There are countless ways that the food we eat and the environment we live in are connected. As we celebrate Earth Day, we should all take an inventory of our actions, practices, and choices when it comes to the environment. It is important to acknowledge that the solution to climate change must involve action at the international, national, and local levels of government. 

 

The United Nations reports that greenhouse gas emissions will increase the temperature of the Earth’s atmosphere by 1.5 degrees Celsius, causing oceans to rise, extreme weather events, and agricultural and ecological droughts (“Climate Action Fast Facts”). The current global agricultural system contributes to the climate crisis. Agriculture contributes to greenhouse gas emissions, increasing the Earth’s temperature (“Climate Action Fast Facts”). The high temperature will impact the resources like land, water, soil, and energy that are needed to grow and produce food (“Climate Action Fast Facts”). In 2020, 811 million people faced hunger, which was 161 million more people than the previous year (“Climate Action Fast Facts”). The systems to produce, package and distribute food generate a third of greenhouse gas emissions and cause up to 80 percent of biodiversity loss. 

 

Without intervention, food system emissions will likely increase by up to 40 percent by 2050, given rising demand from population, more income and dietary changes” (“Climate Action Fast Facts”). The long term, sustainable solutions to the climate crisis and agriculture will require international global collaboration. Nevertheless, there are so many ways that individuals can make impactful sustainable choices that positively impact our environment. 

 

  • The first way to do so is to limit food waste. Over 17 percent of food produced is wasted and 10 percent of greenhouse emissions are related to food waste (“Climate Action Fast Facts”). This means checking “best by” dates, not over buying food, planning ahead, and finding ways to preserve foods. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that “34 percent of all methane emissions in the US come from landfills” (“Our Food’s Impact”). 
  • The second way you can make sustainable choices regarding your food is to buy and shop for foods locally or grow your own foods. A great way to do so is through farmer’s markets. Currently 7 out of the 20 farmer’s markets in Baltimore accept SNAP (“Baltimore Office of Sustainability”). Local foods do not have to travel a long distance to get to your table, while also supporting your local biodiversity and farmers. 
  • A third way to make conscious choices regarding your food and the environment is to reduce the amount of meat and dairy in your diet. Animal agriculture greatly contributes to greenhouse gas emissions by consuming resources and producing methane (“UN Report”). The United Nations has recommended a “shift towards plant-based diets” (“UN Report”). Plant-based foods like “coarse grains, legumes, fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds” are nutritious, healthy, and good for the environment (“UN Report”). 

 

While addressing the climate crisis will require macro level global changes in the ways we grow, produce, and consume food, we should not underestimate the important role we all play in this system. This Earth Day, reflect on the ways you consume food and find creative ways to incorporate sustainability in your diet, home, and community! 

Resources: 

https://www.baltimoresustainability.org/projects/baltimore-food-policy-initiative/homegrown-baltimore/farmers-market/ 

https://www.earthday.org/our-foods-impact/ 

https://www.un.org/sites/un2.un.org/files/fastfacts-food-and-agriculture-february-2022.pdf 

https://www.un.org/en/climatechange/science/key-findings 

https://www.earthday.org/un-report-plant-based-diets-provide-major-opportunities-to-address-climate-crisis/#:~:text=The%20U.N.%20report%20stated%20that,food%20is%20lost%20or%20wasted

 

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By: Emma Sarazin