Today there is a growing awareness that business-as-usual corporate and lifestyle practices jeopardize the health of the planet and the ability of future generations to sustain a good quality of life. Awareness in turn has created a confusing array of sustainability-oriented decisions. The Greenophobe takes a skeptical, practical, informed look at a variety of sustainability topics. Explore a mix of common sense solutions and in-depth discussions that demystify how to live green and live well.
28 January 2010
02 January 2010
"The higher your food is on the food chain, the more energy that's required to produce it -- and the more global warming pollution it releases into the atmosphere." Source: NRDC Green Eating GuideGreening your eating is one of the best ways to achieve significant environmental and economic benefits because it's good for you and good for the Earth. Short of switching to a diet entirely comprised of algae and rainwater, it's possible to live a healthier, greener life by simply "eating lower on the food chain." This means taking a look at your diet and finding ways to incorporate more things that don't eat other things that require lots of energy to raise and bring to your table.
Before getting into the food chain strategy, check out the massive impact food waste has on the environment.
If you've done everything you can to limit the amount of food you waste, the NRDC's green eating guide describes some of the logical next steps.
Be prepared: a major theme you will see across nearly all resources pertaining to greening up your eating is limiting consumption of red meat. Beef production is highly greenhouse gas intensive and consumes vast amounts of petrochemicals and freshwater along the supply chain.
Making the decision to actively substitute grains, vegetables, and some kinds of seafood for a portion of your typical meat-based protein consumption results in less energy usage and lower emissions.
Specifically when considering seafood choices, it's important to limit intake of overfished species and fish that are known to contain high levels of mercury. Mercury accumulates in all organisms along a particular food chain, which means that predatory fish including Tuna and Shark can contain elevated levels that are dangerous to humans.
“Americans spend a smaller share of their disposable income on food than citizens of any other country and choose from an average of 50,000 different food products on a typical outing to the supermarket. In 1994, the food supply provided an estimated 3,800 calories per person per day, enough to supply every American with more than one and a half times their average daily energy needs.” Source: Estimating and Addressing America’s Food Waste, a report by the US Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service
In the United States, the United Kingdom and other wealthy nations, today’s estimate is that 25 to 30 percent of food that’s bought ends up in the trash, uneaten.
In the U.S., specifically, this amounts to about 32 million tons per year according to the EPA. 97 percent of this waste decomposes in landfills or is incinerated. While decomposing, it produces methane gas, which is over twenty times more effective than CO2 as a greenhouse gas. Food waste is very much a Greenophobic problem requiring a rapid solution in three places: production, consumption and disposal.
The problem exists at a household level as well as anywhere that food is produced, marketed or consumed. It is perpetuated by restaurant and institutional economics along with generally low food prices.
Combined, these forces mean that we’re literally in the business of wasting food and it’s killing our planet and our wallets in many different ways.
This problem should register near the top of the list of environmental concerns for Earth-wise consumers because of the scale of the problem and the myriad solutions. Food waste is a massive drain on our natural environment and valuable resources, it has a huge economic cost, it is completely solvable at the household level, and it’s not a problem of luxury – that is, greening our eating can happen without sacrificing quality of life.