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Could you quit meat once a week for a year?
Until she started writing her latest book, Diet for a Hot Planet (Bloomsbury, 2010), activist Anna Lappé didn’t think much about climate change when she was food shopping. Neither do most of us, she contends. But the emissions our food system contributes—from manufacturing fertilizer to transporting food waste—may be responsible for as much as one-third of global warming. We talked with Lappé, who founded the nonprofit Small Planet Institute with her mother, Frances Moore Lappé (author of the bestselling Diet for a Small Planet), about what we can eat for a cooler planet.
If we don’t drastically reduce man-made emissions, scientists predict a significant increase in average global temperature, which will mean an increase in the severity of floods and droughts. Plus pests will live longer and spread into new regions. Agriculture will be dramatically affected—we’re already seeing the disappearance of varieties of foods due to climate change. Traditionally farmers raised a mixture of crops as insurance for times of extreme drought or pests. But due to the industrialization of food, we now have large farms that are growing only one type of crop, making our food supply very vulnerable.
1. Choose local and organic foods. Buying local reduces emissions associated with food transportation. Organic farms emit up to two-thirds less carbon dioxide than industrial farms per acre, and sustainable agriculture practices also have the potential to sequester more carbon in the soil. Shop at your farmers’ market or co-op or join a community supported agriculture (CSA) farm.
2. Limit meat and dairy. Industrial meat production is energy intensive—it’s one of the major factors in the food system impacting climate change. Per capita, the American food supply delivers twice as much protein as we need. Buy half as much, and when you do purchase meat and dairy, choose certified organic and pasture-raised products.
3. Cut back on processed foods. Processed foods have lots of additives, preservatives and packaging—all of which require energy and generate emissions to create.
Photo by Bart Nagel