Similar to one’s carbon footprint, a “foodprint” is used to measure the environmental impact of the food we consume. Beyond its positive or negative impact on our health, food also has a large impact on the environment where it’s produced. But making a few small adjustments to our own diet is one of the biggest ways we can make a difference as individuals.
How food impacts our planet
The environmental impacts of food starts with consumers. We could reduce greenhouse gas emissions by half, or nearly 6.6 billion metric tons, by reducing our consumption of meat in favor of a plant-based diet.
Global food and agricultural systems generate more than one quarter of man-made greenhouse emissions. Almost two-thirds of those emissions are linked to animal products. Meat and aquaculture (the rearing of fish, algae, and other aquatic animals for food), and dairy utilize around 83% of our world’s farmlands which leads to nearly 58% of food-related emissions.
Even something as ubiquitous as bottled beer can have a more harmful impact. When given the options, opt for your favorite beer on tap. Kegs have a much lower environmental impact than the production of bottled beer.
Every time you eat less meat, or change a food habit, you help support bigger changes at the production level. Foodprint sustainability begins with individual consumer action.
How big food hurts and helps sustainability
Green Geeks reports that come the year 2050, agriculture will make up 70% of allowable greenhouse emissions.
With a combined estimated worth of over $500 billion, a global network of fast food companies like Burger King and KFC hold tremendous power over food production. Support and action for sustainable food by these giants means a lot. Luckily, consumer demand has already begun making an impact.
The market for plant-based meat replacements hit $3.3 billion dollars last year, up 20% from 2017. The meat substitute industry grew even faster. Some dairy replacement product brands have reported triple digit growth in recent years as the sustainable foodprint movement takes hold.
Fast food giant, McDonald’s, did step up in March 2018 to set a goal to reduce emissions by 36% by 2039 which was approved by Science Based Targets, an initiative to support companies that are making critical changes to save the environment.
Other companies are following suit. Even more are adopting vegetarian and vegan alternatives to their staple menu. Red Robin, Burger King, and restaurants across the country are adding plant-based alternatives. Now, wherever you live, you’re can surely find a meatless burger somewhere.
Leaving a cleaner foodprint
Making drastic dietary changes is difficult, but simply paying closer attention to what you eat and where it comes from can make you a sustainable food pro. Here are a five easy ways you can make small, but impactful changes to your foodprint.
1. Go meatless once a week
Join the growing movement for “Meatless Mondays.” Skipping one serving of beef every Monday for a year saves the equivalent emissions to driving 348 miles in a car.
2. Eat more vegetables
It’s good for you, but also the planet. Just 2 and half cups of organic vegetables a day could contribute to a carbon dioxide reduction of nearly 3.3 million metric tons a year!
3. Eat local and organic
Crops that required less fertilizers and other resources have smaller carbon footprints than other veggies sources. Plus, if it’s locally grown, transportation and storage costs are drastically reduced — especially for perishable goods that need refrigeration during transit.
Just make sure you always check the packaging. Locally grown and plastic-free organic foods are always better.
4. Avoid packaged foods where possible
The plastic used to encase some of our favorite snacks and soft drinks were created with fossil fuels that emit the same gases that are destroying our environment.
What’s more, plastic is hard to recycle so these packages eventually get thrown back into the food chain which is detrimental to our health. Opt for whole foods and other food products that require less energy-intensive processing like canning, freezing, and dehydrating. These climate-friendly options include fresh, frozen, or canned fruit and vegetables for a healthy diet year round.
5. Grow (some of) your own food
If you grow it, it’s organic, meatless, and local. All benefits for your own health and the planet’s. Discover your green thumb and reduce your foodprint at the same time.