I have wondered and wondered how best to eat in an environmentally responsible way. I have asked environmentalists, vegetarians, vegans and scientists, and nobody has an answer on which foods are better than others, or how you should choose which food has the smallest carbon footprint. Now the New Scientist has the answer!
I advise you all to get the New Scientist dated 13th September 2008 and read the cover story.
This is a wonderful article. It's full of debate about what we know and what we don't know about carbon footprints. It's full of warnings that you cannot take the carbon footprint of chicken A and then assume it will have the same footprint as chicken B who lives on a different farm. But it also gives some guidelines about food.
Is it better to be a vegetarian?
Is it much much better to be a vegan?
How about buying things from the other side of the world?
Or organic food?
Now we have a few answers, although the scientific knowledge is not yet complete. Red meat and dairy products are the worst. Then chicken, eggs and fish. And fruit and vegetables are the best.
In the US, 11% of the carbon equivalent emitted is for transport.
A quarter of greenhouse gas emissions are actually nitrous oxide, from fertilisers.
In America, emissions from driving are only half of those from food production.
The emissions from fish depends hugely on how they are caught or farmed, and on whether they are carnivorous or herbivorous.
Anyway, don't trust me on all this. The discussion is much more complete in the New Scientist itself. This is something we all need to know. Giving up on plastic bags is NOTHING compared to knowing about stuff like this.
Of course, carbon footprint is only a small amount of what constitutes sustainability, as a wonderful university lecturer called Big Rob told us. If we eat all the herbivorous fish, that's not sustainable and if we don't trade fairly with the third world, that's not sustainable either. But global warming is important and this is information that I have found very hard to uncover until now