This New Year, many of us are trying to tread lighter on our planet. We cannot discuss mitigating climate change without discussing our diets. Food production and distribution is one of the greatest sources of greenhouse gas emissions. In fact, the breakfast sandwich you pick up on your way to work may be contributing more emissions than your car. Luckily, there are some diet choices that are good for your health, your bank account and the planet.
• Drink tap water: Living in the Shuswap, we don’t think much about our plastic consumption, because it is conveniently picked up weekly from us, and taken out-of-sight to the dump. However, I had a “plastic wake-up call” this summer, visiting an aunt in Istanbul. A metropolis of 15 million people, tap water is unsafe to drink, and must be purchased in plastic bottles. You can do the math. Furthermore, water is sugar-free, low-sodium and has zero calories.
• Waste less food: When you waste food, you are not only wasting all the resources that went into growing, processing, packaging and distributing it, but releasing more methane as it decomposes in your garbage can. Wasting less can mean sharing an entrée at a restaurant, or not serving yourself more food than you intend to eat.
• Eat less meat: People do not like to hear this advice, but there is significant evidence supporting transition to a more plant-based diet. You do not have to become a vegetarian; however, try sticking to the three-ounce (85-gram) or “pack of cards” portion size and experimenting with beans, lentils and pulses.
• Buy less processed and fast foods: Processed and fast foods contain more packaging and are often higher in calories, sugar and salt than home-cooked meals. In fact, a recent study found the carbon impact of a home-made sandwich is two times lower than its ready-made counterpart.
• Eat seasonally: More difficult to do in the winter, seasonal foods tend to be more fresh, less expensive and travel a shorter distance to get to our plates. A good resource for seasonal eating is: http://www.bcfarmersmarket.org/fresh-market/whatsinseason or visit your local farm market.
– Serena Caner is a registered dietitian working at Shuswap Lake General Hospital