How Do Our Food Choices Affect Our Carbon Footprint?
Nearly everything we do – even breathing, emits greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere. Another essential – eating – hopefully healthy food, plays an integral role in increasing our carbon footprints. The USDA determined that the United States’ food and beverage production is responsible for 13.6% of fossil fuel emissions.
“According to a study on food related energy conducted by the United States Economic Research Service (ERS), food energy in the US exceeded all of the energy use in India and all of the African nations. Whether or not you think what you consume drastically contributes to the US fossil fuel emissions, large quantities of food and beverages are produced per year.” Healthy food, therefore, is in great demand.
Produce and Dairy Consumption
The USDA determined that 119.9 pounds of produce, both fresh and processed, are available for consumption. Perhaps junkier food such as fries and pizza, two of America’s favorite grub, are major contributors to our carbon emissions. 46.7 pounds of potatoes (50% of which are processed) are available to each person each year. The second most produced vegetable (technically a fruit), is the tomato, with 31.4 pounds (59% canned) produced per person. We can assume that with so much tomato production, there has to be a fair amount of cheese being produced and consumed. Approximately 34 gallons per person of dairy is available per year, which is equivalent to 1.5 cups per day. Comparatively, only 3.6 gallons or 31.3 pounds of oranges are available, 65% of which is orange juice.
The production of livestock contributes to 14. 5% of human-induced emissions. 58.7 pounds per person of chicken and 51.5 pounds of beef are available to each American every year. Cows, buffalos, and smaller ruminants – animals with multiple stomach chambers, contribute to 39% of the emissions from livestock through their production of methane gas, known as enteric fermentation. On average, one cow eats 6 pounds of dry feed per day. Chickens, on the other hand, consume about a half of a pound. The production and processing of feed for livestock is responsible for 45% of livestock emissions. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, 26% of ice-free land on Earth is used for livestock.
Perhaps we should focus on what we do not eat, rather than what we do. The USDA determined that 30-40% of all food produced in the United States is wasted. This unused food is, of course, then transported to landfills, where it produces methane gas – another greenhouse gas. As a result, landfills are the third largest producers of methane gas in the United States.
To help combat this issue, the USDA and EPA (if it survives), hope to see a 50% reduction in total waste by the year 2030 with the Food Recovery Challenge. Businesses can pledge to report the amount of food wasted to the EPA and set a goal to reduce that number by following the steps of the healthy food recovery hierarchy.
So what can we do as individuals to reduce our carbon footprints? Eating consciously is certainly the first step. Know what you eat, where it comes from, and how it’s processed.
Buying locally is ideal if you want to reduce your carbon footprint. The National Farmers Market Directory is another great resource to help you find local produce. Occasionally, local markets can be pricier than super markets. However, that might make you stop and think about how much food you actually need.
Reduce the amount of food you waste
Follow the steps of the Food Recovery Hierarchy. When dining out, the Eat Well Guide provides you with sustainable restaurants (in addition to farms and markets) in your area.
Go vegan (or reduce your consumption of animal products)
In addition to reducing waste, limit or eliminate the amount of animal products you consume, which is crucial to reducing your carbon footprint. By doing so, you’ll help the planet as well as yourself. According to a recent study, consuming 10 servings of fruits and vegetables will reduce your risk of heart disease, heart attack, and cancer. Healthy food is always one of the main results of good health.
Calculate your carbon footprint
Use a carbon footprint calculator (yes, they are available) to determine exactly how much your current choices affect the environment.
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