A simple observation for you today. When thinking about reducing emissions from food, one of the most high profile concerns is food miles. A lot of food travels a long way to get to us, and all of that adds to its total carbon footprint. Eating more local food, and more in line with the seasons, can reduce the impact of our diets.
It’s a good thing to do, but there is a much more useful intervention that will make a much bigger difference. Here’s a graph showing the breakdown of global greenhouse gases from food production, courtesy of Our World in Data.
Eating locally produced food can help to tackle those transport emissions, but that’s only a small chunk of the overall problem. Even if you could eat 100% local, it would have less impact than choosing a vegan diet for just one day a week.
Eating less meat makes a difference across land use, livestock farming and crops grown for food. Even a small reduction in meat consumption can make a considerable difference. If you go entirely vegan, it will halve your footprint.
This is also worth bearing in mind when you hear people undermining vegan diets by complaining about specialist foods imported from around the world. Yes, that may sometimes happen, and for some vegans the transport component of their diet may go up. But the emissions cuts elsewhere will more than make up for that.
I often get asked what simple steps people can take to reduce their carbon footprint. The truth is that beyond some obvious things that everybody already knows, there aren’t many simple steps. Most of the ones that are simple won’t make much difference, and the ones that make a difference aren’t simple. This is an exception. Anyone can choose to eat less meat. It will be a meaningful step and you can start today.
More on meat
Not all meat is created equal
Just before Christmas, this unfortunate advert appeared on the side of buses in London: I can immediately think of a dozen good reasons why you might eat a turkey and not your own dog, which makes it a bit of a rhetorical failure. And even if you agree and wouldn’t eat a turkey, that’s an…
The footprint of animal based foods
I’ve featured these sorts of images before, but Carbon Brief’s new interactive article on the footprint of different foods is an instructive summary of climate friendly eating. One again the vastly disproportionate impact of beef is obvious. If you want to do one thing to immediately reduce your carbon emissions, stop eating beef. You can…
Four aspects of food justice
I’ve been reading a book called Generation Share this week, all about the people behind the sharing economy. It’s almost entirely in their own words, and I particularly liked a short profile of Malik Yakitini. He’s a city farmer, food justice campaigner and founder of the Detroit Black Community Food Security Network. Food justice isn’t…