How does your life relate to global warming?  Do you know what our most significant interaction with the environment is? Hint: Every one must do it in order to survive. That is right…Eat!

Did you know our food system is responsible for a third of our carbon emissions? Take into account growing, rearing, farming, processing, transporting, storing, cooking, and disposing of your meal. 80% of our water and half of our land is used just for growing our food. For example, it takes 26 gallons of water to produce 2 pounds of potatoes, 1100 gallons for 2 pounds of rice and a whopping 3500 gallons for 2 pounds of beef. Don't forget the oil being sucked away in the production of process and transport. To sum it up: The natural world is in our kitchens, and everything you choose to feed yourself with is a direct demand to the environment of what it needs to produce. So this sounds easy, right? Well it is! It is you and I that can change everything.

There are 5 major things you can personally do to cut your food green house gas emissions over half the amount and preserve the natural environment and all beings living in it! It doesn't mean less indulgence on delicious foods. I'll explain why each choice is a valuable one to the future of our planet.

1. REDUCE your meat/cheese intake!  

Meat and cheese, hands down, generates the highest amount of green house gases. Particular ones such as beef, chicken, cheeses, lamb and farmed salmon generate 4 times more than other meats and 13 times more than plant based proteins! 
-Why do they generate the highest amount of emissions?
These are living beings on the earth we are dealing with; meaning they feed, they breath, they burp, they poop. The demand for meat is so high that in order to "effectively" control these intricate beings at such a vast number, we put them in concentration camp-style cattle farms where a heavy amount of energy being emitted.

 Since we need to fatten them up faster than their natural existence would allow them, we don't give them grass, but oats, soy protein meal and corn. Harvesting this food for millions upon millions of cattle puts an incredible amount of pressure on our land. Most of our corn and oat production in the U.S is for livestock feed. If all of the grain currently fed to livestock were consumed directly by people, the number of people who could be fed is 800 million. Their diet is also dependent upon soy protein meal and where do we grow these soy beans? Production of these soybeans need to cover huge expanses of land and the land happens to be in extremely fragile ecosystems (the Amazon, Central Brazil, other fragile forest zones). An ecosystem is an intricately placed system where everything within it relies on another so every single entity within the system is involved. Every single action has a reaction so if one goes down they all do. See where things get tricky and really dangerous? At our current rate of deforestation we could clear the rainforest of existence and drive all of its inhabitants to extinction in less than 100 years. Most of this deforestation is for agriculture, meaning livestock crops and their grazing.

Anyhow now that the livestock have been fed, what is next? They burp and they poop. Certain animals such as cows, goats, sheep, elk etc… have very different stomachs than ours and other animals. Instead of one compartment to their stomach they have four! The biggest compartment is the ruminant which produces the biggest and most potent green house gas of all, methane. They burp, fart, and poop methane all day! Livestock manure rearing methods also mean high concentrations of build up in small areas where, in the wild, would normally be spread over a wide area and decompose aerobically in the natural environment. In this case though, they are dumped into nearby lagoons and often leaking into rivers and waterways killing off and infecting the exposed.  Livestock methane emissions represents the biggest man made methane source. Methane has double the global warming potential than carbon dioxide. So the more meat you demand, the more meat they will raise, which means more methane being emitted onto the earth. Just by taking out meat and cheese once or twice a week you are directly saving thousands of acres of rainforest, cutting back green house gases that directly contribute to global warming, and helping balance back the fragile eco systems; giving back the land and sparing the lives of millions of species living in it.

2. Check your ingredients. Don't buy packaged food. Avoid Palm Oil! Please.

Would you ever connect your bag of chips or your shampoo with the battle for survival of orangutans? If you are consuming anything that is packaged or boxed from the grocery store, you are most likely consuming palm oil. It is the most common vegetable oil being used on the planet and it has many names including a few; vegetable oil, palm fruit oil, palmate, glyceryl, stearate, and sodium laurel sulfate. Palm oil production is one of the worlds leading causes to rainforest destruction. "Global companies are demanding cheap palm oil to use in their products while asking few questions about where it comes from or the impacts caused by its production." Palm oil plantations are clearing out land; contributing to green house gas emissions and are responsible for deforestation and wiping out entire communities of orangutans amongst other majestic creatures (elephants, tigers etc..) These big plantations are driving out the natural world. By checking the label before you buy anything, you can DIRECTLY save these intelligent and kind animals and the fragile ecosystems they live in. 

Rescue of an orangutan by IAR activists on the BGA palm oil plantation in West Kalimantan. Most orangutans wouldn't be so lucky.

If you are curious on the details of palm oil, what companies are involved, and how it contributes to the extinction of precious creatures, I would highly recommend this report by the Rainforest Action Network.
Click here  to view report.

3. Buy less food. Do you really need it?

When I scan the bulk section of grocery stores and the produce at farmers markets, I can say that I will find reasons why I need all of it. But alas, I take it home and a third of my goods will not get used. This isn't a rare issue at hand. Almost half of ALL food in the U.S is thrown away, and it's the single largest component going into landfills. Once it is in there, it does not rest in peace. Since it is suffocated, it quickly generates methane, an extremely potent green house gas contributing to global warming. This is a more simple one with little explanation. There is a supply and demand that revolves around food production so the less you buy, the less demand, meaning the less stress you put on our environment.

4. Buy Local and Organic!

Why? Because the closer to your community it is, the fresher it was picked. The fresher it was picked, the better it tastes! You don't need to waste gas from overseas meats and produce all the time when there are so many yummy options in your region. By supporting local you are also supporting your community and your neighborhood farmer! I can't tell you how fulfilling it is to buy my produce from the man/woman that directly grew it. Putting a face to your food is so important and so fun to get to talk to them. Buy organic to avoid pesticides and toxic chemicals being leached into our environment and into your body! Not including keeping your growers safe from the toxic harm as well and having optimized nutrients in your produce (soil is tended to and nourished with more sustainable practices.)

5. Compost your food scrap

I stated above that when food is in the landfill it does not rest in peace. It gets suffocated, robbing it of decomposing naturally.  It then quickly releases methane which is a dangerous and potent green house gas contributing to global warming.

Composting is way more fun knowing your food scraps are getting a new life as a tree or a garden. You are contributing to a natural lifecycle that the foundation of the earth has relied on for billions of years.

If you live in an area where you cannot build your own compost, like myself, you can have a freezer compost that I also use! I just fill it up with all my food scraps for the week and then drop it off at my local farmers market. Finding a farmers market or compost drop off for your food scraps is easy, fun and so fulfilling.