Whole Life Magazine

October/November 2019

Issue link: https://digital.copcomm.com/i/1173846

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Page 12 of 31

October/November 2019 13 M any of us take a holistic approach to our well-being. We try to exercise, eat well, and take care of our mental health. We cannot ignore any facet of our lives: that is the secret to a happy and healthy life. It is also the secret to combating climate change. Until recently, we left out a key factor of climate change from scientific, policy, and advocacy conversations. We left out our food system. Like the energy and transportation sectors, we must understand and fix our food system if we want to solve climate change. According to a recently released United Nations report, an estimated 23 percent of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions come from agriculture, livestock, and the land and forests needed to raise them. Even worse, if you add up everything that goes into our food system — production, processing, transporting, consumption, and waste — it accounts for up to a third of all human-made GHG emissions. Intensive animal agriculture, the biggest contributor to the agriculture sector's GHG emissions, is also depleting our natural resources. At rapid rates, forests are turned into grazing land for animals and corn and soy fields used to feed them. We use 36-74 trillion gallons of water in the US alone to raise animals, which is about 1,800 gallons per pound of beef. To make matters worse, heavy pollutants from animal agriculture facilities such as nitrates and sulfates, leach into our waterways and cause algae blooms and dead zones that are uninhabitable by marine life. Clearly, we cannot ignore this significant piece of the puzzle. That is why the Earth Day Network launched "Foodprints for the Future," a program working to ensure there is low- impact, healthy, accessible, and affordable food for all and for the planet. A "foodprint" measures the environmental impacts associated with the growing, producing, transporting, and storing of our food — from the natural resources consumed to the pollution produced to the greenhouse gases emitted. Foodprints for the Future aims to reduce our collective foodprint. Everyone can take part by adding more plant-based foods into their diets. According to one carbon foodprint calculator, if everyone in the US replaced meat with plants for two meals a week, we could save 7.8 trillion gallons of water which is equivalent to almost 12,000 Olympic-sized pools. We would also save 49 billion pounds of carbon dioxide every year! Fortunately, it is now easier than ever to make climate-friendly foods a bigger part of your diet. Plant-based foods grew 11 percent in retail compared to just two percent growth of meat products. There are millions of plant- based recipes and other resources you can find online. Food and Wine magazine even called plant-based entrées one of the 11 biggest restaurant trends of 2019. While individuals can have a significant collective impact, we need systemic change, too. It is vital that governments, restaurants, and other institutions take part in reducing our foodprint. This can happen through incentivizing sustainable farming practices, adding plant-based foods to menus, and reducing food waste. Some cities are starting to slowly transition to climate-friendly programs. New York City plans to phase out processed meats and cities across the country have implemented Meatless Monday resolutions. While these changes are important, we still have leaps and bounds to go because the sector has been ignored for so long. The climate crisis is real, and we only have a decade to curb the worst of it. Like the transportation and energy sectors, we must make big changes to our food system if we are to build a healthy planet for generations to come. Michelle Pawliger is Director of the Food and Environment Program at Earth Day Network and leads their efforts to combat climate change through food systems and food choices. Visit earthday.org. healthy living Evidence-based Connections FOOD AND CLIMATE CHANGE By Michelle Pawliger

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