The Climate Impact of your Diet
|Date:||14 July 2021|
Nowadays, more and more people are trying to make sustainable food choices. But how do you know what the best choice is? How do you choose between avocados, meat or meat substitutes made from soy? And what about the exotic strawberries that you can buy at the supermarket during the winter? We noticed that making sustainable food choices is not always easy and that the answers to the questions asked here are not always clear. Therefore, we tried to find answers. In this blog we will share our insights about the climate impact of food and hopefully help readers in their quest towards making more sustainable food choices!
The Food and Climate Problem
Is food really such a big problem? The answer, very simply, is yes! Food currently has one of the biggest climate impacts. Estimates from OurWorldinData indicate that more than a quarter (!) of the total CO2 emissions in the world originate from the global food system. Plus, the food problem is only getting bigger: worldwide food consumption has been growing steadily in all continents for decades. Moreover, the amount of animal food products in our diets is increasing, with all its consequences…
Here in the Netherlands, we are currently not contributing to solving the problem. Estimates indicate that if everyone in the world would follow the standard Dutch diet, this would lead to a 88% growth in CO2 food emissions and we would have to use all the habitable land in the world for food production!
What can you do?
Of course, we can look towards the government and food production companies for solutions. But more importantly, you can already make a huge impact by yourself! When you think about your own food choices in the supermarket, do you also notice that you make them unconsciously? This makes it difficult to move away from your fixed (unsustainable) patterns. Making more sustainable food choices is one of the easiest solutions to significantly decrease your own climate impact. Therefore, we would like to challenge you! Force yourself to break these patterns by paying attention to the tips below for a week, a month, or even longer!
Our top 3 tips
- You can lower your emissions most easily by eating less animal products. Animal products are responsible for 80% of the total greenhouse gas emissions in an average Dutch diet (while it is by no means the largest share of the Dutch diet)! In the image below, you can clearly see that the worst food choices in terms of CO2 emissions are animal-based.
- Waste less food, for example by eating your leftovers the day after. Did you know that the total emissions from food waste worldwide are equal to three times the emissions from flying?
- Pay attention to foods that are transported by air. Airfreight goods are often easily perishable foodstuffs with a distant country of origin, such as raspberries and grapes.
Do you want to know more about the subject? We built a website on which all this research (and more!) is gathered. It allows you to calculate the precise climate impact of hundreds of foods and dishes, plus relevant comparisons and the best tips to reduce your impact. For example, did you know that a vegetarian hamburger in the Netherlands emits on average 88% less CO2 than a regular hamburger? Go to www.FoodFootprint.nl to find out more!
Friso Resink is a student of Energy & Environment at the University of Groningen, and Bram Rijsbosch is an Artifical Intelligence student at the RUG. Inspired by their discussions about sustainable food choices, they created FoodFootprint.nl. For this initiative, they have been nominated for the Duurzame Jonge 100!