Sunday, 11 April 2021

From farm to plate: Climate change is impacted by your carbon foodprint

Food for thought: What's your carbon foodprint and how can you reduce it?

Food for thought: What's your carbon foodprint and how can you reduce it?


Here's something for you to chew on. One of the easiest ways to fight climate change is with a diet change. We all have a carbon foodprint. What we put in our mouth leaves a mark on our planet. Deforestation to make space for animal agriculture, energy and water consumption, transporting and storing food, the production process, pesticide use, and waste runoff created by farming, and unsustainable packaging are ways our food can harm the environment. Climate change will threaten our food security, causing an increase in weather-related disasters like floods and droughts. To keep food on our plates we need to take climate change off the menu.


The global food system is responsible for a quarter of all greenhouse gas emissions. When we change how we eat, we show the industry how we want to be treated as consumers. Not every diet is suitable for everyone, so some diet changes don't work for everyone, and that's okay. Some things that may influence a diet change include:

  • Affordability: Cost and personal finances play a big part in diet decisions. Processed food is more expensive than whole foods, and processed food has a larger carbon foodprint. 
  • Access: Not everyone lives beside a farmers market like I do. Access to certain foods can limit choices.
  • Culture: Many of our food decisions are influenced by how we were fed by our family. Some cultures restrict certain foods and require others.
  • Health: Chronic illness and other health concerns can dictate diet decisions.

Even with these limitations, a climate-friendly diet change is still possible. First, we need to determine the impact we are making with our food choices: our carbon foodprint. So what is your carbon footprint? How do you find that information out?

Food for thought: What's your carbon foodprint and how can you reduce it?


How to calculate your carbon foodprint

There are tools available to give you insight into how your diet leaves its mark on the planet. EarthDay.org shared several online carbon footprint calculation tools you can use to determine your impact:

  • BBC foodprint calculator: This calculator allows you to select a specific food or drink product and how often you consume it. It calculates how that food contributes to your yearly greenhouse gas foodprint. It also shows what consuming that food equals compared to driving a car and the amount of water and land use the consumption of that food is equal to. CLICK HERE to try it!
  • Eat Low Carbon quiz: If you're more interested in finding out the foodprint of an entire meal, try the Eat Low Carbon food scores. Commonly eaten meals are listed and you can hover over them t find out their grams in CO2 points. You can also take a quiz to test your knowledge about meals and find out if you know which meals have a lower foodprint. CLICK HERE to learn more!
  • Food Carbon Emissions Calculator: This tool is especially useful for businesses because it's more comprehensive. It factors in transportation time,the quantity of food, and consumer waste percentage when giving the foodprint of a specific product. CLICK HERE to try it!
  • Foodprint.org Quiz: This quiz is more generalized and focuses on the everyday diet choices and your food industry knowledge and less on specific products, meals, and carbon emission equations. It's a good starting point for anyone considering a green diet change. CLICK HERE to take the quiz!
  • Meat Calculator: Compared to other food, meat has the greatest environmental impact. This calculator shows you how much meat you eat in a year, the eco-impact, and how much antibiotics you will consume on average based on your meat consumption. CLICK HERE to try it!

Reducing meat consumption should be at the top of the list for anyone who is converting to an Eco-diet. While the global food system is responsible for a quarter of all greenhouse gas emissions, scientists estimate that 80% of that is created by animal agriculture. In Canada, 10% of greenhouse gas emissions are from crop and livestock production, and that's excluding the emissions from the use of fossil fuels or from fertilizer production linked to farming. 

Food for thought: What's your carbon foodprint and how can you reduce it?


Beef has the worst impact on the environment compared to other meats. An estimated 1,800 gallons of water go into a single pound of beef, which equals 105 eight-minute showers a day! Water use is not the only concern. Deforestation to create space for animal husbandry is a huge contributor to climate change. A study in the journal Science reported that livestock provides just 18% of calories worldwide, but takes up 83% of our farmland. When we factor in methane gas emissions, species loss from pesticide use, pollution from waste run-off, and soil degradation, we have to ask ourselves: Is my cheeseburger worth it? 


I like cheeseburgers just as much as the next person. Occasionally I order one from a restaurant, but I made a commitment not to purchase beef when I do groceries. By choosing to eat chicken instead of beef, I was able to cut my carbon foodprint in half! 

From farm to plate: Climate change is impacted by your carbon foodprint


How to change your diet to be more eco-friendly

It's no surprise that eating a plant-based diet is the number one way to reduce your carbon foodprint. It's also great for your heart: People who consume the most plant-based foods overall have a 32% less chance of dying from heart disease. You don't need to become completely vegetarian or vegan to do this- although that's ideal. Become a 'flexitarian' and make sure 75% of your plate is made up of non-meat products. This is how I eat! It's possible to introduce more plant-based foods into your diet in many ways, like participating in Meatless Monday or a meatless month. Try to replace 20% of your meat consumption with plant-based food to start. Other diet climate solutions include:

  • Become a conscious consumer. Support local farms and food producers. Purchase antibiotic-free meats and avoid supporting factory farms. Purchase fair-trade items. Shop at farmer's markets. 
  • Reduce or eliminate beef consumption. Switch to game meats, chicken, or pork.
  • Don't eat commercial fish. The commercial fishing industry is destroying the world's oceans. 
  • Eat less junk food and frozen food. The processing of these foods has a huge carbon footprint. Whole foods are more sustainable- and healthier!
  • Reduce food waste. An estimated 30% of the world's food is wasted and ends up in landfills. Chop up vegetables that are over-ripened, portion them and freeze them for later use. Meal prep and freeze meals. Don't over-buy. Eat leftovers.
  • Compost plant-based food. This is a great solution to organic food waste. The waste is returned to the earth, where it came from.
  • Eat out less. Restaurants have a large carbon footprint and you can't control what goes on your plate. Restaurants also create a lot of food waste.
  • Purchase fruits and vegetables that are in-season. Purchasing local, in-season produce should cut down the transportation of getting the food from the farm to your plate. 
  • Avoid single-use plastic. Food consumption creates a huge amount of our plastic litter. Pack your own reusable straw and utensils. Don't use plastic water bottles- bring your own instead. Decline utensils when ordering take-out. Order from restaurants that use paper packaging instead of styrofoam. 
  • Grow your own vegetables, fruit, and herbs. If possible, grow your own food. It doesn't matter if you have a small garden or a large one, you can still control some of your food from seed to plate. For apartment dwellers, some food and most herbs can grow easily potted inside. You can also see if there is a community garden you can take advantage of. 
  • Cut back on dairy. I know, I love cheese too! But the dairy industry has a big carbon footprint. Opt for almond milk in your coffee.

Food for thought: What's your carbon foodprint and how can you reduce it?


People are hungry for climate-friendly food choices

The problem with our global food system requires an industry shift. We as consumers care deeply about the environmental impact our diet choices have, but many of us are hungry for more information. According to a Yale Program on Climate Change Communication report, more than 51% of Americans surveyed said they would eat more plant-based foods if they had more information about the environmental impacts of their food choices, but 70% rarely or never talk about this issue with friends or family. 


Putting pressure on the food industry is the best way to shift the system, and that starts at the top. We need to ask our government to add the carbon footprint of the food product to the nutrition label. Many eco-minded food manufacturers are already doing this, but labeling the carbon footprint a food item has should be mandatory for all products. We can empower consumers to make sustainable choices by educating them about the carbon footprint of products they purchase. 


I'm making a commitment to further reduce my meat consumption. I will no longer eat commercially caught fish. I will continue to shop at my local farmer's market, purchase in-season, local produce, and avoid plastic food packaging as much as possible. What commitments will you make?

From farm to plate: Climate change is impacted by your carbon foodprint



I've sent a letter to Ottawa MP Catherine McKenna (Catherine.McKenna@parl.gc.ca) outlining the impact that food has made on the climate crisis and asked her to bring forth the idea of carbon footprint labeling on nutrition labels to parliament.


I've also sent a 'letter to the editor' to several media and political publishers using the David Suzuki Foundation 'Get Your Opinion on Climate Action Published' online action. It's easy to use and a simple way anyone can send their climate solution to multiple publications at once. CLICK HERE to send your opinion via the David Suzuki Foundation. None of us are going to stop eating, but we can start making more informed choices. 

From farm to plate: Climate change is impacted by your carbon foodprint

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From farm to plate: Climate change is impacted by your carbon foodprint


1 comment:

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