Sustainable Living & Sustainable Lifestyle

Food production ranks among the leading causes of climate change. By making some changes in our diet, we can help reduce carbon emissions.

What’s In a Climate Friendly Diet?

We all want to live more sustainable lifestyles, but finding ways to contribute is sometimes difficult. The problems seem too large for one person to do much about. But if enough people change their habits, they can lead to substantial changes in the Earth’s environment.

Switching to electric cars is one way. Using products made from recycled materials is another. But one method for helping the environment impacts us in a very personal way: a climate friendly diet.

 It’s something worth considering. That’s because food production is one of the biggest contributors to climate change. However, manufacturers won’t change their methods until people stop buying their products in large numbers. That has to start somewhere. Why not with you?

What’s In a Climate Friendly Diet?

Food Production Contributes to Greenhouse Gases

By some estimates, food production worldwide accounts for almost a quarter of all global greenhouse gas emissions. However, some foods generate more greenhouse gases than others. According to the World Resources Institute, two-thirds of all greenhouse gas emissions come from producing food from animals. Vegetables, fruits and legumes take less energy to produce and result in fewer emissions.

A United Nations study called for people, especially in developed countries, to eat less meat. A vegetarian or vegan diet appears much healthier for the environment, the report found.

Pete Smith, a lead author and environmental scientist from Aberdeen University, told The Irish Times, “We’re not telling people to stop eating meat. In some places people have no other choice. But it’s obvious that in the West we’re eating far too much.”

Ideas for a Climate Friendly Diet

The UN report ranked eight different diets in the order that they most benefit the planet. The list, in descending order of the most climate friendly diets, is as follows.

  • Vegan. This diet is completely plant-based, with no food sourced from animals.
  • Vegetarian: This diet includes some foods sourced from animals, such as eggs or milk, but is heavy on grains, vegetables, fruits and legumes.
  • Flexitarian. This compromise diet calls for removing 75 percent of the meat and dairy products in your diet and replacing it with fruits, vegetables and plant-based protein sources. It also calls for limited amounts of meat (such as just one portion of red meat per week).
  • Healthy diet. According to the report, this involves eating limited amounts of sugar, meat and dairy based on global dietary guidelines for good health.
  • Fair and frugal. This involves putting a cap on the number of calories you eat in a day and also eating a relatively low level of animal products.
  • Pescatarian. The vegetarian diet, but also eating seafood.
  • Climate carnivore. Replacing 75 percent of beef (and other ruminant meat) and dairy with other meat, such as chicken or turkey.
  • Mediterranean. This diet includes moderate amounts of vegetables, fruits, grains, sugars, oils, eggs, dairy, seafood, moderate amounts of poultry, pork, lamb and beef.

Another Perspective From New York Times

The New York Times also published information on climate friendly diets. They point out that just meat and dairy, especially from cows, account for 14.5 percent of greenhouse gas emissions. They added: “That’s roughly the same amount as the emissions from all the cars, trucks, airplanes and ships combined in the world today.”

Generally, they found that researchers report beef and lamb have the biggest environmental impact per gram of protein. Plant-based foods have the smallest.

If you’re looking for a place to start, they suggest simply eating less beef, lamb and cheese. They report that beans, pulses, grains and soy have the smallest environmental impact. If you like seafood, the Times also reported that anchovies, sardines, herring, tuna, pollock, cod, and haddock have a lower carbon footprint than chicken or pork. They also write that mollusks, such as clams and oysters, are low-carbon choices

All this information provides a place to start when trying to create a climate friendly diet. Basically, less red meat and cheese can get the ball rolling. While you should consult with your doctor about dietary choices, many of these changes also can lead to a healthier diet not only for the environment, but for you.

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