Sustainability Corner – Eating your way to climate change

By William H. Flank

Member, Riderwood Recycling Committee

Does what you eat affect our climate? If so, can you do something about it? Our poor food choices accelerate deforestation, leading to carbon release that impacts climate. Those choices also lead to the raising of methane-generating livestock like cows, goats, and sheep, as well as leading to energy-intensive production of fertilizer, use of unsustainable and non-recyclable materials, and worldwide all-season shipping of food.

Lots of myths abound, but there is also some science to guide us in making planet-healthy choices here at Riderwood. Also, if you want to take a deep dive, you can read the book “Dressing On The Side (And Other Diet Myths Debunked)” by nutritionist Jaclyn London.

Eating lots of fruits and vegetables and drinking more water, are good starting points. We currently eat far more meat than needed for a healthy diet. You don’t need kale to help your liver and kidneys do any “detoxing,” whatever that means. Moreover, you can’t significantly change the pH of your blood without literally killing yourself.

However, here’s what you can do if you want to reduce the roughly 25% of greenhouse gases that we humans generate annually via our food systems: The most significant impacts are from meat and dairy, which are responsible for as much greenhouse gas release as cars, trucks, planes, and ships combined. Beef and lamb are the worst offenders, cheeses, pork, and chicken moderately so, and most plant-based foods have the least climate impact.

Better choices include eggs, shellfish, grains, beans, and soy products. Seafood, in general, is both healthy and climate-friendly and includes popular items at Riderwood like salmon, scallops, mussels, tuna, cod, and haddock.

What you eat does affect climate change. Every little bit contributes to the difference we all need to make to stabilize a stressed planet for our grandchildren to enjoy. Plan ahead, cut back on red meat, recycle rather than waste, and keep track of what you eat. Eating “green” is good for Planet Earth!

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