There's no denying humans have made — and continue to have — a big impact on the environment. One of the biggest contributors is our food industry, which adds more emissions into the atmosphere and contributes to global warming. A new diet is catching wind but instead of its primary focus being losing weight, it aims to promote saving the planet. Here's how the climate diet works.
An article published in January 2019 by medical journal, The Lancet, outlined how the human diet impacts the world and what dietary changes we need to undertake by 2050 to help reduce the disastrous impacts on the environment. As it turns out, it's not just the cars and planes emitting greenhouse gases — food production is a major contributor too.
An individualistic approach to solving the issue of climate change is not going to be the most effective one but if it's something you're willing to do with little adjustment, every bit helps to limit overall emissions. Here are some of the key steps.
Eat less dairy and meat
We're sorry but your meat and dairy consumption has to drop, if not totally. Producing meat is land intensive and the water and energy required to produce one kilogram of meat takes a huge toll on the environment, meaning it's not sustainable for a changing climate in the future.
"The main reason why reducing meat consumption is an adaptation measure is because it reduces pressure on land and water and thus our vulnerability to climate change and inputs limitations," the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's (IPCC) report reads.
The World Resources Institute has also said if countries were able to reduce their meat intake to 1.5 burgers per person per week, then the industry wouldn't need to expand any further to account for population growth. That means, if you're not able to cut out meat entirely, you should work to reduce your intake or supplant it with plant-based meat alternatives.
Say goodbye to junk food
We've known it for some time but consuming junk food is not helping us keep the planet safe. In a 2016 article, sustainability expert Dr. Hadjikakou estimated 33 - 39 per cent of household water use, energy use, greenhouse gas emissions and land use was spent on junk food consumption in Australia.
Aside from that, many junk foods, like chocolate, require a lot of water to produce a single product. According to a National Geographic article, it's estimated a single 100 gram chocolate bar will require 1700 litres of water to produce. With fresh drinking water becoming a scarce commodity in parts of the world, it's a gross amount to spend on a single, albeit delicious, junk food snack.
More strict portion control
To reduce our diet's impact, we'd also need to be a bit more rational about how much we eat. A third of the world's food is reportedly disposed of, according to National Geographic, and part of that figure is due to people buying or cooking too much and then throwing it out when it spoils. It points to a UN report, which estimates the food wastage equates to around 3.3 billion tonnes of greenhouse gases without ever serving a purpose.
So before you order or buy it, consider if it's better to share or if you're going to take the leftovers home for tomorrow's lunch. It's not about starving yourself, but understanding what the right amount is for you and not eating over it. Eating meals slower helps the delay between your stomach's hunger meter and your brain catch up.
Low impact foods, including some animals products
So if we're having to eat less meat and dairy and cut out junk food, what's left to eat? A study on ScienceDirect from August 2019 suggests the solution might be eating more low-food chain animals, which include forage fish, bivalve mollusks and insects like mealworms.
It also suggests we should be focusing on foods available within the country rather than importing them from from overseas. In Australia's case, the kangaroo, which has its population levels culled yearly, is one of the least carbon-intensive meats and has the added benefit of being more lean than beef, lamb and pork.
Eat in season
It might be the middle of winter and you're dying to eat cherries, an Australian summer fruit, but that's gotta stop under the climate diet. Fruits and vegetables that aren't available during the season you're in need to be shipped in from the northern hemisphere and that means by ship or air — both carbon-intensive activities.
But if demand for those products slides, suppliers will bring in less from overseas during the off months. Your cherry pies can wait until summer to be baked.
At the end of the day, your diet isn't going to fix the climate change problem but it's better than ignoring it. If you do your best to attempt it, others might ask why and you can inform them to make everyone a bit more conscious of how their diet affects the world. Ultimately, however, it's at a policy level that these things start to take a more impactful effect and to get there, you need a lot of people to get on board.
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