by Wendy Gabriel
GREEN TIP: Join the Cool Foods Campaign and take a bite out of global warming. An added benefit… you’ll be healthier.
The way we eat has a direct impact not only on our health but also on the health of our planet. You are what you eat. And what you eat can either be a natural part of the circle of life or have a negative impact on our planet.
The Cool Foods Campaign – a project of the Center for Food Safety and the CornerStone Campaign – makes the connections between the foods we eat and their contribution to global warming. The Campaign aims to educate the public about the impact of their food choices across the entire food system and empower them with the resources to reduce this impact.
An easy way to tell if your food is “Cool,” or if it has excessively contributed to global warming, is to ask yourself these 5 simple questions before you buy.
(1) Is this food organic?
Organic foods are produced without the use of energy-intensive and synthetic pesticides and fertilizers, growth hormones, antibiotics, and they are not genetically engineered or irradiated.
In addition to the emissions from fertilizer production, nitrous oxide, a very potent greenhouse gas, is emitted when these chemicals are applied to farmland. Conventional fertilizers also pollute water sources, which kills fish and plants and emits methane, also a very potent greenhouse gas.
Unlike organic farming, conventional agriculture contributes to erosion by overusing synthetic pesticides. Not only does erosion emit carbon dioxide, but it transports agricultural chemicals to water sources.
To Be Cooler
Buy organic and look for the USDA organic label to ensure that the food you eat is “certified organic.”
(2) Is this product made from a factory farm animal?
Conventional factory farmed meat – eg. beef, poultry, pork, dairy, and farmed seafood – is the #1 cause of global warming in our food system. A recent study from Carnegie Mellon University indicates that almost 60% of greenhouse gas emissions from food are from animal products. Animals in industrial systems are fed foods they cannot biologically process. They are confined to unhealthy and overcrowded cages – conditions that contribute to malnutrition and disease. In an attempt to keep animals healthy they are sprayed with over 2 million pounds of insecticides and their cages are sprayed with over 360,000 pounds of insecticides every year. They also ingest an astounding 84% of all the antimicrobials, including antibiotics, used annually in the United States.
Every year, livestock consume about half of all of the grains and oilseeds that are grown in the U.S., thereby consuming over 14 billion pounds of fertilizers and over 174 million pounds of pesticides. Producing all of these chemicals requires huge amounts of energy and is a major cause of global warming.
To Be Cooler
Limit your consumption of conventional meat, dairy, and farmed seafood. Buy organic, local or grass-fed meat and dairy whenever possible, since these foods are produced without energy-intensive synthetic pesticides and herbicides and may use fewer fossil fuels, and look for wild (not farmed), local seafood.
Another Cool Idea
Join the Meatless Monday movement. Reduce your impact on climate change by going vegetarian once a week. It’s easy!
(3) Has this food been processed?
Compared to whole foods such as fruits and vegetables, processed foods require the use of energy-intensive processes such as freezing, canning, drying, and packaging. Processed foods are usually sold in packages that contain a label listing the ingredients and are located in the center aisles of most grocery stores.
To Be Cooler
Do your best to avoid processed foods all together, but “certified organic” processed foods are a good alternative.
(4) How far did this food travel to reach my plate?
Transporting food throughout the world emits 30,800 tons of greenhouse gas every year. The average conventional food product travels about 1,500 miles to get to your grocery store.
To Be Cooler
Choose locally produced foods or foods grown as close to your home as possible. Look for country-of-origin labels on whole foods and avoid products from far away.
(5) Is this food excessively packaged?
Packaging materials, like many plastics, are oil-based materials that require energy to be created and are responsible for emitting 24,200 tons of greenhouse gas every year.
To Be Cooler
Buy whole foods. Purchase loose fruits and vegetables (rather than bagged or shrink-wrapped), buy bulk beans, pasta, cereals, seeds, nuts, and grains, and carry your own reusable grocery bags.
Food Choice and Beyond
You can reduce your FoodPrint by making conscious food choices that contribute to the reduction in global warming. Talk with your local store managers and encourage them to stock local and organic foods. (Source: Cool Foods Campaign)
My Green Side’s weekly web pick:
The Meatless Monday website gives additional reasons to avoid factory farm meat and their goal is help reduce meat consumption by 15% in order to improve personal health and the health of our planet. They are a non-profit initiative, in association with Johns Hopkins’ Bloomberg School of Public Health.
Editor’s Note: Each Wednesday My Green Side brings Simple Tips for Green Living to The Christopher Gabriel Program. We also highlight a favorite green site each week. You can stream the segment at approximately 1020am (CDT) every Wednesday at WDAY.com.