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Agri & Gardening co2 and food  not about local but what you eat | Upload General

CO2 And Food: Not About Local But What You Eat

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by: Sharai Hoekema
co2 and food  not about local but what you eat | Upload

You can hardly set foot in a restaurant these days without being bombarded with the ‘local’ signs. Locally brewed beers, locally caught fish. Dishes with ingredients that are locally grown. It is being hailed as a stamp of (local) approval, something that is organic, something that helps the local entrepreneurs. 

CO2 Footprint Food: Environmental Impacts

Frequently, these are not wrong. By buying locally sourced produce, you do support your local community. Yet the organic element is often inferred but not always correctly, so: small local producers often rely on chemical processes, as the scale advantages are not present. Nonetheless, the benefits of eating local are overstated and not necessarily more sustainable.

While people often look at the transportation and energy industries as the largest CO2 emitters, there is, another massive polluter. More than 25% of the world’s emissions are resulting from the production of food. As there are more than 7 billion of us who want to eat, preferably daily, it is not surprising that this takes up a lot of our resources.

Red truck, banana's, road

The exact amount of resources used for our food production does, however, depend on what we eat. Our diet and eating habits are determinants of the correct size of our carbon footprint. This means that by making different food choices for our breakfast, lunch, and dinner, we can do our part in combatting climate change.



                                                               The diet that helps fight climate change.

This does not always mean that we have to eat local. Intuitively, it seems to make more sense to do so - transportation is another big polluter, thus avoiding it seems a big help. Only partly right - the share of traffic in the total food footprint is relatively minor, so it should not be the most important determinant. This means that what you eat is more important than where it came from.

CO2 Footprint Food: Where Do The Emissions Come From?

Looking at a piechart of greenhouse gas emissions for a wide range of foodstuffs, we can start drawing some meaningful comparisons and come up with a genuinely sustainable diet. Emissions from food production roughly fall into four categories: land use, processing, transport, and packaging. 

According to the world’s most extensive analysis of global food systems, there are massive differences in greenhouse gas emissions for different food groups. One of the largest polluters? Your steak or hamburger, at 60 kilograms of greenhouse gases per kilogram of beef. This stands in stark contrast to the good old’ peas, which only emit one kilogram per kilogram.

cow, motorbile, rial, road
'Your steak on the road.'

This seems indicative of a trend, where animal-based foods are generally emitting more than plant-based products. Being vegan would, therefore, be a more sustainable choice than going for the paleo-diet. And it is not just beef, but products like lamb and cheese are pretty polluting as well (both produce over 20 kilograms of greenhouse gasses per kilogram of product). Other animal-based products, including poultry, eggs, and pork, are more sustainable choices (6 kilograms per kilogram), but still more polluting than most plant-based options.

Recommended: Blue Planet Earth: The Amount Of Water You Use

More significantly, though, the data allows us to observe where the emissions come from. As it turns out, the use of land and the processing of products at the farm stage are most polluting - coming in at 80% of the total food footprint. As mentioned before, transport is only a small part, coming in at less than 10% for most products - going as low as 0.5% for beef products. Other parts of the supply chain are similarly low on their emissions. This includes retail and packaging, making that very sustainable cardboard packaging for your local fruit mostly irrelevant. 

Recommended: Are Bio-Based Bottles Good For The Environment?

strawberries, cardboard box

CO2 Footprint Food: Eating Local Only Slightly Reduces Your Emissions

If you are going to a local farmer for his beef or lamb, you might think that you are doing well for the environment - while you are increasing your food footprint far more than if you opted for some far-away grown produce. If you opted instead for eating New-Zealand lamb in Europe or Scottish beef in the States, you would hardly be causing any additional pollution.

Once again, it goes to show that eating local has minimal effect on total food emissions. This especially holds for beef, one of the largest polluters in and of itself. Opting for meat from local cows does not do anything towards making you a more sustainable person. Not eating meat does.

5 ice creams, trees

A study of Weber and Matthews (2008) found that if an average family were to substitute their hamburger and ice-cream (so their beef and dairy products) for poultry, pork, fish, eggs or plant-products, for just one single day per week, this would effectively do more to reduce their emissions than buying all their products locally. How?
Estimates have shown that even if you are to purchase all of your food locally, you would, at the most, reduce your carbon footprint by 5%. And this number is probably already too high, as it does not take into account the emissions associated with getting the food from the producers to your home. Not eating beef just one day per week already almost completely offsets this amount (which reduces your carbon footprint by 4%).

Recommended: We Created The Coronavirus: A Milieu Flaw That Will Kill Us

In extreme cases, eating locally might increase your carbon footprint. Most countries have a climate that is such that specific foodstuffs cannot be produced all year round—strawberries, for instance, or apples. Yet consumers want to enjoy these all year round. This means that we either have to import them from other countries where they are in-season, use refrigeration and preservation methods to store them after harvesting, or use artificial methods to produce them, such as greenhouses. The latter two are very energy-intensive, which makes importing - unsurprisingly - the best option.

CO2 Footprint Food: Avoid air-freighted Food

The message thus far has been pretty depressing: eating locally will not help you do well for the environment. Then what will? For starters, avoiding beef, dairy, and lamb will go a long way. Then, there is one notable exception to the transportation rule that you should be aware of. Transportation might not be a major polluter in and of itself, but air transportation is.

Plane, freight

Air-freight food is rare - much rarer than you would expect, at about 0,16% of the total - but has a pretty big footprint nonetheless: about 50 times more than other transportation methods, such as the far more common boat, that hauls our precious avocados and almonds.

Recommended: Facebook Solar Planes For Network Internet Connectivity

Identifying food that has been brought to you by plane is pretty hard. It is time to start being suspicious when you notice a far-away country on the label of a very perishable product, like berries, beans, and asparagus. These have a short shelf-life, too short to be transported by boat - and require an absolute freshness. Those characteristics should get some alarm bells ringing in your head. 

So, if you are insistent on eating locally for the environments’ sake, you will find yourself disillusioned. Avoiding air-freighted food will have a minimal impact as well. Your best bet is to stick with foods that are in-season and avoid dairy and beef products as much as you can - this is where you’ll start to make a difference. It is all about what you eat, not where it came from.

Before you go!

Recommended: Getting Healthier By Eating Sustainable Food And Taking Exercise

Did you find this an interesting article, or do you have a question or remark? Leave a comment below.
We try to respond the same day.

Like to write your article about vegan food?
Click on 'Register' or push the button 'Write An Article' on the 'HomePage.'

 

CO2 And Food: Not About Local But What You Eat

You can hardly set foot in a restaurant these days without being bombarded with the ‘local’ signs. Locally brewed beers, locally caught fish. Dishes with ingredients that are locally grown. It is being hailed as a stamp of (local) approval, something that is organic, something that helps the local entrepreneurs.   CO2 Footprint Food: Environmental Impacts Frequently, these are not wrong. By buying locally sourced produce, you do support your local community. Yet the organic element is often inferred but not always correctly, so: small local producers often rely on chemical processes, as the scale advantages are not present. Nonetheless, the benefits of eating local are overstated and not necessarily more sustainable. While people often look at the transportation and energy industries as the largest CO2 emitters, there is, another massive polluter. More than 25% of the world’s emissions are resulting from the production of food. As there are more than 7 billion of us who want to eat, preferably daily, it is not surprising that this takes up a lot of our resources. The exact amount of resources used for our food production does, however, depend on what we eat. Our diet and eating habits are determinants of the correct size of our carbon footprint. This means that by making different food choices for our breakfast, lunch, and dinner, we can do our part in combatting climate change. {youtube}                                                                 The diet that helps fight climate change. This does not always mean that we have to eat local. Intuitively, it seems to make more sense to do so - transportation is another big polluter, thus avoiding it seems a big help. Only partly right - the share of traffic in the total food footprint is relatively minor, so it should not be the most important determinant. This means that what you eat is more important than where it came from. CO2 Footprint Food: Where Do The Emissions Come From? Looking at a piechart of greenhouse gas emissions for a wide range of foodstuffs, we can start drawing some meaningful comparisons and come up with a genuinely sustainable diet. Emissions from food production roughly fall into four categories: land use, processing, transport, and packaging.   According to the world’s most extensive analysis of global food systems, there are massive differences in greenhouse gas emissions for different food groups. One of the largest polluters? Your steak or hamburger, at 60 kilograms of greenhouse gases per kilogram of beef. This stands in stark contrast to the good old’ peas, which only emit one kilogram per kilogram. 'Your steak on the road.' This seems indicative of a trend, where animal-based foods are generally emitting more than plant-based products. Being vegan would, therefore, be a more sustainable choice than going for the paleo-diet. And it is not just beef, but products like lamb and cheese are pretty polluting as well (both produce over 20 kilograms of greenhouse gasses per kilogram of product).   Other animal-based products, including poultry, eggs, and pork, are more sustainable choices (6 kilograms per kilogram), but still more polluting than most plant-based options. Recommended:  Blue Planet Earth: The Amount Of Water You Use More significantly, though, the data allows us to observe where the emissions come from. As it turns out, the use of land and the processing of products at the farm stage are most polluting - coming in at 80% of the total food footprint. As mentioned before, transport is only a small part, coming in at less than 10% for most products - going as low as 0.5% for beef products. Other parts of the supply chain are similarly low on their emissions. This includes retail and packaging, making that very sustainable cardboard packaging for your local fruit mostly irrelevant.   Recommended:  Are Bio-Based Bottles Good For The Environment? CO2 Footprint Food: Eating Local Only Slightly Reduces Your Emissions If you are going to a local farmer for his beef or lamb, you might think that you are doing well for the environment - while you are increasing your food footprint far more than if you opted for some far-away grown produce. If you opted instead for eating New-Zealand lamb in Europe or Scottish beef in the States, you would hardly be causing any additional pollution. Once again, it goes to show that eating local has minimal effect on total food emissions. This especially holds for beef, one of the largest polluters in and of itself. Opting for meat from local cows does not do anything towards making you a more sustainable person. Not eating meat does. A study of Weber and Matthews (2008) found that if an average family were to substitute their hamburger and ice-cream (so their beef and dairy products) for poultry, pork, fish, eggs or plant-products, for just one single day per week, this would effectively do more to reduce their emissions than buying all their products locally. How? Estimates have shown that even if you are to purchase all of your food locally, you would, at the most, reduce your carbon footprint by 5%. And this number is probably already too high, as it does not take into account the emissions associated with getting the food from the producers to your home. Not eating beef just one day per week already almost completely offsets this amount (which reduces your carbon footprint by 4%). Recommended:  We Created The Coronavirus: A Milieu Flaw That Will Kill Us In extreme cases, eating locally might increase your carbon footprint. Most countries have a climate that is such that specific foodstuffs cannot be produced all year round—strawberries, for instance, or apples. Yet consumers want to enjoy these all year round. This means that we either have to import them from other countries where they are in-season, use refrigeration and preservation methods to store them after harvesting, or use artificial methods to produce them, such as greenhouses. The latter two are very energy-intensive, which makes importing - unsurprisingly - the best option. CO2 Footprint Food: Avoid air-freighted Food The message thus far has been pretty depressing: eating locally will not help you do well for the environment. Then what will? For starters, avoiding beef, dairy, and lamb will go a long way. Then, there is one notable exception to the transportation rule that you should be aware of. Transportation might not be a major polluter in and of itself, but air transportation is. Air-freight food is rare - much rarer than you would expect, at about 0,16% of the total - but has a pretty big footprint nonetheless: about 50 times more than other transportation methods, such as the far more common boat, that hauls our precious avocados and almonds. Recommended:  Facebook Solar Planes For Network Internet Connectivity Identifying food that has been brought to you by plane is pretty hard. It is time to start being suspicious when you notice a far-away country on the label of a very perishable product, like berries, beans, and asparagus. These have a short shelf-life, too short to be transported by boat - and require an absolute freshness. Those characteristics should get some alarm bells ringing in your head.   So, if you are insistent on eating locally for the environments’ sake, you will find yourself disillusioned. Avoiding air-freighted food will have a minimal impact as well. Your best bet is to stick with foods that are in-season and avoid dairy and beef products as much as you can - this is where you’ll start to make a difference. It is all about what you eat, not where it came from. Before you go! Recommended:  Getting Healthier By Eating Sustainable Food And Taking Exercise Did you find this an interesting article, or do you have a question or remark? Leave a comment below. We try to respond the same day. Like to write your article about vegan food? Click on  'Register'  or push the button 'Write An Article' on the  'HomePage.'  
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