You Are What You Eat

As we gathered for another Easter during Covid, and look forward to better times for family get togethers, I was reminded about good food, and what we eat impacts the environment. Normally, we would have lamb for Easter, and I must admit it is a favorite. It is well known that eating meats has a much bigger carbon footprint than a vegetarian or vegan diet. If you are not ready to become a vegan, what are you to do?

First and foremost, educating yourself on the topic is the first step. The biggest impact is the food you eat. While this is easier to adjust when you cook at home, and there is an increasing awareness and choices in restaurants to be environmentally friendly.

There are a number of carbon food calculators available to understand and compare the climate impact of your choice choices. My beloved lamb has the greatest impact, generating 39.3 kg (86.4 lbs) of carbon dioxide equivalents (CO2e) for each kilo eaten – about 50 percent more than beef. Animal farming is responsible for 14.5% of the world’s greenhouse emissions, according to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization, making it a significant contributor to climate change. Of those emissions, 65% comes from beef and dairy cattle. If you are not ready to give up meat (like myself), then there are still changes you can make immediately and still have a positive impact on your carbon footprint. This includes reducing the number of times per week you have meat, and substituting lower impact meats such as each chicken instead of beef. Finally, reducing the portion size of any meat that you eat. With these changes you can lower the carbon footprint from you diet by 30-50%.

When eating out we often look for different foods than we might cook at home, whether that is Chinese food, a Mediterranean salad, etc. In Newton where I live within 20 minute walk, I can easily get Sushi, Thai, Chinese, or Mexican, as well as the usually American fare. Almost all the these restaurants offer vegetarian options, and are still true to the flavor and culture of the establishment. Most will have a lower share of meat as a portion of the overall meal. For larger chains, I recently came across a cool web site called “Cool Food”. Cool Food helps people and organizations reduce the climate impact of their food through shifting towards more plant-rich diets. Panera are the first company with menu items to receive the Cool Food Meals badge. I love Panera, and have eaten many of their salads. Unfortunately, the one in Newton Center closed as a victim of Covid.

We didn’t have lamb this year. What are the steps you have taken? Any suggestions?

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