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Reducing Your Carbon Footprint? Why Not Eat Less!

| Saturday July 26th, 2008 | 2 Comments

foodproc.jpgBelieve it or not but academic research published in the highly reputable Springer journal Human Ecology suggests Americans eat less to combat global warming.
The researchers have a straightforward but compelling case; around 19 percent of all energy used in the US is taken up for the production/supply of food. Around half of this energy expenditure could be eliminated and one way to achieve this is by cutting down on food. This is not too big a sacrifice to make, the researchers say; Americans on average consume 3,747 colories a day; that’s a staggering 1,200-1,500 calories over recommended levels anyway.
The scientists’ outrageous suggestion that their fellow Americans eat less is the first and foremost recommendation of the peer reviewed study, which was published in last week in the journal.
Another recommendation they made is that a return to traditional farming also is of vital importance if US consumers are serious about changing their consumption patterns in order to reduce their carbon footprint. David Pimentel, who headed up the Cornell research team, said that this is necessary because the energy which is used in the food industry is 50% derived from fossil energy fuel use.


The academics, who are attached to New York’s Cornell University, contend that the most dramatic reduction in energy used for food processing would come about if consumers reduced their demand for highly processed foods. This would also help cut down food miles and its related fuel cost as US food travels an average of 2,400 km before it is consumed. The research study covered energy cut back options in people’s personal diets, the production and processing of food, the growing of food crops and finally the food packaging sector.
Taking a second look at your diet is also a good idea from a health point of view because traditional American diets tend to be high on animal products. Junk food and processed foods in particular, are made using more energy than your staple foods such as potatoes, rice, fruits and vegetables. “By just reducing junk food intake and converting to diets lower in meat, the average American could have a massive impact on fuel consumption as well as improving his or her health,” Pimentel’s team found. Perhaps the academics make sense. Read any food site and you’ ll hear a similar message.
But the food processing and production sector can do tremendously much too, to achieve energy savings of seizable proportion. The research asserts that moving towards more traditional, organic farming methods would help because conventional meat and dairy production can make serious energy cutbacks still. And in crop production the researchers suggest reduced pesticide use, increased use of manure, cover crops and crop rotations to improve energy efficiency.
Finally, changes to methods of food processing, packaging and distribution could also help to reduce fuel consumption. Although well-established energy-saving considerations in lighting, heating and packaging materials all have their part to play, the authors again highlight individual responsibility as having the biggest impact.


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Categorized: Agriculture & Food|

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  • Lee Bellavance

    I don’t see why it is considered an outrageous” suggestion that Americans eat less. It is about as ridiculous as suggesting that trips of under a mile can be made in an ambulatory mode and those under three miles by bicycle. But when the “outrageous” suggestion about eating less is coupled with the fact that many Americans are obese and billions of dollars are spent treating the results of their overeating, it makes so much sense that it should be self evident.

  • cedric chaux

    I guess this point on one of the most difficult challenge of Global warming: changing habits of millions of people…
    America is often cited for their excess, but their way of life is often exported and imported in new developed and developing countries ( India and China ) with an high trend to more consumerism.
    As I read in many articles, the solution lay in action now, not in an United Nation global compact dream of future.
    I hope the people who read this article will start to think about the consequence of their own style of life.
    Regards

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