How environmentally friendly is your diet? Craig Cahill takes a look.
The steak is the ultimate phallic symbol, the steak is synonymous with stereotypical male culture. But that’s a harmless trope right? Does eating a steak really harm anyone?
Well, that’s where things get interesting—our diets affect the world around us much more than we think.
According to the contents section “Atmosphere and Climate” of the 2006 report by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations entitled “Livestock’s long shadow”, Livestock are cited as being responsible for 18% of the greenhouse gasses which pollute our planet.
So what does your steak have to do with this? Actually, it plays quite a big role in all this.
The more meat we eat, the more livestock we require to fuel our environmentally unfriendly habits, and the more livestock we require the more pollution that’s caused.
The solution is simple: Eat less meat!
A lot of environmentalists who wish to combat climate change and reduce our collective carbon footprint usually take matters into their own hands by becoming vegetarians or even more environmentally-friendly vegans. I understand in the world we live in most people don’t view this as a viable option, but there’s an alternative. Why not become a part time veggie enthusiast?
The idea is to have meat-free days where you can explore the wondrous world of a meatless diet, experiment with different foods like humus, pastas and other delicious vegetarian and meat-free dishes.
Our perceived notion of vegetarianism as an unmanly activity is just silly; the world we live in is literally suffering due to our lack of responsibility in choosing environmentally friendly foods. And the story of carbon production doesn’t stop there—don’t forget about the fact after livestock is reared it needs to be put into production lines before it reaches our plates.
According to the Food and Agriculture Association’s report on the “principal of meat processing technology” meat is not just simply cut up and sent out to patrons, it goes through many stages of treatment both chemical and physical. These include:
- Utilization of spices/non-meat additives
- Stuffing/filling into casings or other containers
- Fermentation and drying
- Heat treatment
These processes use energy and add to the meats overall environmental impact. Not all meats are created equal, however—cows are the biggest offenders of methane production, which causes effects such as global warming and acid rain.
Switching to an environmentally friendly diet is essential to preserve our planet and its vast ecosystems. Nothing beats going vegan, it is by far the method which garners the greatest results in terms of reducing ones carbon footprint in regards to diet. Even if this option isn’t for everybody, the solution of becoming a part-time vegan surely is.
Commit to avoiding dairy, meat and other animal products for just two or three days a week. A small commitment like this by large amounts of people has a dramatic effect on our impact on the planet.
Some of the most carbon friendly foods one can find commonly are different beans such as haricot, kidney beans, lentils and chickpeas. Other environmentally friendly switches you can make are to swap out your cow milk for rice or oat milk. They honestly do take some adjusting but after time you’ll wonder why you didn’t switch sooner.
The ultimate way to reduce your carbon footprint when eating though is to eat locally sourced foods as much as possible. The less distance your food has to travel to get to your dinner plate the better. A short overseas flight to transport food between continents produces about 30 Kg/kilometre of Co2.
So let’s say mangos are flown all the way from China to New York, these delicious juicy treats travel over 11,000 kilometres to reach you. That’s 330,000 kg of co2 released into the atmosphere just in transit. That’s a lot of Co2 attached to this fruit.
Giving up mangos is something I wasn’t prepared to do; my compromise was to eat them in moderation. Instead of once a week I’ll have a mango maybe once a month, or even once every second month, and now they feel like even more of a treat.
Our diet in regards to naturally produced food such as meat, vegetables and fruit is not where this story ends. Chocolate bars, packs of crisps, ice-cream, any processed foods—all of these products are produced in production lines, and they create a lot of emissions.
Take a trip to the good folks at rankabrand.org and you can check out the carbon footprint of many of your favourite tasty treats along with a lot more interesting information about if ingredients are ethically sourced, do companies have plans in place to reduce their carbon footprint, and a lot more.
It’s good to be in the know about how your food is produced—and in today’s society where information is but a click of a mouse away there’s really no excuse to justify not knowing.
Last but definitely not least let’s take a look at packaging.
Do we really need our tomatoes to come in a plastic tray that’s again wrapped in plastic? Seems like overkill to me when the same tomatoes could be purchased loose where no nasty plastic packaging is involved.
What I’m getting at here is that whilst some packaging is needed in some cases avoid overkill packaging and opt for cardboard over plastic. More energy is used in creating packaging not to mention when the food is consumed the packaging creates waste, which in turn has to be recycled or in the worst case scenario becomes pollution and litter.
The solution for that is to simply be conscious of the packaging of the food you buy. The less the better.
So if you really care about our environment ditch the manly bravado and have a salad, eat more fruit and veg, and be kind to our planet, because it really is the only one we’ve got.
photo: thelesleyshow / flickr