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Is Your Diet Harming the Planet?

Is Your Diet Harming the Planet?

Your diet could be taking a toll on the planet in ways that you might not have realised.

Fortunately, significantly reducing your impact is actually quite easy—and will likely yield health benefits as well.

Speaking in a recent episode of the Doctors for the Environment Podcast, Dr Michael Schien laid out how the food industry is damaging the planet—and what steps you can take to minimise your impact.

“The global food industry is responsible for about 25% of all carbon emissions, which is up there with electricity generation,” says Dr Schien.

Discretionary foods—foods that aren’t nutritionally necessary, like confectionary—are responsible for about 30% of all food-related carbon emissions.

Discretionary food also tends to be highly processed and often comes in plastic packaging, so reducing your consumption of them will likely benefit your health and reduce waste as well.

Eating less meat is another way to reduce your carbon footprint. “Ruminant animals are the worst emitters,” says Dr Schien, “followed by non-ruminant animals and then plants.”

Dr Schien points out that producing 1kg of beef produces about 25kg of CO2, compared to 2kg of carbon for 1kg of tofu, and just 0.9kg for every kilo of lentils.

There are other things to consider as well, like freshwater usage, packaging, food miles and endangered species.

However, making a difference doesn’t have to involve making radical changes or weighing up the pros and cons of individual products.

“A vegan diet is great for the planet,” says Dr Schien, “But really, just following the government’s dietary guidelines would reduce your meat consumption down from 110kg a year to around 20-25kg”, which represents an enormous reduction in your diet-related CO2 footprint.

Dr Schien’s full interview is available here, or wherever you usually get your podcasts.

Photo: Tetra Images/Corbis