6 ways to reduce your carbon footprint through dietary changes

Here are six tips for eating green...

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What can you do to address the climate crisis? Many changes benefit the planet, from recycling to bringing your cloth bags to the store. 

A frequently overlooked way to reduce your carbon footprint is through dietary changes. You can make a sustainable difference by choosing your meals wisely, and you don’t have to overly restrict yourself. Here are six tips for eating green. 

1. Reduce Your Meat Consumption 

Probably the most significant dietary change you can make is to reduce your meat consumption. Meat and dairy production accounts for 14.5% of all global greenhouse gas emissions, according to the U.N.’s Food and Agricultural Organization. Many leading scientists believe that people must shift their diets to more plant-based alternatives to avoid climate disaster. 

If you need to get animal protein for medical reasons, you have alternatives to beef, pork and poultry. One option is to get fishy. Seafood production produces fewer greenhouse gas emissions than land-based farming, and sustainable methods contribute to overall ocean wildlife health. 

Other options include nuts, beans and legumes. All of these foods benefit human health with various minerals and phytonutrients. They’re also lower in calories than your typical ribeye.

You don’t necessarily have to become a vegan or vegetarian, but you should reserve your steak consumption for a rare indulgence. You’ll benefit your health and lower your cancer risk. The World Health Organization (WHO) considers processed meat a carcinogen and red meats like pork and beef probable. 

2. Dine Local 

Here’s another win-win opportunity you shouldn’t pass up to reduce your carbon footprint through dietary changes. Chances are, your local restaurant community could use some help recovering from the pandemic’s ravages. 

Instead of going to a chain the next time you feel the urge to skip the dishes for the night, find a new local favorite. If possible, patronize a farm-to-table establishment for the freshest in organic produce and humanely-raised meats. If no such place exists near you, ask your server where they stock their kitchen and repeatedly patronize those who buy from local farmers each time you go out to eat.

3. Make Friends at the Farmer’s Market 

Buying produce and other goods locally reduces your carbon footprint by minimizing the emissions required during transport. When you buy products from the other side of the globe, it takes an enormous amount of jet fuel and gasoline to get them to your grocer’s. 

The goods at your farmer’s market come from down the road or the next town over, saving countless emissions. Plus, you’ll get a health bonus. Fruits and vegetables start to lose their nutrients three days after harvest, so the fresher from the earth they are, the more vitamins and minerals you consume. 

You can also save money using this method if you time your visit right. Most vendors prefer not to take home their wares to possibly rot. Go at the end of the day, and you can sometimes score a discount. 

4. Think Seasonal 

Summer is here, and that means you can take full advantage of fruits fresh from the vine. When selecting your produce, choose that which is in season for maximum nutrient value. It also probably grew nearby, saving transportation costs. 

To decrease shipping when you crave a taste of summer in January, learn how to freeze your vegetables. Blanching what you harvest helps to stop the enzyme action that causes flavor loss. You can then pack, label and store them to enjoy any time of the year. 

5. Get in the Garden 

Please don’t think you missed out on the pandemic gardening craze. It’s never too late to get outdoors and start digging and planting the good earth. 

While you do have to make an initial investment, gardening is an inexpensive, sustainable and healthy habit once you establish your plot. You can learn how to save seeds from the produce you buy — once you get good at sprouting seedlings, you won’t have to drop cash at the nursery each year. 

If you don’t have a yard, many vegetables such as beans and tomatoes grow well in containers. You can line your balcony, creating additional privacy by placing trellises for them to climb as they grow. 

Each time you harvest something from your garden, you slash emissions from the trip you normally need to take to the store. If you gather like-minded neighbors to exchange wares, you could considerably reduce your shopping trips. 

6. Choose Less Processing and Packaging 

The more food is processed, the more machines and energy went into its production. Whenever possible, opt for foods in their whole, natural forms. You enjoy a wider variety of nutrients while reducing the emissions created in getting your meal to store shelves. 

It seems like half or more of the products on store shelves come in plastic containers, many of which you cannot recycle. Instead, opt for the bulk bin whenever possible, and bring reusable cloth bags for holding your wares instead of the plastic ones from the dispenser. 

Reduce Your Carbon Footprint by Making Dietary Changes 

It’s everyone’s job to cut back on emissions and protect the planet. You can reduce your carbon footprint through dietary changes with a few fairly simple tips.

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