Eating green food will save the world from an environmental disaster

There is a popular belief that by buying an environmentally friendly car, we are saving the world from an environmental disaster. There is some truth in this. But only a share. Planetary ecology is threatened not only by cars, but also … ordinary food. Few people know that every year the US food industry releases about 2,8 tons of carbon dioxide during production, providing the average American family with traditional food. And this despite the fact that trips by car to the same family emit 2 tons of the same gas. So, even from a practical point of view, there is a faster and cheaper option to contribute to saving the environment – to switch to a diet with a minimum content of carbon.

The agricultural complex of the world emits about 30% of all carbon dioxide. They create the greenhouse effect. This is far more than all vehicles emit. So when it comes to how to reduce your carbon footprint today, it’s safe to say that what you eat matters just as much as what you drive. There is another important fact in favor of a low-carbon “diet”: greens are good for us. By themselves, foods that leave a large “carbon footprint” (red meat, pork, dairy products, chemically processed snacks) are overloaded with fat and calories. While a “green” diet should include vegetables, fruits, and whole grains.

Food production for McDonald’s releases more carbon than, as we have said, driving a car out of town. However, to appreciate the scale, you need to understand how huge and energy-intensive the global food industry is. More than 37% of the entire planet’s land is used for agriculture, most of this territory used to be forests. Deforestation leads to an increase in carbon content. Fertilizers and machinery also leave a significant carbon footprint, as do sea-going vehicles that deliver groceries directly to your table. It takes on average 7-10 times more fossil fuel energy to produce and deliver food than we get from eating that food.

The most effective way to reduce your menu’s carbon footprint is to eat less meat, especially beef. Raising livestock requires much more energy than growing cereals, fruits or vegetables. For every calorie of energy contained in such food, 2 calories of fossil fuel energy are required. In the case of beef, the ratio can be as high as 80 to 1. What’s more, most livestock in the United States is raised on a huge amount of grain – 670 million tons in 2002. And the fertilizers used to grow beef, for example, create additional environmental problems, including runoff that leads to dead spots in coastal waters, like in the Gulf of Mexico. Livestock raised on grain emits methane, a greenhouse gas that is 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide.

In 2005, a University of Chicago study found that if one person stopped eating meat and switched to a vegetarian diet, they could save the same amount of carbon dioxide as if they swapped a Toyota Camry for a Toyota Prius. It is clear that reducing the amount of red meat consumed (and Americans eat more than 27 kg of beef a year) also has a positive effect on health. Experts estimate that replacing 100 grams of beef, one egg, 30 grams of cheese daily with the same amount of fruits, vegetables and grains would reduce fat absorption and increase fiber intake. At the same time, 0,7 hectares of arable land would be saved, and the amount of animal waste would be reduced to 5 tons.

It is important to understand: what you eat means no less than where this food comes from. Our food travels an average of 2500 to 3000 km to get from the land to the supermarket, but this journey accounts for only 4% of food’s carbon footprint. “Eat simpler foods that use fewer resources to produce, eat more vegetables and fruits, and less meat and dairy products,” says Keith Gigan, nutritionist and author of the soon-to-be-published book Eat Healthy and Lose Weight. “It’s simple.”

Installing solar panels or buying a hybrid may be out of our reach, but we can change what goes into our bodies today – and decisions like these matter to the health of our planet and ourselves.

According to The Times

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