(by Tarie Beldin, RD, LD)
As we begin the month of May…let us reflect back on April, on Earth Day, where we examine ways to conserve energy and take steps to save the planet….perhaps you have wondered – “does what I eat have an effect on my carbon footprint?”
To refresh your memory…a carbon footprint is defined as the amount of carbon dioxide (a greenhouse gas) that is given off from burning fossil fuels for lifestyle activities. Honestly, our society sometimes makes eating a recreational activity, so if we are concerned with reducing our carbon footprint, we need to educate ourselves about where our food comes from and how it is produced.
Research suggests that the more greenhouse gas produced, the higher the temperature at the lower levels of the atmosphere. This “global warming” can lead to extreme shifts in temperatures, droughts, blizzards, hurricanes and eventually a lower crop yield.
So just what is it about our food choices that increase the production of greenhouse gases, and what can we do about it?
- We throw out about 1/3 of the food we buy… which is approximately 400 lbs. per year. Most of this is due to overbuying. Rotting produce and leftovers decay in landfills; this is second only to paper waste in terms of volume.
- Think of how far your food travels and how it is produced. The more processed it is, the more energy used to produce it. The more paper/cardboard packaging it has, the greater the strain to forests. The farther away your food has to travel to get to your plate, the more fuel used for transportation and energy used for refrigeration.
- Eating a diet that contains a lot of animal products can also have a negative impact. Animals consume far more food than they produce and also strain the environment by consuming large amounts of water, and their waste products can pollute the air and water supply.
Here are just 2 suggestions that will not only help the planet, but improve your health as well.
- Eat more of a plant-based diet. Plants require less energy to produce and they can also help protect against disease.
- Buy local. Whether it is meat or melon – visit local farmer’s markets or become part of Community Supported Agriculture programs. Buying whole, unprocessed foods that are grown or produced close to home are better for you and the environment.
Small changes can make a difference, and if we all made these changes – each day…not just Earth Day… in time, we could make an impact in our environment.