Your modern diet is contributing to climate change – but here’s how you can fix it

IIt would be a truism to say that the climate is changing across the world, contributing to more extreme weather. But what we don’t realize is that our modern diets are instrumental in deepening the crisis. Modern diets and consumption are directly linked to the planet’s carbon footprint – the total amount of greenhouse gas or GHG emissions attributed directly or indirectly to a person, organization, event or product. . It is calculated by adding together the emissions from each stage of the product’s life cycle, including material production, manufacturing, use and termination.

Food, energy and water – the three pillars of sustainable development are now experiencing exponential demand due to the global population explosion. Food is responsible for 26% of global GHGs. Agriculture occupies half of the planet’s habitable land, consumes 70% of the world’s fresh water and is responsible for 78% of global eutrophication (nutrient-rich pollution of waterways). To save ourselves and our planet, reducing our carbon footprint is vital. In 2016, a study concluded that adopting a sustainable diet could reduce GHGs by 70-80% and water consumption by 50%. Individual diets, however, are complex and culturally influenced. Changing your diet to reduce the impact of food on the climate is a daunting task, because not everyone can or wants to take the step forward.

Here are some simple yet effective ways to reduce our carbon footprint by making lasting changes to our eating habits.

Say no to “food waste”

The decomposition of wasted food is one of the main causes of GHGs as they produce a large amount of methane. A 2011 analysis by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) of global food loss and waste estimated that each year, a third of all food produced for human consumption does not reach never a consumer’s plate. This loss is not only a missed opportunity for the economy and food security, but also a waste of all natural resources used in growing, processing, packaging, transporting and marketing food. Globally, the amount of food lost and wasted ranges from 194 to 389 kilograms per person per year.

Choose more white-fleshed foods

Globally, 14.5% of GHGs are attributed to animal production, particularly beef and dairy cattle. Various reports point out that reducing meat consumption and production is one of the most effective ways to reduce the global carbon footprint of food. Even so, it’s not easy for everyone to eliminate meat from their diet. Replacing red meat with seafood and fish can reduce the carbon footprint since fishing does not involve grazing, livestock care or GHG emissions.

Eat more plant-based

Plant-based diets can significantly reduce GHGs. A team of American researchers found that people who ate a plant-based diet including whole grains, nuts, seeds and legumes had lower GHGs than people who ate an animal-based diet. However, “plant-based” excludes processed meat and meat products of plant origin. Often these products are infused with harmful dyes and synthetic flavors to simulate the taste and texture of meat. Choose fresh plant-based foods that are organically grown to get the most benefits.

Eat more climate-friendly whole grains

Climate-friendly whole grains such as millet, corn and barley are better for the planet than rice and wheat. With its incredible water utilization efficiency and heat resistant property, millet is a highly sustainable grain. The Indian subcontinent produces a wide variety of millets such as sorghum, pearl millet, finger millet, barnyard millet, foxtail millet, kodo millet, common millet, and finger millet. In addition, they are excellent for your health due to their high fiber and micronutrient content.


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Make alternative choices

Milk and dairy products are obtained from cattle, therefore they generate significant GHGs. According to a Dutch study of more than 2,000 adults, dairy products are the second largest emitter of GHGs. It is more efficient to switch to alternative dairy products made from soy, almond and rice, as this will reduce the carbon footprint.

Build a vegetable garden

A small vegetable garden on your balcony or garden brings many benefits, including access to fresh produce, stress reduction and emotional well-being. It is possible to reduce the costs of production, packaging and transport as well as the GHGs involved in these processes by growing your own food.


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Eat local, buy in bulk

Buying fresh, seasonal foods from the local market can reduce your carbon footprint by reducing food miles and GHGs during transportation. The Worldwatch Institute found that a regional diet consumes 17 times less oil and gas than a typical diet based on food shipped across the country. Buying in bulk can reduce the carbon footprint by reducing travel time, transport, packaging and food waste. Using paper packets instead of plastic bags can also help reduce GHGs significantly.

A drastic change in your current eating habits can have immense effects on both the environment and your health. To achieve sustainable nutrition, take small, incremental steps. It can make a big difference.

Dr. Subhasree Ray is a PhD student (ketogenic diet), certified diabetes educator, and clinical and public health nutritionist. She tweets @DrSubhasree. Views are personal.

(Edited by Humra Laeeq)

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