A few months ago we were asked to present at the morning cpd talks at Kingsbury Hospital, here is some of the information from that talk.

Have you started changing from your regular light bulbs to energy saving lights bulbs or considered trading in your land rover for a little Smart car all in an effort to try and decrease your carbon foot print? Well, did you know changing your diet can actually have a big impact on the environment.

Our children’s future is rapidly unraveling due to global warming and what we put on our plates can directly accelerate or decelerate the heating trend of our planet. Opting for a grilled chicken burger over beef burger, choosing grass fed over grain fed or snacking on seasonal tomatoes and adding spinach, not cheese to your sandwich are not only  healthy options, but recent research suggests they could help the planet as well as your waist line.

Most of us associate climate change with fuel-guzzling carbon dioxide emitting cars, but it turns out that food is an even bigger contributor to our warming planet. 22% of greenhouse gas emissions in the USA comes from the food sector with the beef industry being the biggest contributor, followed by dairy. Global this is sitting at about 18-24%. Emissions from transport on the other hand are producing about 13% of our green gas emissions.

Some scary statistics:

Did you know it takes more than 9 billion livestock to maintain the supply of animal protein consumed each year in the USA alone! The planet’s livestock population now outweighs human by about 5 times and the amount of grain used to feed US livestock is an amount that is sufficient to feed 840 million people (for a little perspective, South Africa’s population is only 53 million)

Our modern food system ccontributes abundant amounts of 3 of the 6 principle greenhouse gases namely:

  1. Carbon dioxide  – The greatest source for this is from the fossil fuels burned during transportation & processing of our food
  2. Methane  – The biggest culprit here is our ruminant animals and  food waste that decomposes in landfills.
  3. Nitrous oxide – Here the greatest supplier is the overuse of Nitrogen-based fertilizers

 

Meat and dairy are especially high in carbon with Beef having the greatest impact on the environment. Ruminant animals (cows, sheep & goats) naturally emit methane due to their unique rumen digestive system.

The high greenhouse gas emissions from our food system come from several factors:

  • Production of feed for animals
  • Length of time it takes to grow animals to maturity compared with plants
  • Actual feeding of animals
  • Animals weight which also factors into transport emissions

 

Climate change is such an enormous problems that it may seem like our individual efforts can’t possibly make a difference. But they can! Most of us eat three times a day, which amounts to over 1000 meals a year. Each of those meals has the potential to contribute to climate change.

 

Keep an eye out for the follow on blog to this one – Low Carbon Diet Principles.

 

 

Munchwize Dietitians are based in Claremont, Cape Town. To contact us, click here

It’s almost the end of the year, Discovery Vitality members, don’t forget to book in for a Vitality Consultation to earn your Vitality points.

 

References:

1.Schaeffer A. (2008) The Low-Carbon Diet: A protection plan for the planet. Today’s Dietitian. 2008; 10 (9). p 42.

2. Pimentel D; Pimentel M. Sustainability of a meat-based and plant-based diet and the environment. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2003 (78).

3. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_greenhouse_gas_emissions

4. GHG Inventory for South Africa. (2000 –2010). https://www.environment.gov.za/sites/default/files/docs/greenhousegas_invetorysouthafrica.pdf

5. Palmer S. Meatless Monday. Today’s Dietitian. 2013; 15 (1). p 38.

6. Carey RE. Meat takes heat – Evidence suggests livestock contributes significantly to global warming. Today’s Dietitian. 2010; 12 (5). p 36.

7. Fiala N. Meeting the demand: An estimation of potential future greenhouse gas emissions from meat production. Ecological Economics. (2008) 67 (3). P 412-419.

8: Goodland R. Environmental sustainability in agriculture: diet matters. http://www.sciencedirect.com

9. Centre for food safety. http://www.centreforfoodsafety.org/issues/305/food-and-climate/about-the-cool-foods-campaign.

10: Low carbon diet tips. http://www.eatlowcarbon.org

11. Seasonal Chart – fruit and veg. http://www.food24.com/recipes-and-menus/farm-to-table/seasonal-chart-fruit-and-vegetables-20130731

12: Bellatti A. Good eats from around the globe. . Today’s Dietitian. 2010; 12 (4). p 38.

13. http://www.eatwild.com/environment.html

14. McMichael A; Powles, J; Butler C; Uauy R. Food, livestock production, energy, climate change, and health. The Lancet. (2007) p 1253-1263. http://www.sciencedirect.com

15. Carlsson-Kanyama A. Climate change and dietary choices – how can emissions of greenhouse gases from food consumption be reduced. Food policy. (1998) 23 (3-4). P277 – 293.

16. Diet shifts towards meat and the effects on cereal use: can we feed animals in 2030? Ecological economics. (2005) 55 (2). P187 -202.

17. Edward-Jones G. Food miles don’t go the distance. http://www.news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/4807026.stm

18. Tidwell, M. The Low Carbon Diet. (2009). http://www.audubon.org/magazine/january-february-2009/the-low-carbon-diet