How to Fight Climate Change with Your Fork
An overwhelming majority of the scientific community agrees that greenhouse gas emissions have increased to dangerous levels, threatening our planet and normal way of life. We see examples of climate change every day: rising sea levels, hotter temperatures, species extinction, and an increase in extreme weather conditions and events. With all these natural disasters unfolding in front of us, it’s hard to deny that the future is at risk.
Sources of harmful greenhouse gas emissions vary, but a major contributor is the livestock industry, which alone makes up an estimated 14.5% of all global greenhouse gas emissions from human activities—more than the entire transportation sector combined. Having a diet that revolves around animal products isn’t sustainable, and as the global population continues to grow, the demand for meat, and its detrimental impact on the planet, will only increase.
What we eat has both a short-term and long-term effect on the environment, so when it comes to combating climate change, an easy way to make a difference is with your food choices. Eating more sustainable foods and plant-based ingredients is one way to make an impact, but composting, reducing food waste, and supporting sustainable/vegetarian-forward restaurants can also indirectly lower your own carbon footprint.
In honor of climate week, we’ve compiled a list of easy actions that you can take this Monday to make a positive impact on the environment.
Adopt Meatless Monday
Well, this is an easy one. Plant-based nutrition contributes to healthy, sustainable food practices. Shifting to a more plant-based diet has the potential to help decrease agricultural land use by as much as 80 percent. Plus, it’s good for your health. Incorporating Meatless Monday into your diet is easy, and it can be a fun way to experiment with new ingredients, cuisines, and cooking techniques. Encourage your friends, family, and colleagues to get involved and schedule some events or dinner parties around meatless eating.
Eat More Plant-Based Meals
By eating more plant-based meals, you are taking a step in the direction of reducing the global demand for meat. We have hundreds of plant-based recipes for you to explore ranging from plant-based versions of your favorite comfort foods to non-meat ways to satisfy your meaty cravings. And give tofu some extra love; you can literally turn it into almost anything.
Reduce Food Waste
The United States wastes between 31 to 40% of its post-harvest food supply (food that’s already been grown, harvested, transported, and sold), and much of this is done at the consumer level. Reducing food waste is an important way to preserve finite natural resources and limit greenhouse gas emissions. There are a number of ways you can reduce food waste in the kitchen, such as making a weekly meal plan, freezing fruits and vegetables before they go bad, and buying shelf-stable items like beans, frozen produce, and dried grains.
When you don’t compost your food waste, it’s almost always sent to the landfill with the other garbage. The problem is that much of this organic material rots when it isn’t disposed of properly, releasing methane and carbon dioxide in the process. These greenhouse gasses trap heat and make the planet warmer. Composting has other benefits as well: it helps control erosion, improves soil health, and contributes to revitalizing local water sources. Some cities have compost drop off stations, and there are also a number of DIY composting projects you can do to make composting at home easier.
Eat Sustainable Foods
Different foods require different quantities of resources to produce. And some foods are more sustainable than others. In 2019, the World Wildlife Foundation created a list of its top 50 foods for a sustainable future. Foods like mushrooms, beans, cereals, grains, algae, and kale are all nutrient-dense and environmentally friendly, so try adding more of them into your weekly meal plan.
Support Restaurants with Sustainability Initiatives
Restaurants that commit to seasonal ingredients, plant-based options, and local produce should be rewarded for their efforts. Try to frequent these restaurants when possible and show your appreciation to the staff and management. Some major quick-service restaurants like Just Salad, Panera, and Chipotle Mexican Grill even have climate-friendly menus that identify their more sustainable options.
Participate in Plant-Based Eating Festivals and Events
There’s a whole world of plant-based eating opportunities out there, and you may not even be aware of the thousands of delicious options available. Festivals and events, like Eat for Climate Week NYC, highlight different purveyors and restaurants that offer vegetarian and vegan dishes.