Eating our way to Extinction

When it comes to diet, we are all very different. Some of us choose to be vegan or vegetarian, others choose pescatarian or the gluten-free way, and some of us are just die hard carnivores. But whatever our eating habits may be, it would be ignorant to ignore the carbon consequences of what we consume. Food’s carbon footprint refers to the greenhouse gas emissions produced throughout the lifecycle of the food. This would include the growing, rearing, farming, processing, transporting, storing, cooking and disposing of the food we eat.

source: PETA

When we’re out food shopping we are often caught thinking about diet. What’s healthy for our bodies? What’s trendy? Are avocados still Instagram worthy? Of course, we are what we eat. But what is often overlooked is the truth that we live in what we leave. Modern agricultural practices have resulted in polluted soil, air and water; eroded soil; dependence on imported oil; and loss of biodiversity. On top of all of this, reports suggest that food systems contribute between 20-30% of global greenhouse gases.

But what does this all mean and how can we help?

Scientists from the EAT- Lancet Commission have come up with another diet variation which is known as “Flexitarian”.  This diet has been dubbed the optimal diet for people and planet. This planetary diet has scientific targets consistent with many traditional eating patterns and allows for local interpretation. The figure below shows a breakdown of what the planetary diet looks like.

source: EAT-Lancet Commission

But why should I change my diet if no-one else is?

One of the main reasons people give for not changing their diet for the environment, is because they question what difference it will make in the grand scheme of things. “If I change my diet, Asda are still going to stock beef, and someone else is just going to buy it”. Well, what we should be focusing on more is how supermarkets are stocking different food as a result of consumer demand. Usually in supermarkets we now see “free from” sections; soy milk or almond milk are more readily available as well as meat alternatives. When consumers make decisions, supermarkets respond. Another reason why we should move away from the dependence on meat, is that we can’t see the carbon impact when we look at a steak. We can’t see that the carbon equivalent of having a beef roast once a week is a return flight to Malaga, or having eggs every day is the carbon equivalent of a 500 mile road-trip, or even that glass of wine a few times a week could heat a UK home for 10 days.

So next time you go out on your weekly shop, give a little thought to the planet.

“When the last tree has been cut down, the last fish caught, the last river poisoned, only then will we realise that one cannot eat money.” –Cree Proverb

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