How Your Food Choices Can Affect Climate Change

Unless you’ve been living under a rock these past few weeks, you will all know who Greta Thunberg is – the 16 year old climate change activist who has been seen protesting and raising awareness all over the world.

Climate change has become a topic of conversation (some passionate and some controversial) with world-wide appeal. Younger advocates for change, like Greta, have created a increased awareness for issues that plague our planet and have educated us on how we can help to change that.

In excess of 500,000 people protesting in Montreal, Canada (Photo via Greta Thunberg IG)

Now, there are many things we can all do, as members of this thing we call “the human race”.  We can, for example, be more aware of our natural resources and remain conscious on how we use (and sometimes misuse) them on a daily basis. I, for one, am usually really good about shutting lights off when I don’t need them or sitting down to read a book instead of automatically turning on the television. Admittedly, however, I am not as good about shutting off running water (I know… so bad), probably because we are on a well.  I always forget how precious every drop is and I am trying really hard to correct this!! But, because my work involves food, I am always trying to figure out how we can be more cognizant about our food usage and be more ethical with our choices in ways that help our planet thrive.

Below are some things that I think we can all do (without much extra effort) to help keep this world functioning for future generations:

Grow your own food:

You all know I’m a huge advocate of growing your own food.  I know many of you may think that I don’t understand what it’s like to have a small yard (if any yard at all).

Food choices and climate change As you can see, I have a big garden (mainly because we bought a property with acreage so it seemed logical to have a large garden). If you have a small yard, or even just a balcony, you can plant a few small things to start you off like a pot with a few different herbs in it and even just a small pot of cherry tomatoes. I did a bit of research and there are some incredible articles online about creating your own garden on a balcony (I’ve linked on of them here!).  If you have a backyard and are curious about my planting methods, you can follow my garden musings here...

Reduce food waste/compost:

My parents were both farmers back home in Italy. When they came to Canada, the one thing they never did was waste food (they ate absolutely everything as children – partly because they didn’t have a choice).  It was ingrained in all of us as we grew up so, needless to say, waste doesn’t generally happen in my kitchen either. From the last bit of juice from the juice bottle, to getting the most out of your lemons, I have found a way to use of every last bit of what would normally be thrown away in other peoples’ kitchens. It’s almost become an obsession. We all need to do our part in reducing our food waste and , in turn, reducing our food consumption.

Chicory, better know as dandelion greens, are a staple on an Italian table during the summer months! A green that would be considered a weed in other cultures is cooked up and served alongside our main courses!

Other ways you can use up items found in your fridge can be seen here: Keeping your parsley stems, freezing bananas, freezing your greens

Reduce your meat consumption:

Again, unless you’ve been living somewhere off the grid for the past year, you will know that there has been quite a large movement towards plant based eating.  Oftentimes, the movement is due to culinary curiosity (which is probably the case for me as I am a bit of a science nerd when it comes to creating new dishes in the kitchen using unusual ingredients).  Other times, it’s due to the ethics behind eating non-plant based food (which I fully understand, but am torn when I see documentaries like this brilliant one about foie by the people over at the Perennial Plate). Regardless of your motive, we could all stand to consume less red meat – it seems that all of the research indicates that raising animals that are used for red meat consumption generally have the highest negative impact on our environment.  So the next time you think you can’t be satisfied without meat, take a peak a these recipes below…

Super Quick Kale and White Bean SoupEat more protein rich soups that have beans  like Tuscan Kale and White Bean Soup, Lentil Soup.  And if you want to increase your legume consumption, but would like to try your hand at re-constituting dried beans, try making a big batch of black beans in the slow cooker! IT’s way easier than you think!!

And if it’s meat that you’re craving, then why not try your hand at some vegan bolognese (made with a base of chopped mushrooms and walnuts…really!!).  I even added tomato passata to mine, cooked it down and then used it as a base for pizza (actually just spread it on tortilla shells, topped with goat cheese and roasted cherry tomatoes and then put it in a hot oven for about 10 minutes!! Check out the whole recipe here!

food choice and climate change

Always carry your own water bottle:

I actually remember when plastic/individual water bottles became a “thing” (I want to say it started with supermodels…I know, weird…but I’m pretty sure I’m right!!). As a kid, we never drank water from a bottle (unless it was a baby bottle!). If you drank water, it was either from a fountain or from a glass with water that came straight from the tap. We’ve gotten pretty paranoid about a lot of things and one of them is our drinking water.  I mean, what is the best water to buy? Spring water? Reverse osmosis? Water that’s made from virgin mermaid tears and enriched with unicorn dew? Seriously though?

Where I live, we have a well.  And, if you’ve never had well water, then you haven’t lived.  It’s fresh and cold and tastes so pure (of course we need to have the sulfur filtered out of it or else it smells like dirty diapers…sorry…I know…TMI). But, I’ve gotten so used to our water that I can actually taste the chlorine in city water.  Regardless, we live in a time where most of the water we drink (in developed countries) has been tested for safe human consumption.  So, why then, are we still buying individual bottles of water?  Peeeeople, please stop buying water bottles. I make up mason jars of water (with some frozen fruit dropped into each jar which ends of being like a special treat I get to eat if I’ve finished the bottle!).  I keep them in the fridge so I can grab-and-go.  I know we can all do better here!

climate change and food choices

Support local farmers by eating seasonally and locally as much as possible:

If you find it difficult to try and grow your own food (or at least need a bit more time to wrap your head around it), then we need to, at least, be aware of where the food we purchase comes from.  I’ve written a few blog posts about local artisans in food – Mark Hayhoe who is a local miller at K2Milling, and Alvaro Venturelli and the other smart farmers at Plan B Organics.  When you meet these passionate people, there is no way that you won’t be drawn in by their work.  Meet the people in your neighborhoods that grow your food.  You’ll be amazed at how much you’ll learn!!

According to a NYT article that I recently read about climate change and food choices, these were the 4 take-away points:

  • Modern agriculture inevitably contributes to climate change, but some foods have a bigger impact than others. Beef, lamb and cheese tend to do the most climate damage. Pork, chicken and eggs are in the middle. Plants of all kinds typically have the lowest impact.
  • What you eat matters a lot more than whether it’s local or organic, or what kind of bag you use to carry it home from the store.
  • You don’t have to give up meat altogether to make a difference. Even smaller shifts, like eating less meat and more plants, or switching from beef to chicken, can reduce your climate footprint.
  • One simple way to cut your food-related emissions is to waste less. Buying what you need and actually eating it — instead of tossing it out — means that the energy used to produce your food has been spent efficiently.

If we want to enjoy this planet for the remainder of time we have here and, more importantly, if we want to create a world that is beautiful and “livable” for the generations to come, we need to remember…

Once upon a time, this place was perfect…

I don’t know about you but, I don’t want to be responsible for changing the landscape of this place we call home.

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