Food: Are you as green as you thought?
Your favorite meal may not be as green as you thought, even if all your produces come from organic sources.
Food miles refer to the food travels before being consumed and one of its first appearances was in the 1994 “Food Miles Report: The dangers of long distance transport.” Reducing food miles can be a good way to reduce carbon footprint because it limits the emissions caused by trucks, planes, boats and trains that transport food around the world.
For example, it takes 8,629km for a Brie cheese to reach Bogota from Paris. This is equivalent to 1,25 tons of CO2 being released into the atmosphere.
Measuring our carbon footprint is another way to know how many greenhouse gases are farming, production and transport of goods releasing into the atmosphere. Scientists express this as the volume of carbon dioxide produced per 100 grams serving of food. Following this, meat and dairy produce the largest damage, fruit and vegetables are the most environmentally friendly and grain based foods remain in the middle.
Nonetheless, this approach doesn’t consider the amount of energy the human body gets from these foods. Therefore, a paper by Adam Drewnowski and his colleagues from the University of Seattle published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition estimated the carbon emissions for every 100 calories of different foods. Viewed in this way the carbon footprint of a cake or a chocolate and even meat has less impact on the environment.
Here are some examples:
Bread: Produces 50g of CO2 per 100 calories you eat.
Chocolate: Produces 59g of CO2 per 100 calories you eat.
Eggs: Produces 440g of CO2 per 100 calories you eat.
Milk: Produces 351g of CO2 per 100 calories you eat.
Meat: Produces 248g of CO2 per 100 calories you eat.
Canned vegetables: Produces 787g of CO2 per 100 calories you eat.
This doesn’t justify people choosing cake over vegetables for a greener diet but it does help in making a more informed decision when creating your diet.
Instead, buying local is the key to a really having a greener and eco-friendly diet. Supporting local growers will reduce the carbon footprint your meal created, also taking the bus to do the groceries and even taking your own bags will help in reducing the impact.
Restaurants can also do their part in helping you have a greener diet through seasonality. Changing their menus with each season or including the produces in harvest during that time provides a variety, gives innovation and helps reduce the food miles in your plate.