Changing Your Diet Won’t Help the Environment, but These 5 Changes Sure Will

There is a lot of discussion around climate change these days and rightfully so. It seems as if we have more and more natural disasters, more severe weather instances and the science points to humans causing this. I care deeply about our environment – I don’t want my daughter and future grandchildren to experience disastrous weather patterns in an unknown future.

There’s also a lot of emphasis to change our diets to a more plant-based focus in order to lower emissions and I’m here to tell you, that theory isn’t fact-based. You can’t believe in climate science and tout it everywhere you go but ignore the science from the Environmental Protection Agency that states beef cattle are only accountable for 2% of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.1 Transportation, on the other hand, is responsible for nearly 1/3 of all U.S. GHG emissions. So here are five ways to help our environment that are much more impactful than changing your diet.

  1. Reduce your food waste
    Did you know that in the U.S. we waste nearly 40% of the food we purchase from the grocery store? No flipping lie. Imagine the last grocery trip you made – a cart full of protein, fruits, dairy and snacks. Then get home and throw nearly half of it away – true story, yo. If you want to make an impact through food, quit throwing it away! Meal planning, utilizing leftovers and knowing the difference between use-by and best-by dates are all ways to decrease your carbon footprint via food without changing your diet.
  2. Reduce your reliance on single-use plastics
    Man, plastic is problematic. And I get it – it’s convenient and ev.ery.where. But you can take small steps to stop fueling the production of such a harmful waste product – plastics clog up our waterways, oceans and landfills and aren’t biodegradable! So for starters, get a water jug or thermos of choice and please cut the dependence on bottled water. Secondly, you can get reusable snack bags so that you aren’t tossing out a bunch of plastic ziplock baggies after every picnic, errand run or rodeo. Also, when you go to the grocery store, there’s no need to put all your produce in the bag. Why do we do that? We just take it out of the bag when we get home and chuck the bags in the trash. Get some reusable ones OR just don’t use one at all (I’ve done it, don’t hyperventilate. It’s ok).
  3. Park the car and walk (or take public transport)
    Clearly, we have to travel which is why that transport emissions number is so high BUT there are ways to get from point A to B without filling the air with CO2. I live in the country but even I can reduce my use of fuel – I walk to our post office and the local cafe when the weather allows. When the hubs and I visit new cities, we take public transportation rather than renting a car. You can do these things too – it’s as simple as carpooling to work or trying to run your errands on one specific day per week, rather than whenever you think of them. Are these changes convenient? Not always, but I’m more than willing to walk than never to have a mild summer or mild winter again in my life. Ya get me?
  4. Think of the fishes – turn off the faucet (and while you’re at it, the lights too)
    I saw a commercial once that had a fish in a pond next door to a little boy’s house and as the little boy was brushing his teeth, he left the faucet on and took all the fish’s water. I felt so bad for that cartoon fish! That commercial definitely opened my eyes to leaving the water running as little as possible. That means turning it off while I brush my teeth, being cognizant of how long my showers are and being super careful about not letting the water tank flow over for the cows and horses (hello, farm and ranch friends – that’s a tough one)! Also in the same vein is turning off the dang lights. I love my hubs, but he is bad about leaving every single light on in the house. I pay our electric bill so maybe I can alter his behavior by not following him around turning off lights and then letting him pay it that month! Being mindful of our actions is something we must do to realize how much impact we actually have on the environment.
  5. Stop buying so much stuff!
    This is a hard one for sure because here in America, we’re pretty materialistic. We want the newest clothes, newest toys and newest tech. But do we really need all this stuff? In our house, especially over the past few years, we have really tried to cut back on buying trinkets and things and instead focus on experiences. For example, for our daughter’s birthday we have requested that family and friends not buy her toys but rather tickets to a festival or zoo or even donate to her college fund. We are also big proponents of hand-me-downs and buying gently used clothing. Since I work from home, I don’t buy new clothes that often to begin with – I could shock you with the age of some of the clothes in my closet! Another big material boon for Americans are our bonus appendages, aka phones. Do you really need a new iPhone or Galaxy every year? Probably not but we have this instant gratification mindset that we have to have it now. I have the iPhone 7 which was released in 2016. It’s still going strong and although I really want that new iPhone 11, I have no need for it. My current phone does all the things I need it to do seamlessly so I’ll see if I can make it last another year or two.

These are just a few small drops in the bucket of how we can be better environmentalists but if we all do small works every day, they add up. And again, let me reiterate that changing your diet by giving up a food group will not help the climate. We cannot eat our way out of climate change. The fact of the matter is if I went vegan for one whole year (that sounds atrocious, by the way), I would only reduce my carbon footprint by one half of one flight across the Atlantic. That’s so stinking minimal and definitely not worth the sacrifice when I can consciously work on the five things above and have a much greater impact.

Eat what you want (in moderation) – fear should not be on the food ingredient list! What things do you do in your home to help our environment that I didn’t include?

Until next time,
~ Buzzard ~

1 EPA. 2018. Inventory of U. S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Sinks: 1990-2016. U. S. Environmental Protection Agency, Washington, D. C.

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2 responses to “Changing Your Diet Won’t Help the Environment, but These 5 Changes Sure Will”

  1. Beth Grant-DeRoos Avatar
    Beth Grant-DeRoos

    Actually its not just cattle but ALL animal productions that creates horrid greenhouse emissions. It’s been noted that billions of chickens are killed for meat here in the states each year, with tens of thousands of pigs being raised for meat,
    That’s a lot of chicken manure!

    Eating a whole foods, plant based diet devoid of needless packaging and only buying the amount of food that will actually be eaten is key. Remember a whole foods plant based diet can also mean fewer health problems whose domino affect can be enormous.

    We need our car which is a 2003 Toyota Matrix with 58k miles. We plan our trips wisely since we live in the Sierras and the nearest town with stores is 20+ miles away. Losing weight also means one can get better gas mileage since one is hauling less weight in the car.

    Living in a small home that wastes less water, less energy and simply has less room for ‘stuff’ is also important as is having fewer children.

    1. Avatar

      Beth, while we have the same ideals around food packaging, not wasting food and using less energy in our home, the science-based facts point that all of agriculture is only 9% and beef is 2% of that. I dont know the specific breakdown of chickens and pigs but I can confidently say that the amount of beef we produce is gargantuan, while the emissions they give off are minimal.

      Thanks for reading!