Low-Carb: Less Carbon in Your Meals?

by Thursday Bram on 22 May 2008 4 comments

These days, it’s pretty much accepted practice to have a high carbon diet — the tomatoes in your salad may have ridden on a truck for days to get to you and the fish you’re grilling tonight may have caught a trans-Pacific flight to get to your table. We’re talking some pretty high carbon emissions just to make a meal.

Environmentally-speaking, some low-carb — carbon, that is — is good for your diet and, considering the cost of food that has to be trucked into your area is rising, it might do your wallet some good as well.

Most grocery stores don’t label locally-produced foods very clearly, but there are a couple of clear starting points for removing some carbon from your diet. Beef and dairy are ranked as the foods with the highest associated carbon emissions — although the fault doesn’t entirely lie with the transport. Cows, the source of both, are notorious sources of carbon emissions. As any farm kid can tell you, they produce methane — and lots of it! A reduction in the numbers of cows would go a long way towards reducing carbon emissions. Consider reducing the amount of beef and cheese you consume — consider poultry as an alternative, even if you can’t get it locally.

Locally-grown produce is often suggested as a way to cut grocery bills and a local farmer’s market does offer a lot of good options. But, for most of us, they aren’t really a year round option. If you’ve got the time to spare, you might consider canning some local fruits and veggies — but honestly, most of us probably won’t. In that case, it’s worthwhile considering those canned varieties available at the grocery store. The occasional piece of fresh fruit isn’t going to ruin the environment, but out-of-season produce requires plenty of energy (and the associated emissions) to either grow or ship in from warmer climates. Long lasting canned goods are a better deal.

One kind of food makes for the absolutely worst carbon emissions, though: the kind that gets thrown away. Not only is the energy used to get food to the consumer wasted, but then the food decomposes as well. Planning out meals ahead of time and reducing waste as much as possible is one of the clearest techniques most of us can use to lower our carbon footprint. And, we get the added benefit of saving money when we don’t buy food we won’t use.

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Guest's picture

I like the book "Grow your children intelligent and rich" by Andreas Stein. It's a great read and a huge help in raising kids. Here is the link:

http://www.lulu.com/content/1523976

Guest's picture
Zannie

I'm surprised you didn't mention Community Supported Agriculture. The basic idea is that you subscribe for regular delivery of fresh local produce. The one we use delivers to drop off points; every Wednesday I pick up our order from a yoga studio a couple of blocks from my office. Other programs deliver to your door. Ours allows us to pick what we get; with some you get what you get, and with others you have some but not total choice.

Local Harvest can help people find CSAs and other local food sources: http://www.localharvest.org/

Thursday Bram's picture

Zannie has a great point. Unfortunately, I haven't had the opportunity to work with a CSA organization, but, from what I've heard, they're a great way to get your hands on fresh, local produce.

Fred Lee's picture

You should read this book, it will change the way you look at food. For the better, mind you.

As far as distinguishing local produce, it's easy to tell it apart because it's much more expensive. Small local farmers cannot compete with the scale of industrial agriculture, which not only produces cheap produce, but leaves a huge footprint by way of chemical fertilizers and pesticides, not to mention transport.

CSAs are great ways to support local economies and get produce directly from the source, which is usually organic. A great way to feed your family and support your neighbors. And reduce your carbon footprint.

Local produce, BTW, might just one day be cheaper with the cost of gasoline on the rise.