by Carl Mears, CCP
I’ve heard that a good way to help with climate change is to modify my diet to reduce my carbon footprint (foodprint?). When I tried to look into this, I found a lot of confusing, contradictory information. Vegan vs. Omnivore. Local meat vs. imported vegetable. Beef, pork, chicken, fish, dairy! Organic vs conventional? It’s too much. Can someone please tell me what I can eat?
-Confused about Cooking
I agree. Sometimes discussing diet seems more like discussing religion that discussing science. But some things are fairly certain. We know that a plant-based diet has a smaller carbon footprint than a diet high in red meat. But it gets more complicated. For example, if you are trying to figure out how much better grass-fed beef is than conventional grain-fed beef it turns out that the carbon footprint of the grass-fed beef depends on a lot of details about where the farm is located and how the farmer treats his soil.
But there is one thing that even the most die-hard carnivore can do — work to eliminate food waste. Worldwide, about one-third of all food is wasted. If food waste was a country (probably a smelly one), it would have the third largest carbon footprint of any country, right behind the U.S. and China. And a large portion of this is food that goes bad in our kitchens before we get around to eating it. By working to not buy too much food and eat what we already have before we buy more we can help prevent this waste. I once spent a year living where all the food stores were a mile away, about 300 vertical feet below my house, and I didn’t have a car. When I had to carry everything by hand, walking uphill I tended to buy less. And that year, almost nothing went bad in my fridge!
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