Nutritionist in NYC Gives Tips to Reduce Carbon Footprint

Meatless Mondays and Eating In-Season Fruits and Vegetables are Healthy, Sustainable Eating Choices

If someone told you that you could improve your health, reduce your carbon footprint, and create a positive difference in your life and environment by making a few simple changes, you’d probably think it was an election year. June 5th is World Environment Day, and we want to take a little time to reflect on how the ways we choose to live, eat, and recycle, take a toll on our planet. With some simple changes, we really can make a difference.

Shrink That Footprint  has charted the different carbon foodprints of people depending on their diets: meat lovers, average, no beef, vegetarian and vegan diets. Not surprisingly, beef, lamb and cheese are some of the most carbon intensive things we eat, with out-of-season fruit and other meats not far behind. By going from a heavy meat diet to a vegetarian diet, we can reduce our carbon footprint in half.

But not all of us are ready to give up a good burger. That’s okay, too. There are ways to reduce our footprints by adapting our menus. A campaign that began back in World War I by Herbert Hoover has become a movement. Revived in 2003 by Sid Lerner, associated with Johns Hopkins and backed by thirty schools of public health, Mondays are going meatless. The Meatless Monday movement encourages people to cut back on meat consumption 15%. It’s as easy as one meatless, chicken-less, pork-less day in your diet.

The facts are irrefutable. Diets high in fruits and veggies and polyunsaturated fats lower your risk of cancer and heart disease. People who eat less red and processed meats are less likely to develop type 2 diabetes and more likely to have lower body mass. Moreover “the meat industry generates one-fifth of the manmade greenhouse gas emissions.” (www.meatlessmonday.com)

It’s not only eating meat that puts a strain on our planet. It is also important to be aware of the fruits and vegetables we consume. Oftentimes we think mileage is the big culprit – pears imported from Chile or bananas from Colombia. When thinking about eating “green”, we also have to consider the production as it’s estimated 1/3 of greenhouse emissions from produce come from pesticides and fertilizers. Or, as one study reported, eating tomatoes from UK greenhouses in December takes more fuel than shipping the ones, at that time of year, grown in Spain under the sun. Another way to eat healthier while leaving a lighter carbon footprint is to eat fruits that are in season and, hopefully, from a local farmer. Make a seasonal meal!

Sustainable eating, as Harvard’s School of Public Health contends, is not only possible but responsible. It offers us an opportunity to feed ourselves with a wider variety of fruits, vegetables, fish and other products than we’re accustomed to. For instance, Americans tend to eat the same fish varieties while there are literally hundreds of possibilities. “If consumers branched outside the preferred species and requested, instead, what the fish market could supply that day, we would be participating in a more sustainable relationship with the oceans – which would encourage fisheries, food distributors, and supermarkets alike to use what the oceans can sustainably supply.” Read more here. 

What were once considered radical ideas of Monkey Wrench Gang environmentalists have now become part of our collective consciousness. We’re now more aware than ever of how critical it is to take care of our health and planet, and by making just a few adjustments, we can live better, longer, and make sure the planet does the same. Knowledge is power.

Facts about the meat industry (John Vidal, 10 Ways Vegetarianism Can Help Save the Planet, The Guardian):

  • Humans eat about 230 million tons of animals each year.
  • An estimated 18% of world’s emissions (more than all transport combined) are created by the meat industry.
  • It takes 1,000 liters of water to produce 1 liter of milk.
  • Up to 1/3 of fossil fuels produced in the US go toward animal agriculture. (When petroleum prices go up, riots occur not because people want to drive their SUV in the desert but because of how it effects our food availability).
  • 2/3 of manmade ammonia (which is a big contributor to acid rain) is generated by livestock.

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