Greenhouse Gas Emissions of American Diet Almost Halved

A simple diet change reduced diet-related greenhouse gas emissions of American adults between 2003 and 2018. The carobon footprint of their diets fell from 4 kilograms of CO2 equivalent to 2.45 kg CO2e over the 15 year study period. All it took was a slight reduction in meat consumption.

As an individual one of the biggest things you can do in the face of climate change is to change your diet. It’s easy and saves you money!

The main reason for this decline emerged clearly in the data: over this same period, daily beef consumption plummeted by an average 40% per person, which accounted for nearly half of the diet-related dip in emissions. But it wasn’t just beef: the data showed a slow shift away from all animal-based foods, including dairy, eggs, chicken, and pork—all of which US citizens gradually consumed less of in 2018 than 2003. 

This overall shift away from meat occurred slowly but steadily: on average, the food-related carbon footprint of US consumers declined by 127 grams each year of the study period.

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Save Forests by Removing Just One Item From Your Diet

We are what we eat, and right now many of us need to change who we are. Changing one’s diet can be one of the biggest things one does for the environment since we must eat everyday. Researchers have yet again shown that just removing red meat from your diet can make a big difference for the environment.

If removing meat from your diet is too much of a challenge then just reduce your consumption of it. Fighting climate change requires big groups of people making tiny changes so even doing a little can add up to a lot.

The team used a mathematical model that considered increases in population growth, income and livestock demand between 2020 and 2050. Under a business-as-usual scenario, the global increase in beef consumption would require the expansion of pasture areas for grazing and of cropland for feed production, which would double the annual rate of deforestation globally. Methane emissions and agricultural water use would also increase.

Replacing 20% of the world’s per-capita beef consumption with mycoprotein by 2050 would reduce methane emissions by 11% and halve the annual deforestation and associated emissions, compared with the business-as-usual scenario (see ‘Meat substitution’). The mitigating effects on deforestation are so great because, under this scenario, global demand for beef does not increase, so there is no need to expand pasture areas or cropland for feeding cattle, Humpenöder says.

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A Small Diet Change Makes a Big Difference

Phramacy

Absolutely no one is shocked by new research that concludes beef is the worst thing to eat. If we’re going to feed billions of people on the planet while also having a livable planet for billions then we all ought to consume less meat. Raising cattle only to slaughter is a wasteful use of land that can otherwise feed way more people and cause a lot less damage to the environment.

The production of food makes up a third of greenhouse gas emissions so just by making a small change to your diet you can make it easier on future generations to survive. Eat less meat, eat more vegetables.

The researchers built a database that provided a consistent emissions profile of 171 crops and 16 animal products, drawing data from more than 200 countries. They found that South America is the region with the largest share of animal-based food emissions, followed by south and south-east Asia and then China. Food-related emissions have grown rapidly in China and India as increasing wealth and cultural changes have led more younger people in these countries to adopt meat-based diets.

The paper’s calculations of the climate impact of meat is higher than previous estimates – the UN’s Food and Agricultural Organization has said about 14% of all emissions come from meat and diary production. The climate crisis is also itself a cause of hunger, with a recent study finding that a third of global food production will be at risk by the end of the century if greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise at their current rate.

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Fake Meat is so Much Better

The new alternatives to meat like the Beyond Burger are remarkably better for the environment than processed animals. This is found by a research team at the University of Michigan who looked into the carbon footprint of different processed hamburger patties (veggie and meat). They found that one Beyond Burger patty has a carbon footprint of 400g, whereas the same sized beef patty has a footprint of 3,700g. Reducing your carbon footprint by making tiny changes to your diet is getting easier every year.

Production of the dominant ingredients – pea protein, canola oil, coconut oil – represent important contributions to greenhouse gas emissions (GHGE), energy use and land use. Packaging also is an important contributor across all impact categories: the polypropylene tray is the largest contributor to packaging’s share of GHGE, energy use, and water use, whereas fiber production for cardboard and pallets make notable contributions to land use. We estimate that switching to a polypropylene tray made of 100% postconsumer recycled content could reduce the overall GHGE of the BB life cycle by 2% and reduce energy use by 10%.

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Reducing Meat Consumption can Reduce the Risk of the Next Pandemic

Zoonotic diseases are nothing new and are often the cause of large outbreaks which cause great harm to humans and other animals. It’s speculated that the recent COVID-19 coronavirus popped into existence due to close animal – human contact in Chinese wet markets. History as shown us that wherever there is frequent, close contact between animals and humans there is an increase in the likelihood of new diseases. This has led to scientists calling for reduced meat conniption with the thinking that if eat less meat than the potential for human-animal transmission is reduced in markets and processing facilities.

This shouldn’t be that big of a challenge since people are already reducing their meat consumption and in Canada 10% of the population is vegetarian or vegan.

It is clear that the origins of these pandemics are not restricted to certain countries or certain practices, such as “wet-markets.” For some researchers, including Swedish chief physician and infectious diseases professor Björn Olsen, stemming rising demand for meat and dairy is a necessary part of reducing our risk for pandemics.

Olsen, who is well known for being an early critic of his government’s COVID-19 response, is now becoming known for another early warning — one he has been making in books and articles for nearly 10 years now. In a recent interview in Swedish, Olsen notes that pandemic viruses have all arisen where animals and humans meet, and raising billions of animals as food will have effects.

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