"I wasn’t aware of climate change until the 1980s — hardly anyone was — and
even when we recognised the dire threat that burning fossil fuels posed, it
took time for the role of animal production in warming the planet to be
Today, though, the fact that eating plants will reduce your greenhouse gas
emissions is one of the most important and influential reasons for cutting down
on animal products and, for those willing to go all the way, becoming vegan.
A few years ago, eating locally — eating only food produced within a defined
radius of your home — became the thing for environmentally conscious people to
do, to such an extent that “locavore” became the Oxford English Dictionary’s
“word of the year” for 2007.
If you enjoy getting to know and support your local farmers, of course, eating
locally makes sense. But if your aim is, as many local eaters said, to reduce
greenhouse gas emissions, you would do much better by thinking about what you
are eating, rather than where it comes from. That’s because transport makes up
only a tiny share of the greenhouse gas emissions from the production and
distribution of food.
With beef, for example, transport is only 0.5% of total emissions. So if you
eat local beef you will still be responsible for 99.5% of the greenhouse gas
emissions your food would have caused if you had eaten beef transported a long
distance. On the other hand, if you choose peas you will be responsible for
only about 2% of the greenhouse gas emissions from producing a similar quantity
of local beef.
And although beef is the worst food for emitting greenhouse gases, a broader
study of the carbon footprints of food across the European Union showed that
meat, dairy and eggs accounted for 83% of emissions, and transport for only
*** Xanni ***
Chief Scientist, Xanadu
Partner, Glass Wings
Manager, Serious Cybernetics