The choices you make when filling your shopping basket or trolley can have an impact that’s perhaps bigger than you imagine. It’s not just those decisions around selecting healthier options or tempting treats but the much broader consequences of a Western diet. How much do we really understand about how the intensity of today’s methods of food production leads to higher CO2 levels?
Of course, food is about so much more than just nutrition – there’s the excitement with the taste and appearance of what we eat and also the collective and social experience of eating with family and friends. What we eat should never be a chore or a bore but maybe we should take a little time to explore how a few wise choices can make a meaningful difference both to the environment and our health.
Bringing some real colour to your table
So many consumers have now made the switch to organic. Choosing this path helps to reduce farming’s reliance on pesticides which can seep into our river systems and our bodies. The drive for agricultural yield has costs – these may not become clear for generations so it has to be wise to think about new ways to farm. Consumers can exert pressure by asking those awkward questions about where their food comes from and how far it’s had to travel. In our rush for endless choice, have we forgotten the pleasure of eating seasonal fruit and vegetables? By choosing organic, we can encourage the use of non-GMO crops and avoid the use of synthetic chemicals which can undermine the environment.
Cutting meat and cheese consumption can help too as they all usea lot of CO2 equivalents for each kilogram eaten.
Here are some suggestions from lifestyle and health brand MindBodyGreen for some fresh and beneficial additions to our diet:
Often enjoyed as a healthy meat alternative, lentils are a versatile and budget friendly ingredient. They also rank high as one of the best “climate friendly proteins” due to the super low greenhouse gas emissions involved in their growing. Production emissions and “post farming emissions” (inclusive of processing, transport and cooking) of lentils are only 0.9 kg of the CO2 equivalent for each kg consumed. This is 40 times lower compared to other protein sources, such as lamb.
Tomatoes punch well above their weight when it comes to helping the environment. Their combined emissions amount to only 1.1 kg of CO2 equivalent per kg consumed and they are a useful component of so many recipes. Tomato plants are fairly easy to grow too, so why not plant some in your garden, balcony or window box and enjoy the true meaning of local produce?
This key element of the Asian diet is certainly friendly to our planet. Its greenhouse gas emissions are 13 times lower than beef making tofu a protein-packed food that requires less water than many sources of animal protein. Tofu produces the carbon emission equivalent of less than one mile driven per four ounces consumed.
Green peas act as natural nitrogen fixers, converting the compound into a usable form for other organisms. As a result of this, peas often do not require synthetic nitrogen fertilizer and other additives, decreasing the amount of harmful resources needed while providing the vital nutrients required for healthy plant growth.
When it comes to vegetables and fruits, buying produce that uses the smallest amount of fertilizers and pesticides can only be a good thing. That’s because they account for about one-third of greenhouse gasses emitted in the United States. Broccoli, along with other cruciferous vegetables such as cabbage and Brussels sprouts, contains natural pesticides that protect from pests and other potentially harmful organisms. Broccoli also produces the carbon emission equivalent of less than one mile driven per 4-oz. consumed.