When it comes to global climate change, we know we need to do something. So we recycle, take shorter showers, and turn off the lights when we don't need them. But did you know your eating patterns are important in saving the earth, too? It's something we can't ignore: over a third of our greenhouse gas emissions stem from our food industry and consumption patterns. Here are five ways you can take action to help solve this dilemma.
1. Cut back on the meat in favor of veggies
The problem with meat is it takes a lot of resources to produce. Approximately 70 percent of agricultural land is dedicated to livestock, and producing meat can require a whopping 2.5 to 50 times more fossil fuels than plant proteins require. Not to mention animals like cows produce a lot of greenhouse gases.
This all adds up to one conclusion: we probably shouldn't be eating so much meat. That doesn't necessarily mean eliminating it entirely, but it does mean adding a few more vegetarian and vegan entrees to our recipe lists, like this veggie bean stew. If and when you eat meat, aim for more sustainable options like poultry, pork, and fish. Doing this will not only help save the earth, but it'll also result in a healthier you.
2. Go organic
If the whole planet switched to organic farming techniques, we might be able to catch about 40 percent of our greenhouse gas emissions! That's because organic farming is by definition environmentally friendly: it avoids pesticides and antibiotics, and it strives to accumulate rather than deplete the soil. It is also more energy-conscious than regular farming, making it a better choice for earth-loving eaters.
3. Shop local
What's the problem with food that's grown and produced in distant lands? It has to be transported, and with lots of transport comes lots of gases being spewed into the air. Cut back your carbon footprint by purchasing your food locally. This has other added benefits: it gives support to local farmers, and pulls it from commercialized farms—an industry that has been known to exploit people and animals.
If you can't afford a weekly trip to the farmer's market, try growing your own veggies and fruits, if your climate and the season allow it. That way, you know exactly where the food on your plate came from. It's also a fun project that the kids will love; not to mention they'll probably be more likely to eat their veggies if they helped grow them!
4. Either clean your plate or compost
In the United States, approximately 30 to 40 percent of perfectly good food goes into the trashcan, doomed to rot in a landfill and expel methane gas. The solution? Don't let your eyes get bigger than your stomach: take only what you can eat. If you must toss food, try composting. This process creates a nice fertilizer, which is perfect for that veggie garden! Convenient, right? Now sing it with me: “It's the cir-cle of liiiife…”
5. Reduce your packaging
Food waste isn't the only problem we face when trying to help the planet; packaging waste is, too. To reduce your carbon footprint, trade in those pre-made foods with boxes, wrappers, and plastic trays for a pan and spatula to cook your own meals. Besides, making your own food reduces your consumption of processed foods, which is good for both the environment and you (are you noticing a pattern here?).