Creating a Sustainable Diet - Vegan, Organic, Local Food
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Switching to a vegetarian diet is a powerful way to help protect our environment and help ensure everyone has enough to eat. The United Nations report Livestock's Long Shadow–Environmental Issues and Options, which concludes that the livestock sector (primarily cows, chickens, and pigs) emerges as one of the top two or three most significant contributors to our most serious environmental problems, at every scale from local to global. It is one of the largest sources of greenhouse gases - responsible for 18% of the world's greenhouse gas emissions as measured in CO2 equivalents. By comparison, all transportation emits 13.5% of the CO2. It produces 65% of human-related nitrous oxide (which has 296 times the climate change potential of CO2) and 37% of all human-induced methane (which is 23 times as warming as CO2). It also generates 64% of the ammonia, which contributes to acid rain and acidification of ecosystems. In addition, the enormous amounts of grain required to feed livestock reduces the amount of food available for the world's hungry. Buying organic, locally grown food also reduces climate change emissions and helps protect the environment.
"The world is producing the wrong kind of food, by a process that leaves millions of people landless, homeless, cashless, and unable to feed themselves." Anita Roddick
- Organic: The What is Organic? page explains what organic produce is and how it is certified.
- Local: Buy food (and drink - ideally tap - water) from local companies whenever possible. Each pound of local food you purchase prevents a quarter pound of climate change (C02) emissions. Support your area's Farmer's Market. If possible, grow your own fruits and vegetables using organic gardening practices. In the U.S.:
- Vegetarian/Vegan Diet: Consider becoming a vegetarian or vegan (no animal products). Informational sites:
- Vegetarian/Vegan Restaurants: Restaurant locators:
- Responsible Food Shopping: Whenever possible, shop at farmers markets, food co-ops, local health food stores, and socially and environmentally responsible chain stores (research tools: better world shopper and good guide).
- Healthy School Lunches: Support efforts to increase healthy food choices in school lunches (US)
- Green Calculator: Learn about the effect your diet is having on the environment with the Eating Green Calculator. Also see how your food choices impact climate change.
- Non-GMO: There are many organizations that are working to protect our food supply from genetically engineered produce. Please get involved in any way you can. Whenever possible, buy products containing non-GMO soy, cotton, and corn. Ask your local supermarket to carry non-GMO products and ask your friends to also make this request - have faith that your requests will get back to the growers and store headquarters. This trend will only turn around when customer demand non-GMO products. Your pocketbook is your most effective voice.
- Unprocessed Food: Eat unprocessed/unpackaged food whenever possible.
- Smart Seafood: If you purchase seafood, consult a seafood choices chart to select environmentally smart seafood. Also, learn more about avoiding mercury in your seafood at NRDC.
- "Dolphin Safe" Tuna: Only purchase tuna labeled "dolphin safe".
- Shade-Grown Coffee: Buy shade-grown coffee to protect desperately needed migratory bird habitats. Many "fair trade certified" coffees are shade-grown.
- Free-Range: If you eat meat, buy "free-range" raised animals. According to the EPA, "there are approximately 450,000 AFOs (Animal feeding operations - livestock-raising operations, such as hog, cattle and poultry farms, that confine and concentrate animal populations) in the United States. About 6,600 of these operations fall into the largest category and are referred to as Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs)."