How our food choices can affect climate change.

In the wake of President Trump’s decision to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris Climate Agreement, many Americans may be worried about the future of our world. Issues of environmentalism can seem insurmountable and overwhelming—and at this point, the old adage “reduce, reuse, recycle” feels more like a trope than a valuable tactic.

While working toward systemic solutions will have the largest impact, there are still small actions we can take individually—right here, right now—to contribute to a more eco-friendly world. Surprisingly, many of these actions are related to our food choices. It turns out what and how we eat not only influences our own health, but the health of our planet. Here are a few ways you can align your lifestyle with your beliefs.

  • Reduce your food waste: In the U.S., food waste accounts for about 30% of the food supply, which means approximately 133 billion pounds and $161 billion-worth of food—much of which could be used to feed families in need—is sent to landfill.

We can do our part by being more frugal about how we use our food. Consider composting food scraps in your backyard (or freeze it and drop it off at a composting location). Composting is great for the soil in your garden, eliminates the stink in your kitchen, and means you’ll spend less on plastic trash bags.

Meal planning can also help you reduce waste, since you buy only what you need each week and eat it before it spoils. If you don’t usually clear your plate every night, start eating leftovers for lunch, or make smaller portions (which could have the added benefit of weight loss).

  • Shop locally: The less distance your food must travel, the less resources it takes to make it to your plate (and shopping local supports your community). Visit the farmers market and enjoy the added benefit of fresher, tastier fruits and vegetables. The produce you find at the market is picked when it’s ripe—instead of ripening in the dark during transport—which means it’s often packed with even more nutrition.
  • Eat with a plant-slant: Animal agriculture produces more greenhouse gas emissions than the combined exhaust of all transportation, coming in at 18% (though new studies show the number could be as high as 51%); it’s responsible for 91% of rainforest destruction; and it requires significantly more land and water than crops—with around 2,000 gallons needed to make just one pound of beef. Sadly, although we grow enough food to feed 10 billion people, much of it is feed for livestock instead.

By reducing our intake of meat, especially beef, and choosing more plant foods, we can start to make a difference. Ultimately, it’s empowering to know that a healthy diet can influence some of our greatest environmental issues. And if you do purchase meat, local, grass-fed, and organic options are always a better choice than factory-farmed livestock.

To find out more about how our eating habits affect the planet, click here.

— Kristyn is a writer and nutrition educator based in Charles Town, WV. She received her certificate in plant-based nutrition through Cornell University.

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