**Special Yoga edition of Sweat Equity Magazine April 2013**
Reduce Your Carbon Food-Print by Eating Your Veggies!
by Grace Van Berkum, R.H.N.
We all should know by now that what you eat affects your health. But what you eat also affects the health of the planet. Yoga teaches us that we are all connected and that includes Mother Earth. We are all one organism and what’s happening in our bodies is a reflection of what’s happening to the planet. The Standard American Diet is poisoning us with toxins and chemicals, making us sick, and these toxins and chemicals are also poisoning our earth. Switching over to a plant-based way of eating can improve your health while drastically minimizing your carbon footprint.
What is the carbon footprint of food?
Your carbon footprint is a measure of the impact that your daily activities have on the environment, particularly in regard to climate change. This carbon footprint includes the total amount of greenhouse gases produced by you everyday through the burning of fossil fuels from your transportation, heating, electricity, and food choices. Greenhouse gases an individual produces is measured in units of carbon dioxide (CO2) equivalents and as our carbon footprint increases, so does our environmental impact.
What types of foods are you eating and how often do you eat them? How is your food grown? Where does it come from? How is it made? How much water is used? Are chemicals involved? These are important questions to consider when making food choices to help reduce one’s carbon footprint. The carbon footprint, or foodprint, associated with the food you eat is the greenhouse gas emissions produced by growing, rearing, farming, processing, transporting, storing, cooking and disposing of the food on your plate.
The carbon footprint of food is around 25% of each household’s total carbon footprint, so choosing more nutrient dense, anti-inflammatory plant-based foods can have a big impact on your overall contribution to global warming, while also helping to reduce pollution, preserve natural landscapes, save water and help animals. Not to mention saving you money, keeping you lean, and cleaning out your arteries.
According to a report from the Environmental Working Group, the Meat Eater’s Guide, that assesses the environmental and health impact of our food choices, meat and dairy are among the largest contributors to the world’s growing carbon footprint, with lamb, beef, cheese, pork, and farmed salmon in particular generating the most greenhouse gases—sometimes four times more than other animal products and 13 times more than plant-based proteins. Food transport costs add, on average, another 10% or more to these emissions.
Health and wellness encompasses more than just nutrition. The choices we make individually affect the planet as a whole. We are lucky to be able to have food on our plates everyday and with that comes the responsibility of making sure our food choices reflect respect for the planet. According to Brendan Brazier, champion vegan tri-athlete, a whole food, plant-based smoothie made with fruit and plant-based proteins, has 22 times fewer CO2 equivalents than a combination of eggs, bacon, sausages, hashbrowns and toast! (Try Gracious Living Carrot Cake Smoothie for breakfast, page 25).
Some green eating tips:
- Eat organic. Choosing certified organic foods reduces pollution in the air, soil, and water by ensuring reduced use of pesticides.
- Grow your own food. Even if you don’t have much room or experience, you can start with something easy like growing your own herbs. It’s better for the environment, will save you money, and is therapeutic.
- Eat locally. It’s the next best thing to growing your own. Buying foods grown close to home by local farmers helps reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
- Eat fewer processed foods. In addition to creating more unnecessary packaging that pollutes, the processing and transportation of packaged foods is much more energy and resource intensive than buying or growing fresh ingredients and cooking from scratch.
- Eat lower on the food chain. That means working toward a plant-based diet. Try meatless and cheese-less Mondays as part of your routine. Make meat a side dish, not a main course. Play with more grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, vegetables, and fruit. Start every morning with a plant-based smoothie to feel amazing and help the planet!