Tag Archives: life cycle

EWG Report: Assessment of Different Foods’ Life Cycles and Carbon Emissions

This thorough report by the Environmental Working Group looks at a range of foods’ carbon emissions across different stages of their lifecycle, from production to disposal http://www.ewg.org/meateatersguide/a-meat-eaters-guide-to-climate-change-health-what-you-eat-matters/ I really value the information presented in this report because of its approach. It isn’t raw numbers; it’s all comparative and evaluative. It’s holistic and takes into account every part of the process, detailing how every step contributes to the over-all environmental impact of a food. The pie charts and bar graphs give simple visuals, but there are also in-depth explanations. The study brings to light that just wasting food contributes a large percentage of emissions to a food’s total. It has always made sense to me to eat everything that you take and I think it is part of valuing and enjoying a food to its fullest. Food has to mean something to us. It is not something to just throw away. And now I know there is scientific evidence to back that up, as this contributes to the large percentage of a food’s emission that comes from avoidable waste. The report also backs up that composting can help reduce carbon emissions; less food waste going into land fills, more going back into the garden. It is therefore not only important what food you buy, but what you do with the product after you buy it: how much you’ll eat, how you will dispose of it, etc.

The page on nutrition speaks to me because I am always trying to convince people they can get more than enough protein without meat, as well as plenty of other nutrients. You don’t need to look far to see the health benefits of cutting down meat intake. And if there is a meat you’re going to cut down on, I think the study makes it clear that ruminants are the worst polluters and red meat the worst for your health. At the same time, pasture-raised and organic beef seems like a good alternative. And while decreased inputs and no chemicals or antibiotics makes for a less harmful practice, I think that beef farming inherently involves a big environmental impact, as is true with pretty much all agriculture on a larger scale. It really depends on the place and I think this study is very strong in it’s specificity and lack of generalizations. Organic might mean a lot in certain cases, and nothing in others, which is what I’ll talk about next post.

-Simon