Antonio Manaytay – Fourth Estate Contributor
Cambridge, MA, United States (4E) – Healthy eating habit and carbon footprints are no strange bedfellows. In fact, they are related: healthy eating could reduce the greenhouse gases by as much as 25 percent.
The study, published on December 4 in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS), said said the whole range of food production – from growing crops, to raising livestock, and fishing – and making them available in every home had contributed too as much as 30 percent of the total greenhouse gas outputs.
A shift to healthy eating habit, however, could change the situation.
The researchers said the greenhouse gas emissions due to food production could dramatically drop from 13 percent to 25 percent if the people in 28 wealthy nations like the United States, Japan, and Germany would shift to new diets as recommended by their governments.
Environmental scientists Paul Behrens at the Netherlands’ Leiden University said: “a healthier diet leads to a healthier environment.”
“It’s win-win,” he said.
Behrens said he used Exiobase, a global and multi-regional environment input-output database, to track the following activities in food production: the cost of growing crops and raising livestock, cost of machinery involved in the producing the food, and how much it cost to bring them to supermarkets and homes.
Country-specific data on growing crops and raising animals were also factored into the study using Exiobase.
The data fed on Exiobase include the average diet and the government-recommended diets of the citizens in 39 countries. They also considered the other ways by which diet could affect the environment such land use, and eutrophication.
The information gathered during the research, Behrens said, had enabled the researchers to “trace the impact of any consumption across the world.”
The results, he said, were both staggering and an eye-opener for most: meat-heavy diet has more impact on the environment than the other food groups.
“In general, meat is worse than another type of food because every time something eats something else, you get a loss of energy,” he said.
Countries with a high-calorie diet, most of which are in poor regions, are expected to increase their carbon footprints.
Overall, following government-recommended diets would lessen the impact of food production on greenhouse gas emissions, land use, and eutrophication.
Human health and that of the environment are not mutually exclusive, the study had found out.
“Dietary recommendations can be a great way to talk about human health and the health of the environment,” he said.
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