So, you’re interested in pursuing a Climate Solution related to Food. Great choice! Read through this Deep Dive to learn more about this topic so that you’re armed with all the facts as you develop your project!
Deep Dive Table of Contents
On this page, you’ll find the following:
- The Food section of our Climate Solutions Shark Tank video
- A deeper investigation of all things Food
- An explanation of how Food is an environmental justice issue
- A helpful list of suggested project ideas to get you inspired
- Delve Deeper – A list of resources and further research for your team to use as you develop your project
Climate Solutions Shark Tank – Food
How Food Impacts the Climate Crisis
All activities related to maintaining our food system, including food production, transportation and the storage of wasted food produce greenhouse gasses and contribute to climate change.
Food production and processing are responsible for approximately 26% of global greenhouse gas emissions (Our World In Data). Choices we make about what we eat, where it comes from and what we do with the food we purchase, have huge effects on our climate.
We all know that what we eat is very important in keeping our bodies strong and healthy. However, what we choose to eat is also very important to combat climate change because some sources of food have much bigger effects on the climate than others. Ruminant animals like cows have a lower growth and reproduction rate compared to pigs and poultry, so they require a higher amount of feed per unit of meat produced. Animal feed requires land to grow, which has a carbon cost associated with it. All told, beef is more resource-intensive to produce than most other kinds of meat, and animal-based foods overall are more resource-intensive than plant-based foods. Beef requires 20 times more land and emits 20 times more greenhouse gases than plant proteins such as beans (World Resources Institute). So, choosing a more plant-based diet is important in reducing the greenhouse gases produced that lead to climate change.
Greenhouse gases are also emitted when our food is transported from its source to where it is processed and packaged and finally to the grocery stores where we purchase it. These days we’re able to head down to the supermarket and purchase a vast array of foods from all over the world. But to meet this demand, our food is transported further than ever before, often by air. That makes it a major contributor to greenhouse emissions and climate change. In many cases, Western society routinely purchases food that was grown more than 1000 miles away and transported to the local grocery store. While food prices in the store are relatively inexpensive, the environmental cost of transporting your food is often very high. Airplanes, trucks, trains, and boats, all of which consume fossil fuels, are the primary methods for transporting large quantities of food around the world causing an increase in greenhouse gas emissions. The term ‘food miles’ refers to the total geographic distance food is transported between their cultivation, processing and to the consumer at the point of sale. Put simply, it’s way of measuring how far your food had to travel to get to your plate (theconsciouschallenge.org). By choosing to shop at farmers markets and buy local, seasonal foods, we can reduce the fossil fuels consumed and greenhouse gases emitted to produce our meals.
Sadly, after all the energy that is used and greenhouse gases that are emitted from producing and transporting our food, much of it is wasted. Thirty percent of the food produced globally is wasted every year and, in the U.S., it’s even more – 40 percent (Yale Climate Connections). That’s equal to about 1.3 billion tons of fruits, vegetables, meat, dairy, seafood, and grains that either never leave the farm, get lost or spoiled during distribution, or are thrown away in hotels, grocery stores, restaurants, schools, or home kitchens. It could be enough calories to feed every undernourished person on the planet (World Wildlife Foundation). This contributes to our climate crisis in two main ways. First, there’s the waste of the food itself and all of the emissions that were caused by its production and transportation. Second, if food goes to the landfill and rots, it produces methane—a greenhouse gas even more potent than carbon dioxide. About 11% of all the greenhouse gas emissions that come from the food system could be reduced if we stop wasting food (World Wildlife Foundation). According to figures recently released by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), food loss and waste accounts for about 4.4 gigatonnes of greenhouse gas emissions per year. To put this in perspective, if food loss and waste were its own country, it would be the world’s third-largest emitter—surpassed only by China and the United States (World Resources Institute).
Food and Environmental Justice
Industrialized animal factories and large-scale agricultural lands emit dangerous pollution into the land, air, and water in the form of animal waste, chemical fertilizers and pesticides, soil blown from farmlands, and industrial emissions. As in other areas of industry, large scale food industries are often concentrated in low-income communities affecting people of color and those with less resources more than the rest of the population. This pollution leads to severe health impacts for those living in close proximity (Food Empowerment Project).
On top of this, people in low-income communities tend to live in food deserts. Food deserts are regions where people have limited access to healthy, affordable food. Because of this, people living in food deserts may be at higher risk of diet-related conditions, such as obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. (Medical News Today) People’s choices about what to eat are severely limited by the options available to them and what they can afford—and many food deserts contain an overabundance of fast food chains selling cheap “meat” and dairy-based foods that are high in fat, sugar, and salt. Processed foods (such as snack cakes, chips, and soda) typically sold by corner delis, convenience stores, and liquor stores are usually just as unhealthy (Food Empowerment Project). In order to create a fair and just society, all people regardless of race or income level deserve a clean place to live, free of pollution, and affordable and accessible healthy food options.
There are many things we can do to act on this today! We can eat a plant-base diet – or cut back on our meat consumption. We can buy seasonal and locally grown foods to reduce transportation emissions. We can waste less food by purchasing only what we need, eating left-overs, sharing with friends and neighbors, setting-up food donation programs, and compost food waste instead of landfilling it!
Food Project Ideas and Inspiration
Campaign Types Key – 🔊 🏢 📅 👍
In a future Phase, you’ll learn about the different types of campaigns you can use to implement your solution. Each project below aligns with one or more of these Campaign Types so we’ve marked them out using these symbols:
- 🔊 – Public Education & Action Campaign
- 🏢 – Institutional Change Campaign
- 📅 – Event Promotion Campaign
- 👍 – Program Adoption & Participation
Solution: Reduce Meat Consumption
- 🔊 🏢 – Meatless Mondays: Educate and inspire the public to go Meatless on Mondays or get an institution like your school, city, restaurants or other businesses to do Meatless Mondays
- 🏢 – Including Vegetarian or Vegan Options: Get your school, restaurants or other businesses to offer more vegetarian or vegan options
Solution: Promote Tropical-Forest-Friendly Foods
- 🔊 – Palm Oil Public Education Campaign: Educate and inspire the public about the problems with palm oil and the sustainable alternatives
- 🏢 – Advocate for Institutions to Use Tropical Forest Friendly Products: Convince an institution like your school or restaurants to buy certified tropical forest friendly products
Solution: Promote Sustainably-Produced Foods
- 🔊 🏢 – Promote Organic Food: Educate and inspire the public to buy Certified Organic food or get an institution like your school, city, restaurants or other businesses to switch to Organic products
- 🏢 👍 – Support or Host a Farmers’ Market: Push your city or community to host a farmers’ market. If your community has a farmers’ market then promote it.
- 🔊 🏢 – Home Gardens: Educate the community on the benefits of home gardens and growing your own food or advocate for your city for a community vegetable garden.
- 👍 – Encourage the public to support and purchase community supported agriculture (CSA) boxes or organizations that sell surplus/imperfect produce
Solution: Reduce Food Waste
- 🔊 🏢 👍 – Compost: Educate and inspire the public to start composting at home, start an onsite composting program at school, or encourage your community to participate in existing municipal composting programs.
- 🏢 – Food Donation: Start a food donation program in your community or school or advocate to local grocery stores, businesses or restaurants to donate surplus and leftover foods.
- 🔊 – Home Food Waste: Educate and inspire the public to reduce food waste at home by purchasing only what they will eat and using leftovers and food scraps to make stocks and soups.
- 🏢 – Track Food Waste: Advocate to a school, business or restaurant to track food and take steps to reduce food waste
Check out the videos and links below to help you learn even more about this topic!
Food Wastage Footprint
How To Change Your Diet To Fight Climate Change
Verify: Living in a Food Desert
I Set Up A Restaurant Using Food Waste
Food Waste is the World’s Dumbest Problem
The diet that helps fight climate change
How harmful to the climate is transporting food by air?
Ali Jackson Ted Talk Food Waste
Food Waste Causes Climate Change
Articles for More Info
Organizations that Can Help You Build Your Project
Next Step: Pick Your Climate Solution Topic
Are you sold on Food for your project? Fantastic! Head back to Phase 1 to fill out the form titled “Phase 1.1 – Pick a Climate Solutions Topic to Focus On”
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