I calculated my family’s carbon footprint — and now we need to eat a lot less red meat

So, let’s begin this once more.

In January I set my family the task of reducing our household greenhouse gas emissions by 7.6 per cent this year, and I used to be going to doc our expertise.

Cue a worldwide pandemic, and all plans went out the window.

However as we slowly begin to carve a path again to a brand new regular it is time to mud off these pre-pandemic objectives.

In keeping with the non-public carbon calculator I used, the areas I would like to handle embody meals, vitality, transport and spending/investments.

So we’re kicking off with meals.

House to play or pause, M to mute, left and proper arrows to hunt, up and down arrows for quantity.

I sat down with my daughter Scarlett to calculate our household’s carbon emissions

The meat my household eats

Meals contains about 15-20 per cent of Australia’s complete carbon emissions, in response to Deakin College meals sustainability professional Michalis Hadjikakou.

On this, 13 per cent is solely from agriculture and the opposite 2-7 per cent is from transport, processing and storage.

Dr Hadjikakou says there are three issues we will personally do to chop down on greenhouse fuel emissions from meals:

  • Eat much less pink meat
  • Scale back meals waste
  • Lower down on junk meals

In my household, that is going to be simpler stated than performed — particularly in the case of meat.

In keeping with the OECD, Australians are the second biggest per capita consumers of meat in the world, clocking in at 94.8kg per individual per 12 months.

That is 250 grams (or a reasonably first rate steak or schnitzel) a day every. And it is our love of pink meat like beef and lamb that has probably the most affect.

House to play or pause, M to mute, left and proper arrows to hunt, up and down arrows for quantity.

Dr Hadjikakou explains the rumen drawback

A big a part of the issue stems from the way in which the animals digest, Dr Hadjikakou says.

“[Sheep and cattle] have a rumen, which is that this a part of their abdomen the place lots of the meals that they eat stays and ferments and produces methane emissions, and that methane is among the prime greenhouse gases,” he stated.

White meats like hen and pork produce considerably fewer emissions as a result of they do not have a rumen.

Final 12 months a collaboration from the medical journal Lancet and worldwide meals sustainability organisation EAT produced a landmark report on the form of weight loss plan that might maintain 10 billion individuals by 2050, creating optimum human and planetary well being.

The Planetary Health Diet recommends consuming much more greens, fruit and legumes — and quite a bit much less meat.

In truth, it recommends per week a most of 100-200 grams of pink meat, 200-400 grams of chicken like hen and pork, and as much as 700 grams of fish.

This sounds completely cheap, however for a household of carnivores like mine, it is a problem.

Right here is the listing of non-meat meals both one or each of my kids will not eat: tofu, lentils, dried beans, mushrooms, faux meat, any orange vegetable, zucchini, eggplant, kale, spinach, peas, potatoes (aside from chips), sushi and eggs.

Right here is the listing of meat my kids will eat: every thing that when had a pulse.

My makes an attempt to introduce tofu as a meat different have been resoundingly rebuffed by my kids, particularly my three-year-old, Nina, who has chucked just a few tofu tantrums within the final couple of months.

Add this to me being gluten- and dairy-free due to intolerances and you may see the difficulties. Swapping out spaghetti bolognaise for a tacky carbonara just isn’t an choice.

Nonetheless, we’re engaged on it, following Dr Hadjikakou’s recommendation to step by step minimize down.

The little wins

Because the cook dinner of the household I’ve changed some pink meat meals with hen or fish, and we attempt to be completely vegetarian at lunch, and for 2 night meals every week.

I’ve had some success with bulking up meat meals with veg — changing half the hen in a hen korma with cauliflower, for instance, and mincing tofu into hen mince to make skewers.

By the way, if, like me, you are eager to know what changing one sort of meals with one other will do to your carbon footprint, I’ve a warning: this could take you down a really deep web rabbit gap.

Estimates of the affect of the manufacturing of meat, fish, vegetable and all different meals on the surroundings range extensively and rely upon a bunch of issues together with location, land and water use, and distance travelled from farm to retailer and desk.

Oxford University research published in the Science journal discovered high-impact beef producers create 105kg of CO2 equivalents per 100 grams of protein, which is a big 12 occasions better than low-impact beef producers.

There are even carbon-neutral beef producers, and the analysis discovered that some aquaculture can emit extra methane and create extra greenhouse gases than cows.

However whereas discovering a straightforward equation to match emissions of various meals is inconceivable, the analysis does all level to lowering pink meat as an excellent first step to lowering our carbon footprint.

As as to if going vegan is important to be an excellent environmental citizen, Dr Hadjikakou has a sensible reply for our nation of carnivores.

“Veganism generally is a very nutritious diet for people who’re in a position to comply with it, however I consider that it might be too drastic a transfer for your complete inhabitants proper off the bat,” he stated.

“I believe we will make an enormous enchancment already by simply reducing down.”

Beef cattle stand in a paddock.
Not all beef producers are equal in the case of emissions.(ABC Information: Robert Advantage)

Tinder for meals scraps

It seems that what’s greatest for our well being and pockets can also be what’s greatest for the planet in the case of meals manufacturing and consumption.

In keeping with meals waste charity OuncesHarvest, one in five bags of groceries is thrown away, costing every family $3,800 a 12 months.

And on common, one third of our rubbish is meals waste, which then rots and produces methane — a extra highly effective greenhouse fuel than carbon dioxide.

The World Wildlife Fund estimates that in america food waste alone is equivalent to 37 million cars worth of greenhouse gas emissions.

“That mainly means there may be lots of leeway there for lowering emissions,” Dr Hadjikakou says.

So, step one right here is apparent: purchase what you want.

For our household, I’ve discovered the easiest way to do this is to maneuver from a giant weekly store, to a twice-weekly smaller store.

Fresh fruit aisle, Coles supermarket, Rosny, Tasmania
Slashing my veggie waste has been a giant win.(ABC Information: Margot Foster)

I simply appear to be higher in a position to plan for what we will eat in smaller bursts. And since making the change we have now all however eradicated that revolting semi-liquified, rotting unloved vegetable squashed within the backside of the fridge.

We’re additionally fortunate sufficient to reside in an area authorities space that collects meals scraps as a part of its inexperienced waste.

Increasingly councils are doing this. Figures from two years in the past present 88 local councils in Australia are doing kerbside food waste collections, and there are nearly actually extra now.

We have now additionally purchased a composter which, I am not going to lie, is a science we’re nonetheless struggling to grasp.

Fruit, veggie scraps and egg shells heaped in a timber compost.
The work to get the ratio of fabric in your compost proper pays off in the long run.(Pixabay: Ben Kerckx)

And if you do not have meals waste assortment and do not fancy doing the composting your self, there’s additionally an app, Sharewaste, to assist match individuals with meals scraps with those that have compost bins. A sort of Tinder for meals scraps.

Between altering purchasing habits, composting and utilizing the inexperienced bin for meals scraps, I estimate we minimize our meals waste to about 20 per cent of what it was, all with out an enormous effort.

Most output for minimal effort? Tick!

Junk the junk

Dr Hadjikakou’s closing tip to scale back junk meals as a method to scale back emissions shocked me.

How can chocolate and ice-cream be unhealthy for the surroundings?

“Plenty of them do have dairy in them and lots of them are extremely refrigerated as properly, so there may be lots of vitality that goes into them,” he defined.

“However it’s a mixture of the entire provide chain.”

The Oxford College analysis revealed in Science discovered that reducing consumption of oils, alcohol, sugar and stimulants by 20 per cent lowered the greenhouse fuel emissions of the merchandise by 43 per cent. So there’s a multiplier impact.

Once I take into consideration the treats I wish to eat, there may be lots of vitality that goes into their manufacturing and transportation.

My favorite candies are made in Italy from methane-producing cows, on electricity-consuming machines, then placed on diesel-belching ships to come back all the way in which to Australia, then placed on petrol-using vehicles to get to my air-conditioned grocery store.

Yeah, that is most likely a excessive carbon value for my small quantity of pleasure. Unhappy face.

Nonetheless, reducing down on them can be good not just for the planet, but in addition my waistline.

And Dr Hadjikakou says: “Just like the meat, it is about consuming much less, and seeing them as extra of an occasional deal with.”

That is all very a lot a piece in progress for our household, however Dr Hadjikakou’s strategy of creating incremental adjustments, and importantly nonetheless having fun with the meals the you eat, together with meat and treats, sits properly with us.

Let me know if you’re making any adjustments to what you’re consuming with the planet in thoughts.

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