The production of food for household consumption is a very significant cause of environmental problems, with two main classes of foods—meat and poultry; and fruits, vegetables, and grains—making their way onto the top seven list (see below).
Consumption of these foods is responsible for most water use and contributes heavily to land use and to both common and toxic water pollution. This finding seems to pose an insurmountable difficulty. How can we substantially reduce the amount of food we eat? Although many of us could perhaps benefit from a little dieting, we are not going to suggest that cutting back on your caloric intake is the way to save the environment; do it for your health instead.
Producing food will always be a resource-intensive activity, but its impacts could be reduced considerably. Most of the changes must be systemic ones undertaken by farmers with the assistance and prodding of governments. But individual consumers can help move things in the right direction in two key ways.
1. Eat Less Meat. Our results show that meat production causes more environmental harm than other food production, so it is desirable to try to reduce the amount of meat you eat.
2. Buy Certified Organic Produce. The other strategy for reducing the environmental impacts of your food consumption is to buy certified organic produce.
WEEKLY HOUSEHOLD FOOD CONSUMPION
Number of members in household: 2.7
Hamburger: 3.2 lbs.
Pork: 2.6 lbs.
Poultry: 3.1 lbs.
TOTAL weekly meat consumption: 8.9 lbs.
Fresh Fruit and Melons: 6.5 lbs.
Fresh Vegetables and Potatoes: 13.3 lbs.
Grains and Sweeteners: 17.5 lbs.
Milk and Milk Products: 29.7 lbs.
Seafood: 0.8 lbs.
(Keep in mind that we cannot effectively assess the comparative impacts of eating seafood.)
Adapted from The Consumer's Guide to Effective Environmental Choices,by Michael Brower, Ph.D. and Warren Leon, Ph.D.. Copyright (c)1999 the Union of Concerned Scientists. Reprinted by permission of Three Rivers Press.
Adapted from The Consumer's Guide to Effective Environmental Choices,by Michael Brower, Ph.D. and Warren Leon, Ph.D.