How Climate-Friendly is Your Dinner Table?

7 Links Between the Food on Your Plate and Our Changing Climate: that was the eye-catching title of a June 13, 2017 online article in Modern Farmer.

Organic advocates proudly point to improved water quality and better habitat for the birds and bees as a result of their food choices. But what of the biosphere and its ability to sustain life as we know it? How do you measure the global warming impact of what’s on your plate?

The article goes on to consider the greenhouse gas effects of many of our favorite foods.

Did you know that:

  • “Organic” and “sustainable” have virtually nothing to do with each other?
  • Lettuce is three times more carbon-intensive than bacon? (Michael Symon should enjoy that tidbit!)
  • Grains, on the whole, are low carbon-intensive? (Rice cultivation, however, is estimated to be responsible for 10% of all global agricultural emissions.)
  • Meats, butter, and cheese have a larger carbon footprint than milk?
  • The components of beef chili produce more than twenty times as much greenhouse gas as the ingredients in lentil soup?

According to the article, the food system produces as much as 29% of greenhouse gas emissions globally, more than transportation, energy production, or any other human endeavor.

  • Click here to read the full article.
  • To do your own research, follow this link to the Food Carbon Emissions Calculator.
  • A link to a further website, eatlowcarbon.org, lets you explore the greenhouse gas emissions of nearly 100 meals.

One issue that the article does not specifically address is the effect of transportation (although the Food Carbon Emissions Calculator does so). The lettuce you grow in your garden may be more sustainable than the bacon you bought at the supermarket — but if you grow your own pork, all bets are off.

This article may or may not change your eating habits, but if you’re having a day when you want to do something nice for the planet, it might help you decide to make your smoothie with peaches and almond milk instead of strawberries and yogurt.

While this issue is a little aside from Keep It Out of the Landfill’s usual focus on waste reduction and disposal, I was struck by its presentation of facts and resources.

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