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Be Informed of the Carbon Footprint of Your Food Choices

Climate change is getting worse and one of the reasons is the continuous carbon emissions from different sources like food / Photo by: kamilpetran via Shutterstock

 

For the past few decades, climate change has been getting a lot worse. One of the major contributors to this phenomenon is the presence of carbon emissions, which have shown serious consequences to humans and the environment. These carbon emissions, which come from fossil fuels that release carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, increase global temperatures by trapping solar energy in the atmosphere. This affects water supplies and weather patterns, threatening coastal communities with increasing sea levels and changing the growing season for food crops. 

In fact, the International Energy Agency reported that carbon emissions this 2018 will increase once again. The IEA accounts for 80% of global carbon emissions, so its performance is key to efforts to rein in rising world temperatures. This report comes as a surprise, since the total COS emissions across the globe for the past three years has remained flat. 

Additionally, the change in weather conditions caused by carbon emissions in the atmosphere has had negative impacts on the agricultural industry and human food supply. The increasing temperatures and decreasing precipitation have changed the conditions of food crops in many areas around the world. For instance, the United States Global Change Research Program predicted that the yields of tomatoes, wheat, rice, maize and sunflowers in Central Valley, California would significantly reduce. 

There are several ways to combat climate change through reducing the human carbon footprint and the amount of carbon dioxide and other carbon compounds emitted due to the consumption of fossil fuels by a particular person, group, etc. 

Knowing the Carbon Footprint of Your Food Choices

The carbon footprint of food is a contributing factor to climate change. This refers to the greenhouse gas emissions produced by growing, rearing, farming, processing, transporting, storing, cooking, and disposing of the food you eat. According to Green Eatz, each household in the United States alone produces over 48 tons of greenhouse gases. In fact, about eight tons of emissions per household or about 17% of the total has been reported. 

This is why being informed of the carbon emissions by our food choices and changing the foods we eat can have a great impact on our carbon footprint. A recent study conducted by the researchers from the University of Technology Sydney and Duke University wanted to find out how well consumers understand the carbon consequences of the food they eat.

According to Science Daily, the global greenhouse gas emissions that come from production account for around 19% to 29% of the total. This goes to show that choosing fruit and vegetables is a great strategy for reducing climate change. In an interview, lead author Dr. Adrian Camilleri said, "With an appliance such as a heater you can feel the energy used and see an electricity bill at the end of the month, so the impact is quite salient, whereas the impact of food production is largely invisible."

There is a carbon footprint in the food we intake and it is one of the contributing factors to carbon emissions causing pollution / Photo by: The Food Group via Shutterstock

 

The researchers surveyed more than 1,000 participants to estimate the energy embedded in 19 foods and 18 appliances. They did this to understand the amount of greenhouse gas emissions associated with those appliances and foods. They found that these people greatly underestimated energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions for both foods and electrical appliances. "If you ask people to guess the difference between items such as beef and vegetable soup on the environment they assume there is not much difference, but beef soup creates more than 10 times the amount of greenhouse gases than vegetable soup," Dr. Camilleri said. 

Dr. Camilleri also stated that people are not informed of how foods and electrical appliances can contribute to carbon emissions. To find out whether the researchers could improve people's perception of the environmental impact of their food choices, they presented 120 participants with a choice of soups to buy with labels. As a result, more participants chose the soups with a carbon footprint label. The study showed that the simple introduction of carbon footprint labels on food items can be a great way to increase understanding of energy use and greenhouse gas emissions from food production. 

Moreover, consuming fruits, vegetables, and grains has the least impact on the environment. "The choices we make at the dinner table can have a significant impact on global challenges such as climate change, and our research shows consumers are keen to make that choice," Dr. Camilleri said.

Changing Food Systems in Cities in Reducing Carbon Emissions 

Aside from evaluating the many ways we can mitigate greenhouse gas emissions such as building-efficiency regulations, cap-and-trade programs, and boosting public transit and renewable energy sources, scientists have also reported that a lot of cities and states in the United States have added measures to further cut their carbon footprint by tackling emissions related to food consumption and waste.

According to Science Daily, since 20% to 30% of global greenhouse gas emissions come from producing, refrigerating, and cooking food, and even tossing leftovers, researchers and policymakers primarily target the food system to reduce cities' carbon footprints. 

Cities and countries are now dong what they can to minimize food waste / Photo by: SpeedKingz via Shutterstock

 

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