One thing that opened my eyes while studying for my nutrition certification is how our diet, and habits surrounding it, may contribute to global warming. The text book outlines the cause and effects of several dieting habits that we as consumers are all=to-used to.
Is the American Diet Contributing to a Warmer Planet?
Our food choices, which include production, transport, processing, packaging, storage, and preparation, might be a significant contributor to global warming. The “food sector” in the United States accounts for 19 percent of total U.S. energy use each year. The average American diet creates 2.8 tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions per person per year, which far surpasses the 2.2 tons of CO2 emissions generated by Americans driving.1
The highly processed foods that have become a big part of our diets often require barrels of oil to create and deliver to our dinner plates and are often low in nutrient value as well. Your food choices not only contribute to your state of health, both current and future, but also are a significant part of your overall carbon footprint. The good news is that healthy, flavorful, and good-to-eat foods are entirely possible while also easing the load of your carbon footprint. Here are some tips for lean and green eating:
• Eat less red meat. The amount of beef in your diet is one of the biggest factors in your global impact.
• Ban the bottled water. Liquids are one of the heaviest items to ship, and their plastic containers are filling landfills.
• Snack sustainably. This is good for your waist as well as your waste. Ditch the processed snack foods and choose whole, real foods instead.
• Be an efficient shopper. Minimize shopping trips to different stores if possible, reuse bags, and shop the bulk bins.
• Become a locavore. Eat locally (or regionally) and seasonally to the extent that you can.
• Compost your food waste. Food scraps are about 12 percent of a family’s household waste and emit powerful warming gases in landfills. Regenerate them into healthy soil instead!
• Cook in more, take out less. Dining out significantly increases a food’s carbon footprint, especially if there is packaging.
• Practice “hara hachi bu.” The Okinawan phrase hara hachi bu translates as “eat until you are eight parts full.” Slow down while you eat, and give your stomach time to tell your brain you are full.
• Limit highly packaged, single-serving snacks, foods, and beverages. Hit the bulk aisle and bulk up instead.
• Pack a PB&J for lunch. Make your own lunch and bring it with you. If it’s peanut butter and jelly or almond butter with local jam on whole-grain bread, it’s fast, easy, healthy, and greener, too.
1 Eshel G, Martin PA. Diet, energy and global warming. Earth Interactions. 2006;10(9):1–17.
Source: Data from Geagan K. Go Green, Get Lean: Trim Your Waistline with the Ultimate Low-Carbon Footprint Diet. Emmaus, PA: Rodale; 2009.