4 Ways To Easily Reduce Your Carbon Footprint By Eating Differently

By Ana Marie Begic
Walt Disney Pictures

If you're trying to help protect the environment and make our planet greener, then you're most likely already well aware of the most basic ways to reduce your carbon footprint: walking or cycling whenever you can, buying energy-efficient appliances, saving up on heating, water and electricity and, of course, recycling.

However, reducing your carbon footprint by making smart food choices is probably the most awesome way to be green.

The following tips are not only great for the environment, but can also help you save some money and keep your body healthy and fit.

1. Eat less meat.

Don't worry, this doesn't mean you have to go vegan or vegetarian if you don't absolutely want to. Sometimes even small changes can make a huge difference.

It's no secret that giving up meat is the best way to reduce your carbon footprint. By going from eating 100 grams of meat a day to eating only half of that, you can reduce your food-related carbon footprint by 30 percent.

Simply reducing your consumption of red meat can also make a big difference. Beef production uses 28 times more land and 11 times more water than the production of pork or chicken. Moreover, it requires 160 times more land and produces 11 times more greenhouse gases than growing plant-based foods, such as potatoes, wheat and rice.

So if you want to contribute to the environment and reduce your carbon footprint with only slight changes in your routine, giving up a portion of the red meat you would normally eat in a day can have an enormous impact.

Beef production uses 28 times more land and 11 times more water than the production of pork or chicken.

2. Buy local and organic.

There is so much talk about buying local and organic foods, I'm not entirely sure most people know why this is supposed to be beneficial and what the difference between the two even is.

Buying locally grown and produced food is great for supporting local farmers and local economy in general, but it actually doesn't do as much for the environment as some would like to believe.

Of course, if you are choosing between buying produce from a local farm or an identical farm from far away, picking the one with the least "food miles" — the miles our food makes from a farm to the table — is the way to go.

But you also need to take into account the fact that some farms have higher emissions from production than others. A recent study has shown that transportation accounts for only 11 percent of the carbon emissions caused by food production. And the delivery of the product from the farm to the supermarket only accounts for 4 percent of total food emissions.

So what does all this mean for you and your effort to reduce your carbon footprint?

The best thing to do is buy both locally grown and organic foods. This way, you know the whole “story behind” the food you eat, which then makes it easier for you to pick farms with the lowest food emission from food production.

3. Don't waste food.

By throwing away excess food you not only waste your own money, but also the land, energy labor and capital that was spent for the production of that food, including massive amounts of water.

And what's even worse, the unused food that ends up in landfills is one of the main sources of greenhouse gases.

The food currently lost or wasted in Latin America could feed 300 million people. The food currently wasted in Europe could feed 200 million people. And the food lost in Africa could feed 300 million people.

So what can you personally do about it? Always go shopping with a complete shopping list. And remember what your mother told you: Never go shopping on an empty stomach.

Also, try to avoid products that include lots of packaging, always check the labels (if you can't pronounce it, don't buy it) and whatever you do, don't buy bottled water.

Mindful shopping not only helps you save money, but you also get to save the planet one tiny garbage bag at a time.

The unused food that ends up in landfills is one of the main sources of greenhouse gases.

4. Avoid Processed Foods and Learn to Cook Wisely

There is obviously more than just one reason for why you should avoid eating processed foods. But this is not a lecture in healthy eating, but one about eating your way toward a greener planet.

Processed foods require the use of energy-intensive processes such as freezing, canning, drying and packaging. This, of course, goes hand-in-hand with buying local, organic produce and eating an altogether healthy diet.

To take things a step further, try eating raw foods that do not need cooking whenever you can. And when you are cooking your food, the best choice is a stovetop or a microwave, since it uses 50 percent less energy than a classic oven. A gas oven only uses 6 percent of its energy to cook, and an electric oven uses 12 percent.

Of course, this doesn't mean you should turn into a raw vegan, but being aware of the footprint we are leaving behind us is an important step toward creating a planet that will provide a safe home for many more generations to come.