Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Take a Bite Out of Global Warming!

The Center for Food Safety and the CornerStone Campaign recently launched the Cool Foods Campaign – a new campaign designed to help people reduce their personal contributions to global warming by changing the way they eat.

One way to reduce global warming is to begin with the food we eat. The Cool Foods Campaign educates the public about how their food choices can affect global warming and equips them with the resources they need to reduce their impact. The aim of the Campaign is to inspire a groundswell of informed people committed to making sustainable food choices to reduce their “FoodPrint” (defined as the measure of the impact of the food you consume on the environment in terms of the amount of greenhouse gases produced in the growing, preparation, and transportation of that food).

Is Industrial Agriculture Cooking the Planet?
Did you know that our food system is a major contributor to global warming? The U.S. food system uses between 17-19% of the total energy supply in the country, contributing a significant amount of greenhouse gas emissions to the atmosphere every day.

On large-scale, modernized industrial farms, greenhouse gases are created numerous ways. Pesticide and fertilizer applications, irrigation, lighting, transportation, and other machinery are powered by greenhouse gas-emitting fossil fuels. The production of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides alone require the equivalent use of over 123 million barrels of oil, making them one of the largest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions in agriculture.

The overuse of agricultural chemicals pollutes watersheds and kills plants that could otherwise capture greenhouse gases and actually reduce global warming. As the plants decompose they emit methane, a greenhouse gas, into the atmosphere. Methane is also emitted by the 95 million cows raised each year in the United States. The waste from these animals, and 60 million hogs raised every year, are collected and stored in stagnant manure pits which release not only a pungent smell, but more methane.

Once our food is grown it is transported throughout the country to grocery stores and markets. The average American meal has traveled about 1,500 miles before it arrives on your plate. All told, the U.S food system uses the equivalent of over 450 billion gallons of oil every year.

What You Can Do: Reducing Your Carbon FoodPrint
You can have a major influence on global warming by making better food choices, and reducing your FoodPrint. The “Coolest” foods have the lowest FoodPrint and are made without producing excess greenhouse gases. When foods that produce higher FoodPrints – those considered “Hot” – are avoided, we reduce our individual contributions to global warming. An easy way to tell if your food is “Cool” or “Hot” is to ask yourself these 5 basic questions before you buy.

(1) Is this food organic? Organic foods are produced without the use of energy-intensive synthetic pesticides and fertilizers, growth hormones, antibiotics, and they are not genetically engineered or irradiated. To Be Cooler: Buy organic and look for the USDA organic label to ensure that the food you eat is “certified organic.”

(2) Is this product made from an animal? Conventional meats – eg. beef, poultry, pork, dairy, and farmed seafood – are the #1 cause of global warming in our food system. Animals in industrial systems are fed foods they cannot biologically process and are confined to unhealthy and overcrowded cages – conditions that contribute to malnutrition and disease. In an attempt to keep animals healthy they are sprayed with over 2 million pounds of insecticides every year. They also ingest an astounding 84% of all the antimicrobials, including antibiotics, used annually in the U.S. To Be Cooler: Limit your consumption of conventional meat, dairy, and farmed seafood. Buy organic meat and dairy whenever possible, since these foods are produced without energy-intensive, synthetic pesticides and herbicides, and look for wild (not farmed), local seafood.

(3) Has this food been processed? Compared to whole foods such as fruits and vegetables, processed foods require the use of energy-intensive processes such as freezing, canning, drying, and packaging. To Be Cooler: Do your best to avoid processed foods all together, but “certified organic” processed foods are a good alternative.

(4) How far did this food travel to reach my plate? Transporting food throughout the world emits 30,800 tons of greenhouse gas every year. The average conventional food product travels about 1,500 miles to get to your grocery store. To Be Cooler: Choose locally produced foods or foods grown as close to your home as possible. Look for country of origin labels on whole foods and avoid products from far away.

(5) Is this food excessively packaged? Packaging materials, like plastic, are oil-based products that require energy to be created and are responsible for emitting 24,200 tons of greenhouse gas every year. To Be Cooler: Buy whole foods. Purchase loose fruits and vegetables (rather than bagged or shrink-wrapped), buy bulk beans, pasta, cereals, seeds, nuts, and grains, and carry your own reusable grocery bags.

Food Choice and Beyond
Want to reduce global warming? Join our “Cool Foods” Campaign and help take a bite out of global warming by changing the way you eat!

Top 10 Things You Can Do to Take a Bite Out of Global Warming

Choose organic foods.
Reduce meat and dairy consumption.
Choose foods with as few ingredients as possible.
Look for locally-produced foods.
Choose foods with as little packaging as possible.
Choose grass-fed beef instead of grain-fed beef.
Cook your own food instead of eating out.
Choose whole foods instead of processed foods.
Look for wild-caught local seafood instead of farm-raised seafood.
Use re-usable bags at the market.
Try to buy your food from farmer’s markets instead of grocery stores.

To keep up-to-date on the Cool Foods Campaign, and for more information about what you can do to lower your FoodPrint, visit our website at www.coolfoodcampaign.org.

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