This article was written by Kornelija Gruodyte, a guest author for Carbon Down. You can connect with her work here.
Before we ring the alarm, this post’s intention isn’t to turn every single one of you vegan (unless you want to of course). So hang onto your cheese and your chicken wings and let us explore how your plate may be contributing to climate change, and what you can do about it.
So how exactly do our food choices prevent the impending doom of humanity’s end? Here’s a quick fact check.
1. Greenhouse Emissions
So animals fart. A lot. And breathe. Soon enough all of this turns pretty gassy. According to the UN Food and Agricultural Organization animal agriculture is responsible for 14–18 % of all greenhouse gas emissions. That’s more emissions than what cars, planes and ships produce combined.
All these animals need a place to live and graze. And if you’ve ever seen a cow or pig you know they are big, chunky creatures. To make more land for them, we cut down trees which are actually pretty necessary to catch that pesky CO2, which in large amounts leads to global warming. In fact, deforestation for animal agriculture can contribute to 2.4 billion tonnes of CO2 worldwide annually.
3. Increased Meat Production
From 1971 to 2010 we have seen the global meat production triple to 600 billion pounds. By 2050 we’ll be producing 1.2 trillion pounds of meat yearly, which needless to say is a lot of meat. Like “ more than your dad eats during Christmas dinner “ a lot. All these animals will need more land and more food, which loops back to more deforestation and greenhouse emissions. All this equates to lots of not so nice things like melting ice caps, sea levels rising and cities submerged underwater. Have I put you off chicken yet?
Before we all submerge into an existential crisis thinking about our imminent doom, let’s take a step back and evaluated the situation from a personal perspective. Everyone becoming vegan or vegetarian, although admirable, is not realistic. So let’s deconstruct ways to minimize your impact real quick.
1. Eat Less Meat
You can still have your ham sandwiches, you just don’t need to have them daily. Even if you swap one meat based meal out for something vegetarian you’re making a huge impact. If a four person family skips steak once a week it has the same impact as taking your car off the road for almost three months. So look up a veggie recipe and do the environment a favor 🌍
2. Eat meat with a smaller carbon footprint
Just like a lot of things in life, not all meats have been created equal. Lamb, beef, cheese, and pork actually produce 4 times more greenhouse gases than other animal produce. Those animals produce a lotttt of methane, which is very powerful at clinging onto heat. Kinda like one of those crazy exes that don’t want to let go ( you can check all the sciency stuff by clicking on the links). So if you’re going to have meat often, try chicken 🐔 instead if you want to reduce your environmental impact.
3. Shop Local
An item's carbon footprint is measured from cradle to grave. This means we look at how much resources are required to make certain products and the distance it travels. The less transportation involved, the less CO2 emissions we are contributing which equals less damage to our environment. By opting to shop in places that support local produce, you reduce your food miles and help local farmers.
4. Reduce Food Waste
Quick fun fact. Every year people throw away 6.7 million tonnes of food a year. If food waste was its own country, with little rotten tomatoes roaming the land, it would have the third largest carbon footprint after countries such as the USA and China. That’s big 🙅. By only buying the amount of food you’re going to eat, you save yourself some money and save the environment. It’s a win-win.
5. Go vegetarian or vegan
If you have the resources available to you, a plant-based diet may be an option to consider. By stopping eating meat all together you reduce your carbon footprint as we help eliminate all those not so fun things we talked about in the facts section. So do a little research, and see if a meatless diet is something for you.
You can neutralize your dietary emissions using the Carbon Down App. Reverse the climate crisis.