Climate and Environmental Impact of our Diets

Climate and Environmental Impact of our Diets
All food production has an impact on the climate and the environment. But with small decisions, we can change the effects in a more positive direction.

WE ALL HAVE THE OPPORTUNITY TO REDUCE THE ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT OF THE FOOD WE EAT

  • All food production consumes natural resources such as nutrients, energy, land and water.
  • Most of the climate impact comes from fertilizers in the soil or directly from animals.
  • Vegetarian food production uses fewer natural resources than animal production.
  • The best way to minimize the climate impact of food is to avoid waste and prefer vegetarian foods.


Food production has numerous impacts on the climate and the environment. For example, it contributes to global warming, eutrophication of water bodies, acidification of soils, and loss of biodiversity. Food production also consumes resources such as nutrients, energy, land, and water. Most of the climate impact of food comes from the soil as a result of fertilizer use or directly from animals. Animal food production consumes more resources than plant food production because it requires more natural resources such as land and water and produces more carbon dioxide emissions.

 

THE ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACTS OF FOOD PRODUCTION CAN BE INFLUENCED, ALBEIT TO A LIMITED EXTENT

There is some scope for reducing the environmental impacts of food production, but unlike emissions from transport and housing, current knowledge suggests that this scope is not very large as a result of new technological solutions, particularly with regard to climate impacts. Climate impacts can be reduced by minimizing waste and giving preference to foods with the lowest possible impact.

 

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DIET CAN INFLUENCE NUTRIENT LOAD

Agriculture is constantly evolving in response to research, and fertilizer rates have dropped significantly in recent decades. Despite this, there is still no sign of a reduction in nutrient pollution from agriculture. Each of us can influence our own nutrient load through our diets: Avoiding waste, sorting or composting organic waste, and following dietary recommendations, e.g. on protein intake (excess protein not used by the body ends up as nitrogen in the sewage treatment plant).

 


EMBRACE A GREEN DIET

A green diet can include a variety of foods, and a climate-friendly diet does not mean giving up all foods. Of course, a controlled shift to a whole-food, climate-friendly diet requires accompanying measures that affect the food system. A climate-friendly food system would be healthy, competitive and socially sustainable if the right choices were made to support the necessary change. According to a recent study in the journal Nature Food, greenhouse gases would drop significantly by 2030 if average meat and cheese consumption were significantly reduced. The EAT-Lancet study on planetary nutrition, on which the WWF has also made its own recommendations in the same direction.