Cool Foods

Cool Foods

By Laurel Standley

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the news of how climate change is worsening droughts, wildfires and destructive storms. It’s time to talk about solutions.

Project Drawdown provides guidance on 100 strategies to reduce climate-destabilizing emissions. Project Drawdown is a nonprofit dedicated to studying effective ways to tackle the climate crisis.  According to its research, plant-rich diets and reducing food waste are among the top three out of 100 solutions that will reduce greenhouse gases and address the climate crisis.

Meat and dairy production contribute much more to global warming emissions than plant-based foods.  For example, eating beef one to two times per week for a year is equivalent to driving about 1,500 miles in a gas-powered car.

Meat and dairy production contribute to climate-destabilizing emissions in two ways: directly from ruminants like cattle; and the much larger acreage of crops required to produce each pound of meat than needed for plant-based foods consumed directly by people. This results in the clearing of forests that otherwise would remove and sequester carbon emissions.

Cool Foods

The World Resources Institute calls plant-based foods “Cool Foods.”  If you substitute beans for the beef, you can drop those emissions to the equivalent of only 20 miles, an almost 99% reduction.

Cool Foods
A plant-based diet is more sustainable than a meat-based diet; plant-based agriculture requires less land and eliminates the climate-destablizing gases emitted by ruminants like cattle

Some solutions can seem overwhelming or out of our hands, requiring change at the governmental or industry level. But increasing plant-based foods in your diet and minimizing food waste are actually inexpensive and easy to do. Every bit helps, and there are many suggestions for changing the way you eat, from skipping meat one day a week, choosing to only eat plant-based foods before dinner (aka vegan before 6, VB6), or simply replacing some of the meat and dairy in your recipes with plant-based alternatives.

Plant-based foods include many types of beans, grains, nuts, fruits and vegetables, as well as herbs and spices. If you’re unfamiliar cooking plant-rich meals, there are ample resources at your disposal. For example, the nonprofit Meatless Monday, in cooperation with the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, offers a collection of plant-based recipes on its website. There are also plant-based alternatives for meat that may help you ease the transition to healthier plant-based options.  Other recipes sites can be found here and here.

Cool Foods Have Many Benefits

The benefits of switching to a plant-rich diet go beyond helping to address the climate crisis.  It is also healthier, having been linked to lower cancer and heart disease rates. Another benefit is that it’s a lot less expensive than a meat-heavy diet.

Cool Foods
Transitioning to a plant-based diet lowers the risk of cancer and heart disease.

As we mentioned earlier, reducing food waste, from farm to store to home kitchen, is another big opportunity to address the climate crisis.  People currently waste about a third (33%) of food produced in our country. There are several things you can do to reduce that waste.  First, pay attention to what’s in your pantry and refrigerator.  Second, use it before it goes bad.  Third, buy the “ugly” produce likely end up in the landfill if no one selects it.  Fourth, throw food scraps in the compost bin instead of the trash.

These simple steps can reduce emissions of methane generated from rotting food in landfills. Each molecule of methane, also called natural gas when we use it for fuel, does 30 to 80 times more damage than carbon dioxide. Therefore, reducing food waste can have a large impact on our climate.

To help create a stable climate, we envision billions of people worldwide enjoying delicious plant-based meals at home, at work, in restaurants and schools with minimal food waste. Join us in addressing the climate crisis one bite at a time.

Courtesy of the Rossmoor News, October 28, 2020.  Email Laurel Standley at ljstandleyauthor@gmail.com.

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