The Environment, Science, Food & Drinks, Now + Beyond

5 foods to cut out if you want to reduce your carbon footprint

Protecting the environment starts with your plate.

There are many ways to reduce your carbon footprint, drive less, reduce waste and reuse plastic, etc. Likewise, what we put on our plates has an impact, not only on our bodies but on the environment too. Eating a more environmentally conscious diet could reduce water pollution, emission of greenhouse gases and eutrophication. Only when we aim to be environmentally conscious in all facets of our lives, can we protect the planet. And our plates is a good place to start.

Here are some foods you can avoid or cut down on to protect the environment.

1.  Almond Milk

A brown and white corgi running across the wooden floor with a carton of almond breeze in its mouth.
[Image description: A brown and white corgi running across the wooden floor with a carton of almond breeze in its mouth.] Via GIPHY
Apparently, this popular dairy alternative might not be as healthy as you think. Though almond milk makes a great replacement for cow’s milk, its effects on the environment are hefty. For instance, 80% of the world’s almonds come from California, a place that has been experiencing severe drought. To add, production almonds and its milk require high amounts of water supply. Due to the high water demand, farmers drill wells that create subsidence issues, these threaten infrastructure. Oat milk seems to be a more sustainable alternative.

2. Lamb

A gif of lamb kebabs on skewers being barbequed.
[Image description: A gif of lamb kebabs on skewers being barbequed.] Via GIPHY
Among red meats, production of lamb damages the environment the most. The meat produces 20kg of CO2 emission, which contributes to an increase in greenhouse gases leading to global warming. Furthermore, the increase in sheep livestock due to lamb production contributes to the creation of methane gas in the atmosphere. This gas is 30 times more potent and heat-trapping than CO2. All this contributes to global warming which in turn leads to climate change.

3. Cheese

A gif of an animated mouse eating a triangle of cheese whole.
[Image description: A gif of an animated mouse eating a triangle of cheese whole.] Via GIPHY
Yes, you read that right. Cheese, according to this study was on the third item on the list for the amount of CO2 produced. At first and second were lamb and beef respectively. What puts cheese so high up on the list? It requires high amounts of milk to produce small quantities of cheese. Moreover, cows being ruminants produce high amounts of methane gas. Although, cheese is not eaten in large quantities like meat is. It’s still important to be aware of the effects cheese production can have on the environment. Soft cheeses, such as brie, mozzarella, and camembert produce much fewer greenhouse gases due to a shorter aging process. They are much more sustainable options.

4. Rice

A gif of wide arrays of dishes with a big plate of rice at the center.
[Image description: A gif of wide arrays of dishes with a big plate of rice at the center.] Via GIPHY
It’s one of the most staple food crops across the world. Because of the large demand for rice, it is one of the major contributors to rising temperatures. Rice paddies produce nitrous oxide, an atmospheric pollutant, which is far more potent than CO2 and methane. Furthermore, 2.5% of climate warming is reportedly caused by rice production. And the high demand of water required in growing rice is detrimental to the environment, as it uses up vital water sources.

5. Farmed Salmon

A piece of cooked salmon being placed on green vegetables.
[Image description: A piece of cooked salmon being placed on green vegetables.] Via GIPHY
Over the years, there has been a large decline in wild fish due to excessive fishing. Pisciculture or fish farming is used as a method to combat this problem. But this kind of farming is proving to be quite detrimental for marine ecosystems. In fact, pesticides and synthetic chemicals used to prevent bacterial outbreaks usually make their way into the sea and pollute it. Further, these farmed fishes escape from farms and get mixed with the wild population. Ramifications of this lead to a weakened wild stock due to genetic modification.

It’s easy to be oblivious to the consequences our food has on the environment when shopping for groceries. But as reported by the UNFAO agriculture greenhouse gas emission have drastically increased over time. These numbers could increase by 30 percent in the next 30 years.

Switching to a more plant-based diet and cutting down on meat/fish consumption can help our environment. Some of us might not be able to completely cut out the foods mentioned above but we can do our best to be mindful of the food we consume.