Eating Green: The Food-Climate Connection

Discover how your food choices impact the planet and your health. By making mindful choices about what we eat, we can lessen our impact on the planet. Switching to plant-rich diets, reducing meat consumption, and minimizing food waste are key steps towards a healthier, more sustainable world.
March 19, 2024

As we navigate the challenges posed by climate change, one of the most powerful tools at our disposal is surprisingly close to home: the food on our plates. What we eat and how it's produced has a huge impact on our health and the environment. From greenhouse gas emissions to land use, every aspect of the food system plays a role in shaping the health of our planet.

The connection between food and the environment is essential to understand. The steps that make up the journey from farm to table each contribute to greenhouse gas emissions that trap heat in our atmosphere. Agriculture and land use, including methane emissions from livestock and deforestation for farmland expansion, are responsible for the largest portion of these emissions. Also, industrial processes, such as refrigeration, food transportation, and food waste management, contribute to the carbon footprint of our diets.  

So, which foods are the biggest culprits when it comes to greenhouse gas emissions? Unsurprisingly, animal-based foods, particularly red meat, dairy, and farmed shrimp tend to have the highest emissions intensity. The production of meat and dairy often involves practices that release significant amounts of greenhouse gases, such as methane from cattle digestion and nitrous oxide from fertilizer use. In the same way, shrimp farming contributes to emissions by destroying mangrove forests, which act as carbon sinks.

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("Food and Climate Change: Healthy Diets for a Healthier Planet ")

Plant-based foods, like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds, have lower greenhouse gas emissions and require fewer resources. By eating a plant-rich diet, reducing animal-based foods, and focusing on plant proteins, emissions can be reduced significantly.

But what can individuals do to reduce their food-related emissions? Making conscious choices about what we eat and how we eat it is the answer. Switching to a more plant-rich diet is one of the most effective steps people can take to lower their carbon footprint. By incorporating more plant-based meals into our diets and reducing our consumption of animal products, we can not only improve our health but also lessen our environmental impact. Plus, embracing whole, unprocessed foods over packaged ones will improve our health and lessen our environmental impact. Even small changes matter: switching a few of your daily foods to those with lower environmental impact can make a big difference in the long run. Eating healthier (for yourself and the planet) doesn’t have to come with a steep price point. And eating healthier is just better for you. Period.

But what could some of these small changes be? Switching meat for options like pulses, eggs, or cheeses. Or even just cutting back a bit on meat by 20%. Small, simple, and healthy choices, in other words. And it's not just about what we eat, but how we eat it too.  

The next step to reducing food-related emissions is reducing food waste. Worldwide, almost one billion tons of food are wasted every year, contributing to emissions from production, transportation, and decomposition. By buying only what we need, using leftovers, and composting organic waste, we can significantly reduce our contribution to food waste and its associated emissions. Together, we can make a big impact by choosing the right foods to drive positive change.  

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Appleton, Katherine, and Danielle Guy. “Four Ways to Eat Less Meat That Are Better for the Planet, Your Health and Your Bank Balance.” The Conversation, 18 Mar. 2024,  

“Food and Climate Change: Healthy Diets for a Healthier Planet.” United Nations, United Nations,,emissions%20is%20linked%20to%20food.