A low carbon diet has a greater impact on the environment than driving a different car or switching out your light bulbs. Green eating (also called sustainable eating) is about making food choices that keep the planet healthy and can help slow global warming.
Yes, your choices at the burger joint, beverage aisle, and coffee shop (to name a few) DO make a difference...and not just to your waistline!
Your choices at the coffee counter, chocolate aisle, banana bin, dairy case, or burger joint linger for much longer than on your lips or hips. They reverberate across the planet and ultimately affect global warming.
A minute on the lips, forever on the hips...
...and forever an impact on the planet.
Or more simply put, "everything effects everything."
The choices you make every day have an impact on the planet:
- The car you drive
- Whether you turn the lights off when you leave a room or not
- If you print on both sides of a piece of paper or only one side
- Your food choices
These are only to name a few, but you get the point.
Your food choices are affecting the planet. Mine are too. There's no getting around it. However, there IS a way to lessen the impact.
Low Carbon Diet: Understanding Basic Terminology
Your daily choices (food choices and many behaviors) result in the release of carbon dioxide (CO2), methane gas, and/or nitrous oxide into the environment. These gasses are called "greenhouse gases."
Very simply put, these greenhouse gases trap heat in the atmosphere and therefore contribute to global warming.
The term "carbon footprint" is used to help you get a grasp of how your personal choices are contributing to greenhouse gas emission and therefore how your choices are impacting the planet. My suggestions here will help you lighten the carbon footprint that results from your eating habits.
The term "fossil fuel" is a general term for buried combustible geologic deposits of organic materials, formed from decayed plants and animals that have been converted to crude oil, coal, natural gas, or heavy oils by exposure to heat and pressure in the earth's crust over hundreds of millions of years.
Whew that's a mouthful!!
Simply put, it takes millions of years to form the material that becomes crude oil that then becomes gasoline that is used to get food and snacks into your mouth. It takes 98 tons of prehistoric buried plant material to produce just 1 gallon of gasoline!
The burning of fossil fuels by humans is the largest source (94%) of national carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions.
You likely know that driving your car results in CO2 emissions. But have you ever stopped to think how your dietary choices are doing the same?
From Field to Plate - It All Requires Fuel
Think about the path that all foods must take to get to your table, and how fuel is associated with each step:
- Production (growing, fertilizers, pesticides which are petroleum based)
- Harvesting (uses fuel powered equipment)
- Heating/Cooling (to ensure food safety during transport)
- Processing (equipment, waste management, packaging)
- Transportation (may occur in multiple stages)
- Storage (warehouses for distribution and/or grocery stores)
Remember, it takes fossil fuel to produce gasoline. Burning gasoline causes CO2 emissions.
On a global scale, food transportation is now among the biggest and fastest growing source of green house gas emissions.
Overall, more than 800 million tons of food is shipped around the planet each year, 4 times as much as in the 1960’s.
In the US, food is traveling 25% further than it did just 20 yrs ago. The average trip overs somewhere between 1500-2500 miles from farm to table.
The average American diet creates 2.8 tons of CO2 emissions each year per person, which has surpassed the 2.2 tons generated by Americans driving. (Are you starting to see the need for a low carbon diet yet?)
That means your food choices, and all the energy it takes to give you these choices (remember that production, transport, processing, packaging, storage), is now the single largest contributor to global warming, eclipsing even our love affair with our SUVs.
Granted, all food choices are going to have some impact on the planet. The idea of a low carbon diet is to lessen the impact.
So in the world of low carbon diet discussions you'll here phrases that include verbage such as:
- "How much carbon do your food choices put into the atmosphere?"
- "How much fossil fuel is in that treat?"
- "How can you lighten your carbon footprint?"
These are all ways of reminding you that your eating habits are related to global warming. And the time is NOW to adopt a low carbon diet!
Never forget, "Everything affects everything."
There is some good news here though! Your diet offers a surprsingly large number of things you can do to immediately lighten your carbon footprint.
Can My Eating Habits Really Be Warming the Planet?
What to do?
Follow a Low Carbon Diet
Of greatest importance:
- Avoid/limit intake of beef
- Avoid/limit intake dairy products: cheese, milk, yogurt
- Avoid/limit packaged processed foods
- Avoid/limit bottled water
There are certainly even more changes you can make in your diet to lighten your carbon footprint, but these are the biggest offenders to the planet and global warming.
I'll expand on them in days to come.
Low Carbon Eating: A Note About "Avoid" and "Limit"
I'm a dietitian. I've worked for over 20 years helping people change their eating habits and I know first hand how difficult change can be. I've witnessed too many clients who miss out on being "better" because they think they need to be "best."
In other words, dietary changes do not need to be black or white, "all-or-nothing."
For example, "avoiding" beef in order to green your diet would be the best case scenario. However, if that's not going to happen, then "limiting" how much beef you eat is still acceptable.
Maybe start by substituting chicken for beef just one day a week. One day. That's a great start!
Don't miss out on an opportunity to be good because you think you need to be great.
Every small change makes a difference to your health and to the planet.
Awake to these connections… and let them inspire you!
More of My Professional Advice You May Find Useful
Food Detox: Lower Your Exposure
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