Live Well
April 2018

A Responsible Eater’s Guide to Reducing Their Carbon Footprint

I watched Paul Hawken speak about his book, Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming, and his organization www.drawdown.org on the Edible Education 101 class offered at UC Berkeley. Drawdown is a compendium of all the things we can do to re-sequester (or, draw-down) carbon, one of the main causes of climate change, which is putting us and our planet in great peril.

The book is broken out into eight sections and, within each, the authors highlight different solutions to re-sequester carbon, from wind turbines to educating girls to building with wood. Interestingly, of the top ten solutions, three relate to food. They include reducing food waste (#3), adopting a plant-rich diet (#4) and silvopasture (the integration of forests into pasture land, #9). Of these, the top two — reducing food waste and adopting a plant-rich diet — are within our control as responsible consumers and eaters.

On the topic of food waste, according to the book, “…a third of the food raised or prepared does not make it from factory or farm to fork…The food we waste contributes 4.4 gigaton of carbon dioxide equivalent into the atmosphere each year — roughly 8 percent of total anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions.”(Drawdown, p.42) As consumers, we need to become much more aware of how much food we purchase, and try to limit our food waste.

The book also notes that, “The most conservative estimates suggest that raising livestock accounts for nearly 15% of global greenhouse gases emitted each year.” (Drawdown, p.39) This figure doesn’t take into account the effects of deforestation to create additional pasture land. There are also health benefits to eating less meat in general. As consumers, this doesn’t mean that we need to forego meat altogether, we just need to become more mindful of eating less and from better sources.

Finally, if we were to minimize food waste by 50% and adopt plant-rich diets by 2050, approximately 26.2 gigatons (1 gigaton is the equivalent of 400,000 Olympic-sized pools) of carbon dioxide emissions could be prevented. If everyone did their part in a small way, we could make such a significant impact on the world! As responsible eaters, here are a few other things that we can do:

  • Consider eating grains other than rice – or purchase rice grown using techniques that minimize methane releases, such as System of Rice Intensification method because current methods or rice cultivateion are responsible for significant global methane emissions.
  • Compost your food waste – in your own garden or at a local composting facility because composting nourishes the soil and a well-nourished soil helps sequester carbon.
  • Buy as much of your food locally and seasonally – to minimize the carbon emissions from transporting food across the globe, and to support small farms and farmers.

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READ PAST ARTICLES

Worthwhile

Here is a compilation of photos that I’ve taken over the past year that highlights the bounty (and beauty) of the food produced on small farms in the Northeast.

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Learn

Here are a few of my favorite articles for this month:

Given the extensive carbon footprint meat production generates, it’s time to start finding sustainable solutions. Here’s an interesting piece on the idea of putting a carbon tax on beef. READ ARTICLE

Check out this great new website by the Environmental Working Group. It identifies all the personal care and consumer products that have been verified by the Group. READ ARTICLE

A few months ago, I wrote that many large food companies were leaving the largest lobbying group (the Grocery Manufacturers’ Association) because it was not representative of consumer demand. Now it appears that the GMA might be on its way down. This is a great article on the impact this will have on consumers. READ ARTICLE

Since a big theme of this month’s blog post is waste and minimizing waste, I thought this article would be article would make for an interesting read. It highlights a non-profit in New York City that transforms excess foods from restaurants into meals. READ ARTICLE

There really is no way around it – the best way to lose weight, feel better, and avoid health issues is to cut out the sugar from our diets. Here is a great article with some tips on how to do just that. READ ARTICLE