Eating Green

So you’ve made the switch to an energy efficient car and you got the right kind of light bulb but have you thought about the environmental impact of your eating habits? Eating less beef and dairy (less cow) and limiting food waste are two major ways you can have an impact.

The modern food system in the US contributes about 37% of all Greenhouse Gases (GHG) making its impact even greater than automobiles. GHG’s derived from food production include:
  • Carbon Dioxide from fossil fuels burned during transportation and processing of food
  • Methane emitted from ruminant animals (cows, sheep and goats) and by decomposing waste in landfills
  • Nitrous Oxide due to use of fertilizers and farming practices
There are seven ways you can lessen your contribution to GHG’s.
  1. Eat less beef. Choose plant based protein alternatives like beans, soy, nuts and seeds. If you insist on meat, choose chicken, fish or even pork instead of beef. Cattle do not convert plant to protein efficiently and throughout the lengthy growing process, they emit a lot of methane.
  2. Eat less cheese. We love our cheese. We smother our sandwiches, pizzas, burritos and salads with it. Less cheese means fewer cows and less methane. Next time you order a pizza, ask to double the vegetables and halve the cheese. Ditto for the sandwiches, burritos and salads. And instead of cow’s milk, try almond milk on your cereal or with your cookie.
  3. Be a vegan once a week. That means eating no meat, fish, milk, cheese or eggs for one day a week. Try a new recipe that is bean and vegetable based; pair it with some good bread. Shifting away from beef and dairy once a week will lower GHG more than buying all local all the time.
  4. Eat your leftovers and don’t throw food away. According to a study published last year in the journal Environmental Science and Technology, we waste 27% of the edible food we produce. It takes an enormous amount of energy to produce and transport food. Plan your meals so that you only buy as much food as you will eat. Eat the leftovers for lunch.
  5. Buy local. Although not as big of an impact on GHG as the above, local foods travel less food miles. The highest impact in this regard is food that is flown rather than trucked to the store. Examples of air transported foods are berries and pineapples in the winter and fresh fish from distant seas.
  6. Buy Seasonal. Seasonal produce is not grown in energy-intensive greenhouses. The best choice is to buy from your local farmers’ market or join a CSA (community-supported agriculture). The CSA ensures that you will try some new vegetables. Although the supermarket is full of many varieties of produce, we typically stick the usual like broccoli, corn, green beans and corn.
  7. Eat Real (whole) Food. The more processed a food item, the more energy it took to make it. Look for foods with minimal ingredients.
The best news is that eating green is not only good for our planet; it’s also healthier for our bodies. Less beef and dairy means less saturated fat and cholesterol and more soluble fiber in plant based proteins. Eating more seasonal and local ensures fresh vegetables and more variety.

Check out the Low Carbon Diet Calculator at developed by Bon Appetite to compare various food items and their impact.  

Also, check out these books:
  • Animal Vegetable Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver, who spent a year in the South-West region of Virginia eating only locally grown foods and writes about the experience.
  • What to Eat by Marion Nestle
  • In Defense of Food or any of Michael Pollen’s books
See my website for more information about me and my services.

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