Food production, transport and storage is responsible for a huge proportion of greenhouse gas emissions, and that means that our food choices are one of the easiest ways to make a difference.
According to a 2018 Oxford Unversity study, one quarter of all greenhouse gas emissions are a result of the food we eat. That’s more than all our cars, lorries, buses, planes and trains put together. We currently rear so many animals for meat and milk that the methane they burp as they convert grass or grain or soya beans into meat makes a huge contribution to global warming. We also use heated glass houses to grow food out of season and industrial chillers to keep it after the end of the season. That all uses energy. Then there’s the transport. Food that is not grown locally or that is not robust enough to be transported by ship is often air-freighted, and planes are the most polluting form of transport. Finally, a lot of food just rots – either on its way from farms to the consumers (largely an issue in poorer countries) or when we let it go to waste in our cupboards and fridges. (You have to be rich to be that wasteful.)
What’s more, a stagering 40% of the world’s non-desert land is given over to food production (so no room for wildlife there) and 2/3 of the world’s fresh water goes into agriculture, which increases water scarcity in many areas where people are short of water for their basic needs.
The study concludes that we food shoppers, cooks and eaters can massively reduce those environmental impacts just by making different food choices.
greener food solutions
Wasting less food means less methane released as food rots in landfill and less carbon released in growing food that is never eaten.
eat less meat and dairy
If we were to shift to a plant based diet we could halve the greenhouse gas emissions due to food and release 3/4 of the world’s farmland, which would be good for wildlife and biodiversity. Cattle and sheep are the worst methane burping culprits, so avoiding red meat and dairy is good move.
eat seasonal and local
Eating sesonal food means no energy wasted on heated glasshouses or chillers and eating food that has not been flown cuts greenhouse gas emissions from planes.
eating greener suggestions for your change list
I was really anti the idea of non-dairy milks (past traumas with soya milk in tea), but I realised that my breakfast cereal had lots of nuts in it anyway so I thought I'd give it a go with almond milk. Actually I liked it from the outset and now...Read More
Since we've got to shift over to eating less meat and more plants, doing it with friends seems a good sociable start. Why not invite/challenge your friends to bring a plant based dish to share? It should be intereesting to hear what people find easy/difficult/surprising/impossible and hopefully you'll all get...Read More
Why not make your Sunday special with a meal based on fresh, seasonal food. We think this seasonal food calendar from the BBC is brilliant. Not only does it automatically highlight the current time of year to show you what’s in season now, it also has links to seasonal recipes...Read More