Understanding My Carbon Foodprint

May 6, 2021

There is a lot of jargon associated with sustainable living, don’t get too overwhelmed by all the terms and phrases. Carbon footprint is another way of saying impact on our planet’s health.

When we think of our carbon footprint, we typically refer to our impact on the environment from travel and our reliance on one-use items. One big overlooked piece of our personal carbon footprint is actually related to our diet. Our food choices, what we eat and where we buy it from, can greatly impact the environment.

What is your carbon footprint?

It is a measure of our impact on the environment. It is a calculation of the greenhouse gas emissions that get trapped in the atmosphere from the process of production. Carbon dioxide, the gas emission associated with humans, is where the term “carbon footprint” gets its name, however there are other gases of concern such as methane and nitrous oxide. What is important to understand and know is that our actions, from travel to energy use to diet, all play a role in the climate crisis and changing our habits is imperative and necessary. To learn more about your own carbon footprint, check out this interactive NY Times article.

Let’s focus on food. 

What food choices can we make that will lower our impact on the environment.

  • Let’s start with: eat more plants. You hear this one a lot because, well, plants are just so good for you and for this earth, it’s a fantastic win-win. We know how plants are healthy for us. But producing plants is beneficial to earth, to our soil, especially when we choose to grow varieties as opposed to monocrops or cash crops (corn, wheat, and soy). We should celebrate biodiversity by eating all of the plants, and encouraging our policymakers to invest in agroecology.
  • Next, less animal products. I’ll never tell you to stop eating meat, poultry, fish, and/or dairy. That is a personal choice. I may, however, suggest lowering your intake. Why? The impact of meat production on our environment and on the workers that produce it, is very costly. Beef has the greatest carbon footprint of any food item, from the raising of methane-producing cattle all the way to the working conditions of processing plants. We should be conscious to lower our intake and purchase from reputable vendors.
  • Shop locally and seasonally. I recommend purchasing your produce nearby, this is to lower our carbon footprint in terms of transportation but really it’s about supporting your local economy and local growers. What is going to benefit our earth, is eating seasonally. Eat what is available, don’t try to grow something that isn’t meant to be grown right now. In other words, let nature tell us what to eat instead of trying to beat nature. When we work so hard to overcome nature in order to eat strawberries in January we hurt our environment because it requires unnatural methods to make it happen.
  • Reduce food waste. Lastly, reduce food waste and compost. Buy what you need, shop smart, don’t overthink it. And make the most of what you have. There are ways to make stocks out of scraps and to compost instead of throwing everything in the trash.
  • Making small changes, over time. As always, making changes is not easy. If we try to do too much as once we are setting ourselves up to fail. Reaching long-term goals by taking on smaller short-term goals is a more productive approach. Try making one small easy change, for your week. See if this works and be open to modifying. Have regular check-ins with yourself to see how you are feeling and if you are happy with your food choices.

By keeping these tips in mind, you’ll be on a good track to a more healthy and sustainable life for you and our planet.