Climate Smart Food - Water use and CO2 emisson
One very big but not so often talked about climate villain is the extreme amounts of water that's used to produce some of the common food products we eat. Why is that bad? Cause if not changed we might run out of fresh water in some parts of the world. So how can we reduce our water footprint and save water? To start with here is a list of some comparisons with the rough numbers of litre of water used to produce a kilo of the finished product.
If one takes a look at these facts and starts analysing them one soon finds that
locally produced food in many cases has a lower water footprint. Tomato rather than avocado, oat milk rather than almond milk, potato rather than rice, butter rather than olive oil, beer rather than wine and so on. This it's partly due to our mild climate and I think we should take advantage of that. We support the local farmers and we save water at the same time.
Except the water footprint on food the CO2 emission is what comes to mind when we think about climate smart food. But there are different parts to look at here; the emission for production and then the transport emission. Again I'm gonna give you a chart for some comparison. This chart shows kilo CO2 per kilo finished product. Transport after the product is finished is not included in this chart but I'll talk more about that later.
As we see the biggest Villains here are similar to the ones that have the biggest water footprint; beef, chocolate, avocado for example. We also see that The oils are high on this list as well. In general food that is fatty requires both more water and more energy.
Except from this list a good tip is to think about what kind of season or climate does the country I get the food from have right now? Is this grown on free land or in a greenhouse? For example: Salad grown in a greenhouse has 18 times bigger CO2 emission than carrots.
When it comes to transport it’s easy to blame the transport from farm to store but in some cases it’s actually our shopping that is the biggest to blame. If you do the shopping several times a week with a car and do it as a separate trip or detour (not on your way home from work) then your CO2 might be higher than the transport between farm and store PER PRODUCT even if the product comes from abroad by truck or boat. Something to think about.
But the real Villain when it comes to transport is the flights. Some food is always flown and some only parts of the year. The reason they are flown is because they need to be transported quickly or they will go bad. Here are a few examples of flown produce:
Many of the fruits, mostly from south America, and some from Africa and Asia are flown all year around. These are usually the “odd” fruits that the stores have a lower quantity of. Some examples are star fruit, lemon grass, turmeric.
Sometimes also the little more common ones like passion fruits, figs and blackberries are flown in. Look for European ones to be on the safe side as they are rarely flown within the EU. Safe exotic fruits are especially banana, mango and pineapple. These are basically
newer flown in.When not in season:When not in season asparagus are usually flown in from Peru, fresh peas and beans from Kenya and berries from Egypt or similar places. It's good to always check where your food comes from.
Except from These environmental risks there are of course others like deforestation, artificial nutrition, pesticides and child/monkey labour. Deforestation is caused especially by soy production (where the majority goes to food for animals). Avocado and almonds among others are grown with extreme amounts of artificial nutrition as the places they are grown at are usually very scarce. Banana and strawberries among others have a huge amount of pesticides on them and coconuts are sometimes picked by children or monkeys (ev
en though 0% of the companies that sell coconut products say no to this claim some of their farmers confesses that it is the case - which i believe makes the coconut non-vegan?). Also WWF claims that coconut oil is the least environmentally friendly option.
And then what about all the plastic packaging?
But let's not make this too complicated. Doing a little is better than doing nothing.
The conclusions I draw from these charts and numbers are several:
Beef, Chocolate, almonds, and avocado are not worth the environmental cost and one does best to minimise the consumption of these and treat it as a luxury item rather than regularly consume it.
Cut down on the meat in general and some days change to plant based food that doesn't contain soy (there are a lot better alternatives).
Be careful with how much oil you use. Olive oil is by far the healthiest (most other oils contain unhealthy amounts of omega 6) but has the highest environmental cost (after coconut).
Consider switching dairy- and nut based products to oat based products.
Eat locally produced and organic food rather than imported as often as possible.
Avoid non-recyclable packaging if there are other options and use reusable shopping bags for your groceries.
I hope this article gave you some help and gave you some good viewpoints on how to be climate smart when it comes to food shopping.
By: Thomas Claesson
SOURCES among others:
Poore & Nemecek
NILS LINDSTRÖM, EKOT, SVERIGES RADIO