How to Reduce Your Carbon Footprint By Changing Your Diet
Reduce Consumption of Meat and Dairy
Eating meat, especially beef, contributes significantly to an individual’s carbon footprint. Ruminant livestock like cows produce methane, a potent greenhouse gas. Producing meat and dairy also requires a lot of land, feed crops, and water – all of which have environmental impacts.
Here’s how I can reduce my carbon footprint from meat and dairy:
- I will limit my consumption of beef, lamb, and pork. I will have no more than 1-2 servings per week.
- I will replace some meat meals with plant-based proteins like beans, lentils, and tofu.
- I will have meatless days 1-2 times per week. On those days I will enjoy vegetarian meals.
- I will buy my dairy products in moderation. I will try reducing my cheese consumption and use plant-based milks.
- When eating out, I will order vegetarian/vegan options at restaurants more frequently.
Eat More Plant-Based Foods
Eating mostly plant-based foods has a lower carbon footprint compared to meat and dairy. Fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts and legumes require fewer resources to produce per calorie.
Here are some ways I can eat more plant-based foods:
- I will make fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts and seeds the foundation of my diet. These will comprise my main calorie sources.
- I will look for ways to add produce to my meals – salads, sides, snacks. I aim for 7-10 servings per day.
- I will limit processed foods which require more energy and create more emissions during production.
- I will eat whole grains like brown rice, oats, quinoa instead of refined grains like white bread.
- I will include a vegetarian/vegan protein source like beans, tofu or lentils in my meals for sustenance.
Buy Local In-Season Produce
Imported out-of-season produce travels long distances and requires refrigeration which uses fossil fuels. Locally grown, seasonal produce has a smaller carbon footprint.
Here is how I will buy local, seasonal produce:
- I will shop at farmer’s markets and stands to buy fresh fruits and vegetables in season. This supports local farms.
- I will sign up for a CSA (community supported agriculture) farm box. This provides a weekly cache of seasonal produce.
- I will use online resources to learn what’s in season each month in my area and plan my meals around seasonal produce.
- When local produce isn’t available, I will buy organic which is more sustainable.
- I will freeze or can any abundance of seasonal produce to enjoy year-round.
Grow Some of My Own Food
Growing my own fruits, vegetables and herbs eliminates transportation emissions and packaging waste. Even apartment dwellers can grow food!
Here are some ways I will grow my own food:
- If I have outdoor space, I will start a vegetable garden in raised beds, containers or an allotment. I will grow crops like tomatoes, greens, carrots.
- I will plant fruit bushes/trees suited to my climate like berries or dwarfed citrus trees.
- I will use vertical space by installing hanging pots and wall-mounted planters on balconies or patios for herbs and greens.
- I will join a community garden to share growing space, knowledge and bounty.
- I will grow fresh sprouts and microgreens indoors all year long.
Buy Food with Less Packaging
Packaging contributes to a food product’s carbon footprint. Reducing packaging decreases energy use, waste and emissions.
Here’s how I will cut down on packaging:
- I will buy fresh produce loose rather than pre-packaged. I will use my own reusable bags.
- I will choose food staples from bulk bins and fill my own containers. This avoids excess packaging.
- I will skip heavily packaged, processed convenience foods as much as possible.
- I will look for products in recycled, recyclable or minimal packaging.
- I will reuse any plastic, glass or cardboard containers at home before recycling.
Making small changes to what I eat and how I source my food can significantly reduce my carbon footprint. Eating lower on the food chain and minimizing food miles keeps more carbon out of the atmosphere and my body. With some effort, I can eat sustainably while supporting local producers.