended daily intake of saturated fats, carbohydrates, and sodium produce fewer greenhouse gas emissions than those with less balanced diets.
“Lessening our meat consumption, especially red meat, can make a tremendous difference. Besides this, our results illustrate that significant progress can be made through minor changes, such as eliminating sweets, or just by switching brands,” the researcher concluded.
Deforestation, linked to the production of tea, coffee, and chocolate, decreases the earth’s capacity to process surplus atmospheric carbon, say experts in the field. The foods the researchers identified generally require a lot of water, degrade soil quality, necessitate refrigeration, and transportation to market, and are sold in packaging that contributes to their carbon footprint.
While efforts have been made to reduce carbon emissions in other sectors, agriculture counteracts this progress. “Although methane emissions in the US have fallen by 18% since 1990, methane emissions from agriculture have risen by over 16% over the same period.”
For further details:
You can find more details about greenhouse gas sources on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s website.