Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Changing Our Environment with a Low Carbon Diet: An Introduction

By Hannah Southworth
hannah.southworth@goucher.edu

My name is Hannah Southworth and I am a sophomore at Goucher College. I will be posting information over the next few days about a project I am doing for my environmental studies class. I run cross country and track, take dance classes, and love being active. Staying healthy is important to me but I love to make good food! As a college student I don’t have control over where the dining hall food is coming from so I wanted to find out how to control the impact my meals have on the environment.

For those (like me) who don’t want to give up certain foods completely to become vegan, I will be looking into ways to incorporate one green meal a day. I recorded my meals (I eat meat) and my friend (who is a vegetarian and also a runner) and calculated the carbon impact, or carbon points at Bon Appetit’s low carbon site. I then changed the meals by putting in one low carbon lunch each day to see the differences in carbon impact (using Goucher’s Bon Appetit low carbon diet menu). I hope you enjoy learning how you can make a difference in all of your meals or just one a day!

Why should I be worried about food and the environment?
First of all, the food system is responsible for 1/3 of global greenhouse gases and the eating habits of US residents generate 5% of worlds total greenhouse gases!

Greenhouse gases absorb and emit radiation causing the greenhouse effect. These gases are responsible for the temperature of our earth. The food system contributes to climate change because agriculture relies on transportation and food processing that burns fossil fuels. The fossil fuels cause carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, to enter the atmosphere.
Livestock also releases methane gas, which is another greenhouse gas.

What are carbon points?
1 point=1 gram of CO2e equivalent emissions of greenhouse gases.
CO2e= Carbon dioxide equivalent= The amount of global warming from greenhouse gases.
*If you are familiar with the carbon footprint system it is similar because it equals the amount of greenhouse gases emitted over the life-cycle of the product.

A vegan diet excludes basic protein sources (because it excludes animal products) but in the next post on how to have a low carbon diet there will be alternatives for protein so that skipping meat will not affect your health.


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