The Full Rundown: How to Limit Your Carbon Footprint by Eating Sustainably

In 2021, despite the debate, most people are finally ready to accept the fact that climate change exists. The urgency of our current predicament pushes down upon us like a heavy weight and the necessity of action becomes more and more obvious by the day. 

The earth has 7 years to reach net-zero carbon emissions, a task that seems near impossible with the state of our planet and corporations today. We are at a moment in time where action is no longer a choice but a necessity. Everybody should be making an effort, and the ways we choose to make an impact vary with the thousands of solutions and steps we can take in order to save the earth. 

With animal agriculture causing eighteen percent of all greenhouse gases, and all agricultural activities causing thirty percent of global emissions, it’s no secret that the way we navigate major food corporations and our individual food intake needs to change. 

So, let’s get into the good stuff. How do we help? 

Although there are thousands of aspects to climate change to take into consideration, sometimes the easiest thing you can do is start from within: your grub! 

(PSA: this is not a dieting article. This is simply the best way to eat and advocate for change in a way that gives back to the world around you. I hate diet culture. #DietingSucks!)

Let’s get into it.

One of the quickest (and most commonly known) ways we can limit our Carbon Footprint is to eat less meat. 

According to GlobalData, in 2014, only one percent of the American population labeled themselves as vegan; but in 2017, that number spiked to six percent. This seems like a major positive shift if you don’t take into account that meat consumption increased forty percent from 1998 to 2017, which is not only terrifying for our animals, but it’s even more disastrous for our atmosphere. 

Cows and other ruminant animals release methane, a greenhouse gas, through their feces and burps into the atmosphere (which is very bad and causes our earth to heat up). More meat consumption leads to the production of more greenhouse gasses, which speeds up climate change. 

The easiest way to boycott these huge corporations, and to limit your own personal carbon footprint, is to stop eating meat. If this seems like a daunting task for you, fear not! According to an article written by Brooke Larson in Reader’s Digest, if all Americans cut out meat for just one day a week it would “lower the emission of greenhouse gases by the equivalent of ten billion charged smartphones.” Decreasing your meat intake by just a little can make a big difference. 

Understand Where Your Products Come From: 

Whether we are aware of it or not, we constantly contribute to businesses, factories and corporations that can have an incredibly negative impact on the environment. 

Monsanto, an agrochemical and agricultural biotechnology corporation, is a topic that I could spend hours writing about (which I will spare you from… for now). Beginning in 1991 and founded by John F. Queeny, this corporation has opened doorways for some of the most toxic contributing factors to climate change. 

In 1995, The United States Environmental Protection Agency labeled Monsanto as one of the top five most lethal corporations. On top of dumping over 37 million tons of toxic waste through air, water and land, they created chemicals and weed spray that become laced in food we eat and can cause ADHD, Autism, and Parkinson’s. 

One of their most well known creations was the development of the disputed Genetically Modified Organisms (otherwise known as GMO’s) in 1973. Another polluter of the environment curated by Monsanto is the Roundup Herbicide, a glyphosate based weed spray. Glyphosate is a toxic pesticide commonly used in agriculture. It is deadly for many species, specifically bees, and it commonly runs into nearby streams or rivers and destroys aquatic biomes. According to EcoWatch, a study conducted by the University of California San Francisco found that ninety three percent of people have glyphosate in their bodies. 

Similar companies such as Syngenta, Cargill, Dreyfus, and Bunge have equally negative impacts on the environment. These corporations are causing historical rates of carbon input into the atmosphere and through new policy making, protests and boycotts we can work to hold these companies responsible for their actions. 

A Few Brands You Shouldn’t Buy From: 

Disclaimer: While many of these brands are the cheapest, they are also the most harmful for the environment. Making the choice to boycott these brands is a huge privilege, and it is not always a choice people have the liberty of making. If you have the privilege to eat sustainably, that’s amazing! If not, there are so many other ways to help.

Aunt Jemima, Betty Crocker, Capri Sun, Frito Lay, Healthy Choice, Kellogg’s, Pepperidge Farm, Stouffer’s and Hershey are all popular brands (along with many others) that are owned by Monsanto. 

On top of that, Nestle, Coca Cola, Tim Hortons, and McDonald’s are some of the largest polluters, according to Greenpeace. In general, it’s always a good move to avoid buying single use plastics such as water bottles, styrofoam, and a majority of food packaging. 

Products To Avoid: (besides meat) 

Palm oil: This is a major driver of deforestation in some of the world’s most biodiverse rainforests. This deforestation can lead to the extinction of several species such as the orangutans, giant pandas, chimpanzees, sloths and many more. In general, food products that contain palm oil are a big no, because this leads to deforestation and can be detrimental for the environment. 

Sugar: Sugar plantations are the number one contributor to the destruction of biodiversity in the world. They replace habitats with crops, heavily use agrochemicals, and use a substantial amount of water. 

Chocolate: Although delicious, the production of cacao is a leading factor in deforestation and water consumption, using 2400 gallons of water to make just one hundred grams of chocolate. 

Mineral Water: Although products such as La Croix and Bubly have become increasingly more trendy in recent years, mineral water has proven to be very unsustainable for the environment. 

Bananas, Peaches and Mangos: These fruits are unsustainable because they use the most water and chemicals to grow, and use excess gas in transporting them. When given the option, it’s always a good idea to avoid these fruits, especially if they’re not organic. 

These are just a few products to avoid. In general, it’s best to stray away from inorganic foods and products that have to be shipped from across the world. 

Brands That Are Sustainable: 

Buying locally sourced, organic products is always a sustainable option. In doing so, we protect genetic diversity, limit food miles (gas used in product transportation), and reduce plastic use. In some instances, when buying organic produce, going directly to a farmer’s market and buying locally sourced food can also be cheaper! 

However, that is not always an option. Some good, somewhat inexpensive companies that make an effort to help the environment are Nature’s Path, Ben and Jerry’s, Clif Bar, Organic Valley, Lundberg Family Farms, and Imperfect Foods. 

Advocating for Change Within Agricultural Corporations: 

Although changing your lifestyle is important in the fight against climate change, the area where we can make the most change is in advocacy. . Whether it be on social media, within your communities, or in class, it is important to make your voice heard and spread factual information. Being informed and informing others is the first step, and after that comes action. 

The journey to reverse the climate crisis is largely dependent on water preservation, preserving biodiversity, and protecting rainforests. It is also crucial to monitor and regulate large corporations so that they are not causing irreversible damage.

Write a letter or email to your local congress, corporate headquarters, or any people in government who represent you. Writing an advocacy letter can sound intimidating, but it’s not difficult. Simply make clear your purpose and the cause you are advocating for, use correct grammar and spelling, and be courteous and polite. Handwritten letters receive more attention, so it may be worth it to take the time to send in a personal statement through snail mail. There are plenty of templates online to help you out, and many specific organizations will provide an already written letter that you can simply email to your local representatives. 

It is important to stay updated on current environmental issues, sign petitions and spread the word. The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, Oregon Tilth, and many more sites have great resources in their Take Action and Get Involved sections on their website where you can support and promote specific causes. 

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