Climate change is on the top of our minds as fires rage on the West Coast, and hurricanes in the East. Trying to find ways to help as individuals can be overwhelming. The food we eat is one area of our lives where small choices can make a massive impact. Our broken food system is responsible for 1/4 of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. We all have the opportunity to take action against climate change, three times every day, by choosing more sustainable meals.
Every step of our food chain releases some amount of GHGs into the atmosphere. Fossil fuels are needed to operate farm and processing machinery, make fertilizer, and ship food products. The UN estimates that livestock production alone accounts for 14.5% of all GHG emissions, while 65% of all livestock emissions come from raising cattle. On top of the fossil fuels needed to grow and process animal feed, beef and lamb release methane through waste. Switching from red meat and dairy to plant-based protein sources like beans, nuts, and grains will have the most significant climate impact when it comes to food choices. Making this switch, even one day a week is a huge step in the right direction.
*Source: Science research article, “Reducing food’s environmental impacts through producers and consumers,” J. Poore and T. Nemecek
In addition to switching to a more plant-forward diet, there are other small changes you can make that add up. 1/3 of the food produced globally is lost or thrown away. Reduce your food waste with meal planning and eating or freezing what’s in your fridge before it goes bad. Buying local and in season, and fresh over processed is an easy way to reduce the amount of energy it takes to produce and ship your food. Our Family Cooking & Shopping Guide can help you make healthier and more sustainable food choices.
In addition to our personal food choices, Eat REAL is working to make school food systems more sustainable. American public schools serve five billion meals each year, making them the largest fast-food chain in the US with enormous impact potential. Eat REAL Certified schools meet 10 nutritional and sustainability standards. Our program encourages menu planning and ingredient sourcing that minimizes the environmental impact of food production, including sustainably grown produce and seasonal ingredients. By the spring of 2025, Eat REAL Certified schools have the potential to provide more than 86 Million plant-forward lunches, which could save 200,982,718 lbs of CO2 emissions – that’s the equivalent of planting 4.2 million trees!
Learn more about our certification program here.