From farm to fork: How your diet impacts the climate crisis

This week, we’re looking at our food choices and their profound impact on greenhouse gas emissions. Discover how the foods we consume can impact climate change gases, and explore ways to make eco-friendly dietary decisions. We’ll explore food waste during week 6, as part of our discussion on waste.

Food’s Role in Emissions

The food we eat plays an important role in our carbon footprint, with certain foods leading to higher or lower greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Agriculture, livestock, and food production contribute significantly to emissions through deforestation, transportation, and methane release from animals we raise for food. The global food system is responsible for a large portion of total GHG emissions.

Did You Know? Animal agriculture accounts for up to 25% of global GHG emissions and 65% of global nitrous oxide – a powerful greenhouse gas.If we don’t all work together to regularly eat plant-based meals, animal agriculture will account for 70% of global GHGs by 2050.

A recent survey of infrastructure needs revealed that CICan members have over 300 shovel-ready projects, the majority (62%) of which are for renovations, repairs and retrofits to improve energy efficiency and reduce campus GHG emissions.

Understanding Your Impact

Plant-based diets can help reduce individual GHGs by up to 71%! Scientists from all over the world are encouraging plant-based eating as an immediate and effective way to address climate change. By making conscious choices about the food we consume and the waste we generate, we can collectively contribute to a more sustainable future for our planet.

Consider the below chart that showcases how you could cut emissions by just a small reduction in the amount of meat consumed.

Taking Action: Strategies for Sustainable Food Choices

We have the power to positively impact the environment through our actions. Here are some strategies for making sustainable food choices and contribute to our Sustainable Development Goals in addition to SDG 13 – climate action:

  1. Go Plant-Based: Incorporate more plant-based foods into your diet. Fruits, vegetables, beans, lentils, and whole grains generally have lower carbon footprints compared to animal-based products – and can often be more affordable! Consider Meatless Mondays or choosing to replace meat with a plant-based protein at least a few times a week. (Goals: 2, 6, 12, 14, 15)
  2. Eat Local and Seasonal: Choose local foods in season. Locally grown foods require less transportation, reducing emissions associated with long-distance shipping. (Goals: 3, 11, 12)
  3. Minimize Food Waste: Reduce food waste by planning meals, storing food properly, and composting organic scraps. Food waste in landfills generates methane, a potent greenhouse gas. (Goals: 1, 2, 11, 12)
  4. Reduce Packaging: Choose products with little packaging or items packaged in eco-friendly materials. This helps reduce waste and the energy needed for manufacturing. (Goals: 11, 12, 14, 15)
  5. Community Gardens: Support local community gardens or create one on campus. Growing your own vegetables significantly reduces the carbon footprint associated with the production and transportation of food. (Goals: 1, 2, 3, 4, 11, 12)
  6. Educate and Advocate: Raise awareness about sustainable food choices on campus. Advocate for policies that promote sustainable agriculture, reduce food waste, and support local food systems. Ask campus decision-makers to provide more plant-based options and re-usable cutlery, take-out containers, and dishes. (Goals: 1, 2, 3, 4, 10, 11, 12)

Remember, every bite we take is an opportunity to contribute to a healthier planet. By making informed and sustainable food choices, we can collectively work towards a future with reduced emissions and a more resilient ecosystem.

Get Inspired! Sustainability on our Campuses

In Canada, estimates suggest that grocery stores contribute to approximately 1.31 million tonnes of food waste annually. Globally, 8-10% of global greenhouse gas emissions are associated with food that is not consumed.

One initiative to reduce food waste is a free, take-what-you need, community fridge on the Cégep de Sherbrooke campus. Every day, they receive fruits, vegetables, and baked goods from a local grocery store that are still edible but are otherwise destined for garbage or compost. This aligns with their emphasis on sustainability, integrating local and eco-friendly criteria in purchasing food, promoting responsible sourcing, and reducing waste.

Enter the Challenge to Win!

Commit to the challenge and complete the short quiz for your chance to win $350. Complete all six weekly challenges to enter the draw for $1,000.

Plant-Based Diet Challenge

Your Challenge: Make a positive impact on the environment by replacing animal-based products with plant-based alternatives like lentils, chickpeas, and tofu for at least two meals this week.

Reflect on your week of trying a plant-based diet. Consider how reducing meat and dairy consumption can significantly lower greenhouse gas emissions. Share your experience and plant-based recipes with friends and family. If everyone reduces their meat and dairy intake, even a little, it can have a major positive impact on the environment.