OK, of course, you can go both vegetarian AND local. But for those interested in the nitty gritty details of which really matters more for addressing global warming/climate change and protecting the environment, a study published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology may have the answers for you.
The study found that the food production process is much more significant environmentally than the transporting of food.
Environmental Footprint from Food Transportation
“We find that although food is transported long distances in general (1640 km delivery and 6760 km life-cycle supply chain on average) the GHG emissions associated with food are dominated by the production phase, contributing 83% of the average U.S. household’s 8.1 t CO2e/yr footprint for food consumption,” the authors write.
In total, 11% of the average U.S. household’s environmental footprint from food is due to transport and only 4% is from the food being taken from the producer to the retail market, according to the researchers.
Environmental Footprint from Dietary Choices (i.e. Vegetarian vs Red-Meat-Heavy vs Something in Between)
Yes, you know what’s coming next. The most significant way to green your food choices is by cutting the meat or animal products as much as possible, especially the red meat.
“Different food groups exhibit a large range in GHG-intensity; on average, red meat is around 150% more GHG-intensive than chicken or fish,” the authors write. “Thus, we suggest that dietary shift can be a more effective means of lowering an average household’s food-related climate footprint than ‘buying local.'”
In the end, the researchers found that cutting the meat and animal products or even just cutting back on the red meat one day per week is more significant than buying all your food from local sources.
Interesting. I have wondered, and read this before but didn’t read about it in depth. This is the first academic article I’ve seen comparing the two options. It seems pretty clear which path to focus on (if you don’t want to go all out on it yet) if you want to help address global warming and climate change.
Photo Credit: jalb