Two Simple Steps to Really Reducing Your Carbon Foodprint: Go Vegetarian + Walk or Bike to the Store

leeks and broccoli photo

photo: Flavio Ferrrari via flickr.

The idea of trying to reduce the carbon footprint of your diet is almost yesterday's news in the green community, as is talking about eating locally, minimizing food miles, reducing the amount of meat you eat. But a new report from Brighter Planet breaks the issue down in a very digestible way. While most of its conclusions are inline with what we've been advising all along, there are some surprises:Red Meat Far and Away Biggest Climate Culprit


As you can see above, the emissions from eating red meat dwarf the emissions from just about everything else. Brighter Planet points out that red meat amounts to just 11% of the average American's caloric intake, it equals 25% of the carbon footprint from their diet.


Though the numbers here are slightly different than other estimates of the advantages of vegetarian and vegan diets, the general message is the same: Want to reduce the eco-impact of your diet? Adopt a vegetarian, or better yet vegan, diet. Some of this stuff has a lot of nuance in it, but this one has far less. It's pretty simple, really.

Personal Transport to Store Worse Than Food Transport


This is one of the charts I found most interesting, and in fact quite empowering. We've all gone on about the food miles of our diets and many of us can probably trot out all sorts of stats on how far the average ingredient has travelled to our plates. But as this chart shows if you include the emissions from actually getting to the store in the food miles total, how we each get to the store has an amazingly larger impact that how far the items we buy travelled to the store.

As Brighter Planet says,

The carbon benefits of eating local food are nuanced, and the emissions you reduce this way represent a minority of the total transportation emissions associated with your diet. Driving to grocery stores and restaurants produces a much larger quantity of greenhouse gas emissions, and the benefits of avoiding these errands are clear-cut. From a global warming perspective, you should focus at least as much on minimizing your own food-related travel as on pursuing a locavore diet.

Which of course doesn't negate the non-carbon aspects of the benefits of eating as much local food as possible: Connection with your food producers, eating seasonal to as to be more in touch with your environment, money staying in the local economy, supporting diverse agricultural systems, etc., etc.

Read the full report: The American Carbon Foodprint [PDF]

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Food Miles
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