Research by the UN states about 15 to 20% of global emissions are a result of agricultural emissions. Methane, nitrous oxide, and the addition of fertilizers and waste to soil are especially harmful. Another big issue is a significant portion of the produce in the agricultural industry is wasted. A 2013 study by the World Resources Institute concluded that 24% of all calories produced for human consumption are never consumed, with the average US family throwing out $1600 worth of food each year.
Focusing on eating mostly fruits and vegetables rather than animal products is a sizable way to reduce your food emissions. Our World in Data states that meat, dairy, and eggs account for 83% of emissions. According to Maya Almaraz, an Environmental Scientist at UC Davis, “Eliminating 90% of your meat intake is more important than eliminating all your meat intake.”
An alternative to a fully vegetarian diet is the Mediterranean diet. The Mediterranean diet focuses on fresh produce, nuts, beans, fish, and occasionally chicken. Research by Ben Houlton, the director of the John Muir Institute of the Environment at the University of California, predicts that this diet can reduce emissions by up to 15% by 2020. In addition to reducing environmental damage, according to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, the Mediterranean diet can also reduce Type 2 Diabetes.
Additionally, you can make your food habits more sustainable by cutting down on food waste. Take stock of what you already have to at home to avoid over-consumption. Also at the production stage, some usable produce is thrown away because of cosmetic imperfections. Encourage your family to purchase from services like Imperfect Food that offer fresh “ugly” produce for a discounted price. If you would like to learn more, scan the QR code.
Diet changes require time and effort, so take it slow. But the good news is by making small changes to our overall diets, we have the power to make a larger impact through our choices.