How people power can solve the climate crisis
When considering the solutions to climate change, it is easy to feel disempowered. Industry giants and an uninformed government control so much of environmental decision-making that it can feel like there’s not much regular individuals can do to secure a safe future for this planet. But, according to a recent comprehensive report, “regular people” have a huge potential to reduce carbon in the atmosphere with what they choose to put on their plate.
"Project Drawdown has done the math on what humanity is capable of achieving with a broad range of tools already in use around the globe."
Project Drawdown, a non-profit that identifies, researches, models, and ranks the most applicable solutions to climate change, asserts that two of the top five most practical solutions to climate change could be implemented by a conscious change in peoples’ behavior. These two environment-saving food strategies? Reducing food waste and eating a plant-rich diet.
Researchers from Project Drawdown determined that reduction of food waste and plant-based diets are the third and fourth most viable solutions to climate change, out of the 80 solutions on the list. In addition, these solutions are some of the only solutions that could be largely consumer-driven and come at zero cost.
Waste not, want not
Reducing food waste offers a huge opportunity for cutting down on greenhouse gas emissions because water, energy, land, fuel for transportation, hours of labor, and countless square meters of CO2 are sacrificed when perfectly good food goes to waste. Currently, all that adds up to 8% of total global emissions.
While much of food waste in low-income communities requires investment in infrastructure to mitigate it, middle and high-income individuals have a lot of potential to divert wasted food. Better food planning, proper storage, and home food waste audits could have a massive collective effect on global carbon levels. Composting, which Project Drawdown lists as a separate solution, offers even further potential to prevent climate change in the kitchen.
Put plants on your plate
Between deforestation for grazing land, agriculture for feed production, fuel for transportation, and extremely high cow populations, it’s no wonder meat production accounts for one-fifth of global emissions.
Though vegetarianism is more popular than ever, research states that even a simple reduction in daily meat consumption would cause a huge reduction of greenhouse gases. Passing on beef, bacon, and burgers for grains, veggies, and plant-based proteins is a monumental change that could, theoretically, happen tomorrow.
Project Drawdown, however, points out that critical to ending our heavy dependence on animals for protein is the end of “price-distorting government subsidies” on meat products in the U.S.
Take up gardening
Another promising solution included in the “food” category is regenerative agriculture. This sustainable farming strategy turns its back on chemical fertilizers and focuses on cultivating healthy soil by rebuilding carbon content, thereby trapping atmospheric carbon underground. Regenerative practices such as no-till farming, diverse cover crops, and crop rotation can be used on any scale, from a large farm to your small backyard garden.
Takeaway: If more of us work to limit food waste and eat more plants, we can prevent massive amounts of greenhouse gases from polluting our atmosphere. Governmental reform is a long and slow process but individuals and communities have the power to make better decisions and build a better food system today.