Blog Action Day: Why what you eat makes an impact

Today is Blog Action Day and I’m proud to be participating with other bloggers around the world in raising awareness about the topic of climate change. With all the press the upcoming talks in Copenhagen have been getting, doing something tangible about climate change can seem overwhelming, or out of our hands as individuals. It’s not.

Regardless of what is decided on Washington (where cap-and-trade legislation is taking shape) or Copenhagen, there is something that most Americans do three or more times a day, and how they do it has a real impact on their carbon footprint. That’s right folks, eating.

Global food production creates as much carbon as all forms of transportation combined. Think about that. More than cars, planes, boats, trains combined. So in a tangible way, the food we choose at the store (or, better yet, the Farmer’s Market) can either contribute to the problem of Climate Change, or contribute to the solution.

My coverage of last summer’s Cornell University study on this issue summarizes it nicely, so here it is:

Study confirms what we already know: Local is better

Researchers at Cornell University released a study that confirms what we already knew: eating local is better for the planet and better for our health. The study found that the United States food production industry uses almost as much fossil fuels as our entire fleet of automobiles. This seems impossible until you consider that it takes nearly 2,200 calories of fossil fuel to produce and package one can of 1-calorie diet soda (and the average American, according to the study, drinks 600 cans of soda a year). Even a head of lettuce produced in irrigated California takes 4,000 calories to grow, process and ship across the country.

Don’t believe it? You can read the full article on the Cornell study, or keep reading for some of the key findings:

  • A vegetarian diet with the same calories as the average American diet requires 33 percent less fossil fuel energy to produce, according to the study.
  • The FDA recommends that the average American consume 2,503 calories per day instead of the current average of 3,747 calories per day. The researchers recommend the following practices to reduce calories at maximum benefit to your health and the planet:
    • 40-65 percent reduction in meat, fish, milk, sweeteners, fats and oils
    • 15 percent reduction in grains and starchy roots
    • No reduction in eggs, nuts, vegetables and fruits

With this in mind, I’m feeling better that we’ve tabled our discussion of buying a Prius and chosen to do a year of local eating instead. Sounds like the impact on the planet (and definitely our health) will be greater than making the switch to a hybrid car.


In short, buy organic, buy local, eat lower on the food chain when possible, and think about where your food comes from. Buying less processed, fresher food isn’t just better for the environment, it’s better for your health and the health of the local economy. So you can’t go wrong.

But I also wanted to share this video from the TED series, which has some, pardon the pun, food for thought:

Other resources:

2 thoughts on “Blog Action Day: Why what you eat makes an impact

  1. While I do think being vegetarian (or mostly vegetarian) has a lot of benefits, I do want to point out that you don’t have to totally give up eating meat to eat more sustainably. Everything is a continuum and this is no exception: the typical American diet is at one end and a totally sustainable diet is at the other.

    Even eating one vegetarian dinner per week counts as eating lower on the food chain and it really can make a difference to the environment and your health. Eating local and sustainably raised meat (which is what we attempt to do in our household) is another good option.

    Thanks for visiting!

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