Three Paths to Lowering the Carbon Impacts of Your Food Choices

Photo by Brooke Lark on Unsplash

Photo by Brooke Lark on Unsplash

Did you know that what you consume has an environmental impact? Eating lower down the carbon chain is one of the most effective – and easiest – ways to lower your footprint. Here are three steps you can take starting now to save the planet by being more selective and thoughtful about your diet.

Pilot your Plan: Go meatless once a week. You’ve heard of #MeatlessMonday, right? Cattle and sheep release a highly prevalent greenhouse gas called methane (which is 35 times more powerful than carbon dioxide!) as part of their digestive process. Cutting back on meals with beef or lamb to just once per week can make a huge impact on emissions. For a family of four, going meatless once a week is the same as driving the average car 1,500 miles fewer miles. This action is pretty easy, too – all you need to do is take a few minutes to consider the alternatives. You can find #meatlessmonday recipes galore online, or seek out alternatives at your favorite restaurant!

BONUS CLIMATE ACTION TIP: Want to consume meat even less than once per week? Consider a “flexitarian” diet, which is mostly plant-based, without having to give up meat entirely. Choosing to eat beef only once a week instead of twice a week, for example, saves 1,100 pounds of carbon, the equivalent of 21.8 trash bags of waste recycled instead of landfilled.

Level up on your Legumes Give a vegetarian diet a try. Plant-based proteins like beans, chickpeas, lentils, quinoa, nuts, seeds, tofu, tempeh, and edamame are great alternatives to meat, and are often less expensive (so you save money too!). Add in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and healthy fats and you are good to go! With recipes like Black Bean Quesadillas, Veggie Loaded Pizza, and Lentil-Mushroom “Meatballs,” going vegetarian can be even more delicious than you thought.  

BONUS CLIMATE ACTION TIP: Consider the winter produce you choose, as suggested by The New York Times’s Climate FWD. Think about the air miles that produce travels to get to the grocery aisle in the off-season and avoid fruits and veggies grown in a heated greenhouse.

Take the Low Carbon Leap! Transition to vegan. Vegans eat plants exclusively – no meat, eggs, or dairy, or any animal-based food. In addition to environmental concerns, many choose to eat vegan for ethical or health reasons. C’ville actually has loads of eateries that offer a variety of eco-friendly vegan options, like The Juice Laundry, Roots Natural Kitchen, and Monsoon Siam. Ashley Jane the Vegan has done a lot of the homework for us, so check out her guide to eating vegan in Charlottesville.

BONUS CLIMATE ACTION TIP: Check out MindBodyGreen’s “five steps to successfully starting a vegan diet,” which may help you ease into the transition with even more preparation.

Learn more about how food choices impact the environment – calculate YOUR diet's carbon footprint!