7 Worst Foods for the Environment

Some of our favorite foods are simply bad for mother Earth. By taking personal responsibility and reducing our individual consumption, we can tell the food processing industry to ease up on harming the planet. Here are the top 7 offenders:

1. Fast Food—Bad for You, Bad for Our Planet

Fast food is not just bad for you, but the way it’s packaged is bad for the environment. Think of all the straws, bags, paper boxes, plastic wrappers and separately wrapped condiments that your typical fast meal comes with. While much is recycled, a lot still ends up in landfills. But it’s not just the packaging. Cooking four hamburgers in a fast food eatery emits the same amount of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) as driving a car 1,000 miles in Hong Kong. New Jersey’s 16,000 restaurants release 2,226 tons of particulates—more than all of the heavy diesel vehicles in the state. Many blame the chain-driven commercial grills used by fast food outlets. These superheated grilles cook meat quickly but spew out smoke and volatile VOCs, including formaldehyde and acetaldehyde. One estimate suggests that the greenhouse gas emissions generated by the national production and consumption of cheeseburgers is equivalent to the output of 19 million SUVs.

2. White Bread—More Time, More Energy

Bleached white bread is simply more harmful to the environment. That’s because refining wheat flour to make white bread takes more production time, which requires more energy and resources that impact the planet.

3. High-Fructose Corn Syrup—Depletes and Damages Soil

High-fructose corn syrup is bad for the environment for a number of reasons. For one, corn crops aren’t rotated, so growing corn depletes soil nutrients and contributes to erosion. Corn also needs more pesticides and fertilizer. When these pesticides and fertilizers are “run off” into rivers and waterways, the water is starved of oxygen, which kills life forms that live there. What’s more, milling and chemically altering corn to produce high-fructose corn syrup requires considerable energy.

4. Genetically Modified Foods—Negative Impacts on People and Animals

GMOs have all sorts of negative impacts on the environment. Yes, they make a crop resistant to pests, but they also add pesticides into animal and human food sources– a dangerous road. Pesticides are linked to certain cancers, diabetes, Parkinson’s disease and respiratory issues.  And, the altered seeds are easily spread via pollen to alter non-genetically modified plants.

5. Sugar—Threatening Biodiversity and Forests

According to the World Wildlife Fund, more than 145 millions tons of sugar are produced worldwide annually. This volume threatens the planet’s biodiversity more than any other crop—owing to habitat destruction and water consumption. The massive amounts of pesticides used to produce sugar result in heavily polluted wastewater during production. Sugar production has destroyed thousands of acres of subtropical forests due to excessive fertilizer runoff and irrigation drainage.

6. Palm Oil—Threatening Forests and Wildlife

Palm oil is used in crackers, margarine, candy, chips, cereals and many canned food products. As the world’s cheapest cooking oil, more than 50 million tons of palm oil is produced annually. Most of this oil comes from Indonesia and Malaysia, where huge swaths of forests are cut down every day. Eliminating these rain forests threatens virtually all wildlife in the area—including tigers, orangutans and bears.

7. Bluefin Tuna, Atlantic Salmon—Reducing Biodiversity

These fish are severely overfished, threatening the species and reducing biodiversity. If you need help navigating seafood menus, The Environmental Defense Fund’s seafood eco-ratings shows which fish are safe for human consumption and the life of our precious oceans.

 

 

 

139 comments

Roberto Meritoni
Roberto Meritoni3 years ago

Thanks

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Roberto Meritoni
Roberto Meritoni3 years ago

Thanks

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Roberto Meritoni
Roberto Meritoni3 years ago

Thanks

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william Miller
william Miller4 years ago

thanks

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Anna Pruett
Anna Pruett4 years ago

Great to keep these things in mind! However, the GMO issue is very complex, and not all genetically modified organism farming uses harmful pesticides. The term GMO refers to organisms whose genes have been manipulated in order to fight disease, but does not necessarily indicate any harmful pesticide use. With an impending food crisis coming into play in the next 50 years, hopefully the specifics about GMOs will become better known and we can all feel safer eating produce!

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Judith C.
Judith C4 years ago

Thank you

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Toni W.
Toni W4 years ago

Great article - really sums up how to help save the environment!

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Erin H.
Erin H4 years ago

Interesting article, thank you

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Sharon Stein
Sharon Stein4 years ago

i avoid all these foods or quasi foods!

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Kelly M.
Kelly R4 years ago

Shared
Really hoping to get some alternatives to palm oil because it is in so many things

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