Everybody these days is talking about their carbon footprint – well if they care about the planet they are. A carbon footprint is a measure of how much carbon dioxide is released into the atmosphere as a result of the activities you undertake.
Carbon dioxide is an important greenhouse gas that helps to trap heat in our atmosphere. Without it, it would be too cold to live on this planet. It’s also important to plants – carbon dioxide is vital for plant and animal process, such as photosynthesis and respiration (breathing – that’s kind of important, don’t you agree?).
But too much of a good thing is not a good thing. Too much carbon dioxide and the planet starts to heat up – those long record-breaking heatwaves and months on end with higher than average temperatures don’t happen by chance. Simply stated, as a human race we are releasing too much carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
So what can you as an individual do about it? How you eat has a big impact on your carbon footprint. Here are 6 easy ways you can reduce your impact on the planet’s atmosphere while maintaining a healthy diet and perhaps even growing your local economy.
Buy local. You’ve heard it all before: buying local reduces your carbon footprint. By reducing the number of miles food must be transported by fossil-fuelled vehicles, you are reducing the amount of carbon dioxide going into the atmosphere. Instead of shopping at your local supermarket, shop at your local farmers’ market. Or find a small regenerative farmer who will deliver to you or that you can visit on weekends. Supermarkets truck food all around the country in big B-double trucks, fuelled by plenty of diesel. Farmers’ market producers and small regenerative farmers utilise smaller vehicles, move smaller quantities of food and most of them travel less than 100km to get to the market. Low food miles.
Source pasture-raised meats and eggs. Proteins grown on pasture instead of in feedlots or intensive style sheds where they never see the light of day have been shown to not only produce much less carbon dioxide, they also have more Omega-3s and less Omega-6s. Omega-3s are a family of “essential fats” that play an important role in the way our cell membranes work. Omega-3 fats are ‘essential’. That is, we are unable to synthesise them in our body … so we must get them from our diet. Omega-3 fatty acids cut down blood cholesterol and blood triglycerides and they also cut down inflammation in the body. These are the two underlying causes of cardiovascular disease one of the biggest killers of our times. Omega-3s are pretty important to our health!
Grow local. Growing some of your own food is not only rewarding but significantly reduces the carbon footprint of that food to almost zero. If you save seeds, and grow from seed, that seed has not gone anywhere on a truck. The food you grow will have minimal carbon footprint. I say minimal because you may still be using fossil fuels to run electricity which runs the pump to water your food. Your food may be grown in raised beds made of mined metals. Even if you’re off-grid there is some energy which has gone into the manufacture of your solar panels or wind turbines so it will most likely have a small carbon footprint, unless you completely rely on rainfall and grow directly into the soil. But its a VERY SMALL carbon footprint nonetheless. And the food is fresher and you pick it 10 minutes before you eat it … delicious.
Learn to love your kitchen. If you can produce it, preserve it or pronounce it, its probably food. Making food from scratch reduces the carbon foot print – no metal cans of produce, no plastic bags, less packaging. Joel Salatin tells us to “Get in your kitchen and get jazzed up about learning and cultivating domestic culinary arts.” If you can’t make it at home, then don’t eat it – that’s a tough one isn’t it! We all love eating out, but if you utilised your kitchen 6 days a week, how much more healthfully would you eat? How much of your food budget would you save? How many skills can you learn in a year – imagine if you tried one new culinary skill each week for the rest of this year. By next Christmas you’d have plenty of kitchen jazz to share with your friends and family.
Use up or freeze your leftovers. If you have them (I don’t – dear hubby would eat anything put in front of him and then some!), then get creative in the kitchen. Create stock, curries, soups from leftovers and no-one will be any the wiser that they were second-time round foods. I’m not suggesting you use foods that are mouldy or off, or not consumable. Use leftovers the next day, or freeze them for later on.
Reduce food waste. If you can’t utilise something as leftovers e.g. fruit cores, stones, rinds, stubs, then if you have chooks they will eat most food scraps, as long as they are not mouldy. I don’t feed my chooks onions, citrus or coffee grounds – they go straight to the compost. As does any mouldy food. So, no rubbish truck required to come down your street and collect your rubbish. No greenhouse gases created from food rotting in landfill – this helps to reduce your carbon footprint too.
If you’re new to all this, just try starting with one little action – one small step at a time will make a big difference over the course of a year. Once you have mastered that one, pick another one. It can be fun exploring your city or town and finding new food outlets which are local and fresh. Make it a day out to visit the farmers’ market, or attend a class to learn a new kitchen skill. Spend an afternoon with friends making passata from your tomato crop or try making sauerkraut at home. Just start – one thing at a time and build your repertoire as you go. Classes and markets are great ways to meet like-minded people who are generous with their knowledge and skills.
One step at a time you can reduce your carbon foot print. What have you got to lose?