Recently in a health class, my class was shown the documentary Forks Over Knives, which advocates a whole food, plant-based diet. It really prompted me to think about food choices, from a health perspective and an environmental one as well. They mention the amount of Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Emissions created in production of food in America, and the statistics had me feeling conflicted about the foods that I love to eat. According to a recent research article from February of this year, food production causes about one fifth of the global greenhouse gas emissions. This article also outlines which foods create more impacts on multiple factors including GHG, land use, irrigated water needs, and reactive nitrogen.
With Thanksgiving this past weekend and Christmas around the corner, delicious comfort food is on many of our minds. Considering the environmental and energy impacts of this delicious feast is a conscious decision. This is especially the case with more research measures being taken to assess impacts had on a global level.
Choosing foods that have a lower global impact are ways that we can make simple sustainable choices. This article lists beef as the highest burden to the environment among dairy, poultry, pork, and egg production. Dairy ranked in at number two and makes up 12% of the average American’s caloric intake. So cutting back on the beef and dairy products is a simple way to help lessen the consumption of foods with high environmental burdens (and these cows would agree).
Keeping all this in mind, I am incredibly thankful for the food that I do have access to and hope that this season reminds us to all be grateful for what we have. If you have abundance, don’t let it go to waste, enjoy leftovers for the next week or share with neighbors. Enjoy this food for thought, and Happy (late) Thanksgiving!