Shrink your carbon ‘foodprint’

Cool Tips for a Hot Planet series

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By Ginny Colling

Ginny Colling was passionate about the environment before retiring from teaching college communications students. After retiring she trained with Al Gore’s Climate Reality Project and has presented to numerous groups about the climate crisis.

Eat your vegetables. 

Parents are right about that.

We’re not likely to get high cholesterol from beans, broccoli and carrots.  And a recent University of Oxford study showed eating less meat could lower an individual’s risk of contracting cancer. Those greens are healthier for us, and the planet. 

What we choose to eat is responsible for about one-quarter of the world’s planet-warming emissions. And according to statistics from Our World in Data (which tries to tackle the world’s big problems through research and data), the number one contributor, by a long shot, is beef. Globally it has 10 times the planet-warming effect of chicken, and an impact more than 200 times that of potatoes or nuts.

But just to complicate the matter, and to be fair, how animals are raised and what they eat can lessen (or increase) their environmental impact. I’m reading that some feed additives can reduce the methane cows emit — and methane is a much more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. Beef raised in fields or on crops created from the destruction of Amazon rainforest certainly have a much higher carbon footprint than that raised in North America.

Beef’s climate impact is significant enough that a recent report by Navius Research, a Canadian research firm focused on energy and the environment, showed we could help Canada reach its climate targets if we reduced our meat and dairy consumption by 50 per cent by 2050. There’s no doubt this would have an impact on farmers unless there were incentives created to help them farm differently.

Waste Not Want Not.

It’s not just the food we eat, but also the food we throw out that contributes to the climate problem. More than half of food produced in Canada doesn’t make it from farm or factory to fork.

In addition to wasting money and the resources to grow, package and ship that food, it then rots in landfills, and that’s a problem for our warming planet. The report said discarded food produces 56.6 million tonnes of greenhouse gases like methane. That nasty contributor to our climate problem doesn’t just come from cattle.

Choose organic and local food when you can.

That’s not mom’s advice. That one comes from groups like the David Suzuki Foundation. Studies show that “chemical farming” — with synthetic pesticides and fertilizers — uses more energy than organic. And those nitrogen fertilizers produce a global warming gas 300 times more potent than carbon dioxide.

Food miles (the distance food travels) can matter.  But so can practices like organic or regenerative farming. They use methods that increase carbon and nutrients in the soil.  Methods like crop rotation, low tillage or using animal waste to feed the plants that feed the animaIs.  

Want to shrink your carbon “foodprint”?

In addition to reducing meat consumption and hitting the farmers’ market for local and organic food, consider:

* planning meals and buying only what you need to reduce waste and save money

* supporting our municipal government in starting a compost collection program

* growing your own food. Not everyone has land, but many areas locally have community gardens.

Ultimately, consider your values. Climate? Health? Supporting local farming? 

Or just listening to your parents?


  1. WILLIAM J DENBY says:

    I am Confused reading your comments, one minute get rid of Cows, Milk, Meat, go to vegan diet! Do not support these Farmers than support these Farmers! Their are so many people that believe everything the Government tells them about anything, no it is the Climate, before it was the Ozone layers got this huge hole & we are all going to die! Y2K, that was the end of the Earth! Then Covid 19 hit the World, it is over again! Now everyone is back to the Climate again, Governments & People are out to destroy of farmers & our Food Supply by cutting production by 30% which will drive up the prices 30% that our Senior cannot afford to buy food on a fixed income! Governments could not kill off enough Seniors & Bottom Feeders with Covid 19 that now they are coming from a different attack! Governments around the World are on a mission to rid the Earth of 30 Million Bodies by 2032 under the UN Agenda 21 that was signed by all United Nations Members! Wake up People, Governments are not your Friend to day, they are your Enemy with a hidden agenda! Thank will tell you anything to achieve the Goal of Population Control for the World Order! William J Denby Importer / Exporter

    • Deborah Pearson says:

      There are no simple answers to reducing global warming emissions. It’s much more complex than shrinking the hole in the ozone, which is well underway since countries came together in Montreal in 1987 and agreed to get rid of aerosols that caused the problem.
      Note that the federal government has set a voluntary target for farmers to reduce the growing global warming pollution from synthetic fertilizers by 30 per cent by 2030. Reducing the emissions from fertilizers is not the same thing as reducing fertilizers themselves and does not mean food supplies will drop by that amount. And again, this is a voluntary goal. Our farmers need more support to meet that goal.

    • Aloysius T. Pennybottom says:

      Sounding an awful lot like a “Freedom Fighter” convoy supporter, not the best look for someone trying to be the mayor of the city…

  2. Wallace says:

    I’ll take the climate change activists seriously when I see them refuse to get on an airplane or go on a cruise ship. So far I haven’t seen one willing to make any sacrifice at all, for what they claim to believe in. They want everyone else to sacrifice.

    • Ginny Colling says:

      I know about 100 citizen climate activists and am connected to thousands more through my networks. While some focus most on pushing big business and governments to take action for the environment, many more are also walking the talk. One recently upgraded his older home (solar panels, heat pumps etc) and it now produces more power than it consumes, even charging his electric car. These people understand that we depend upon the natural world for our existence and are doing everything in their power to reduce catastrophic climate impacts that will only be greater for our kids. That can include flying less. No one can do everything, but we can all do more to help. And we must.

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