- The Climate-Friendly Diet
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Six Climate-Friendly Diet Ideas
1. Choose Real Food
Walk into any supermarket and you’ll see shelves lined with products bursting with trans fats, high-fructose corn syrup, and additives whose multi-syllabic names can make you go cross-eyed. Each of these ingredients takes tremendous amounts of energy to create.
Choosing real food—fresh, whole food—is a way to choose nourishment that’s not only good for your body but good for the planet, too.
2. Don’t Panic, Go Organic
For years, researchers have been hitting the books to discover just what difference it makes to eat organic food.
This research has uncovered all kinds of benefits: We’ve learned that kids fed a diet of non-chemical foods have—big surprise—fewer traces of chemical residues in their bodies. We’ve found that organic foods may also have higher levels of essential nutrients and antioxidants.
Here’s another reason choosing organic is a smart move and not just for your personal health, but for the planet’s: New research is documenting that organic farms can emit as much as half the carbon dioxide as chemical farms. Organic farms also use much less fossil fuel energy than their conventional counterparts, in many cases as much as one-third less.i And organic agriculture can provide a critical carbon sink, sequestering carbon from the atmosphere. In fact, 10,000 medium-sized organic farms can store as much carbon in the soil as we would save if we took one million cars off the road. Just one more reason to go organic!
3. Finish Your Peas… the Ice Caps are Melting
Of all the food in the U.S. that’s ready for harvest—and human consumption—as much as half never makes it to our bellies, ending up as waste at various points along the food chain. The typical American household wastes as much as $600 worth of food a year. Of the food that goes to waste, a good chunk goes to landfills, which are big emitters of greenhouse gases.
Remember your grandmother’s mealtime lecture to finish the food on your plate because there were starving kids in India? That admonition takes on a whole new meaning in our global warming era.
So, let’s try to eat only what we need, waste less, and compost our food scraps.
Resources: Get inspired from across the pond.
4. Meatless Mondays (or Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays)
When it comes to global warming the Hummer has been quite the easy scapegoat: With its enormous frame and pathetic gas mileage, the vehicular behemoth has become the bogeyman of climate change. But look past the Hummer: hamburgers may be just as guilty.
The livestock industry is responsible for nearly one-fifth of the planet’s greenhouse gases, more than the entire transportation sector. If we each reduced our meat intake even by one meal a day, or one day a week, we could make an enormous difference on global emissions.
And don’t worry about missing out on protein: the average American consumes twice as much protein as the government recommends, and since our bodies can’t store protein, it just gets wasted.
To learn more about the diet-climate change connection, read Gideon Eshel’s “Diet, Energy, and Global Warming.”
5. Live La Vida Loca(l)
You may have heard about locavores—those foodies who try to eat food raised locally, often within just one hundred miles of their homes? You may have even started shopping at your nearest farmers’ market or inquiring at your local supermarket about “food miles”—the measurement, now in the popular lexicon, of how far your food has traveled. Maybe you’ve even jumped on the locavore bandwagon in order to support your region’s farmers, green space, or the clean water and air you love.
Here’s another reason to choose local: your food may just have a smaller carbon footprint than its far-flung counterparts. Just don’t drive your Hummer to the farmers market.
Resources: Get inspired by the original Locavores themselves.
6. Get Into the Kitchen
Climate-friendly diet choices require us to do one thing that’s becoming increasingly foreign to modern homo sapiens: spend time cooking our own food. Thankfully, a slew of new cookbooks and other resources have come out recently to help you make this move with ease. And unlike some of the other prescriptions for addressing global warming, choosing a climate-friendly diet can be fun, feel good, and taste scrumptious, too.
Resources: See our cooking concepts for inspiration.