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Archive for the ‘Eat’ Category

Up to 40% of food is wasted on its way to your plate.

Did you know that eating less red meat and cheese affects the environmental impact of your diet more than eating all local and organic? And it turns out there’s an even easier way to green up your groceries: only buy what you’ll actually eat. A new study by NRDC estimates that up to 40% of food in the U.S. is wasted, which includes waste at the farm, supermarket, in your fridge, and scrapped off your plate. All this rotten rubbish adds up to a tremendous waste of resources each year: 25% of all freshwater used in U.S.; 4% of total U.S. oil consumption; $165 billion in food costs; $750 million just to dispose of the food; and 33 million tons of landfill waste (leading to methane emissions, a greenhouse gas ~25 times more potent than CO2).

While part of the problem lies with inefficiencies in our food production and distribution infrastructure, which could be rectified with some government intervention, the good news is that you can also be a big part of the solution. Only buy and cook what you’ll eat and don’t shun imperfect produce (that’s still perfectly edible) and you’ll go a long way towards improving the efficiency of the whole system. Efficient eating is made extra enticing by the fact you’ll even save money in the process. And perhaps you’ll also avoid packing on pounds from polishing off overly-plentiful plates, a win for both the wallet and the waistline!

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Bottled water keeps selling BS by the billions.

At about $100 billion in 2010 global sales, projected to rise to $125 billion by 2015, bottled water is big business. The average American consumed over 28 gallons of the stuff in 2010, which starts looking low compared to an average German (34 gallons) or an average Mexican (64 gallons). But is that H2O in a bottle any better than what comes out of the tap? Well, first there’s the fact that you’re paying between 240 and 10,000 times the price you’d pay for the same quantity of tap water, despite the fact that over 25% of bottled water is actually just repackaged tap, and the bottled stuff is less regulated (and therefore often more contaminated) than fluid that flows out of your kitchen sink.

Then there’s the environmental footprint of making a bottle plus trucking that bottle around for your consumptive convenience. A 2006 Pacific Institute study estimated that just producing the bottles for water sold in the US consumed the equivalent of 17 million barrels of oil, emitted more than 2.5 million tons of greenhouse gas, and wasted 2 liters of water in the production process for every one liter that ended up on store shelves (and that’s NOT counting refrigeration and transportation energy). Of course these bottles can be recycled, but about 75% of them still end up in a landfill, and (as any enviro-hip elementary school student will tell you) it’s better to reduce and reuse to render that third “R” unnecessary. Adding it all up, the environmental footprint of bottled water is over 1000 times greater than running the tap.

But that refreshing bottled stuff tastes better, right? According to a highly unscientific televised study by renowned investigators (Penn & Teller), over 75% of people in a blind taste test preferred New York tap water (out of a hose) over “premium” bottled brands. So better taste is probably more in your head than on your tongue, and brands that claim otherwise are likely selling a load of BS (which, given the lax FDA oversight of the bottled water industry, bacteria from that BS may even end up in your cup). So forgo the bottles of blues, and equip yourself with a groovy green refillable canteen.

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Warmer but not wetter: NRDC predicts that a majority of US counties will face moderate to extreme water shortages, due to climate change and increased demand.

Warmer but not always wetter: NRDC predicts that a majority of US counties will face moderate to extreme water shortages by 2050, due to climate change and demand.

‘Water, water everywhere, but not a drop to drink.’ This poetically plagiarized prose precedes an International Energy Agency (IEAreport. As the climate changes, so do our precipitation expectations, and the latest portrait drawn by the IEA makes those words look like a possible future photographic caption. Water demand is expected to double by 2035, according to the IEA. Around half of the projected 66 billion cubic meter increase will be swallowed by coal production. This is equivalent to the residential consumption of everyone in the US for three years. The United Nations estimates that 1.8 billion people will have to deal with severe water scarcity and two-thirds of the population will be living in ‘water-stressed conditions.’

Fortunately there is no guarantee of being stuck out at sea sans both paddles. Water awareness is a good first step, and you can simultaneously cut your carbon and water footprint, since water, agriculture and energy are so intertwined. We’ve mentioned before how becoming a weekday vegetarian can save you around 2 tons of carbon, there are also benefits for your water footprint. The average American diet uses around 1,000 gallons a person everyday. Choosing to eat less meat and dairy and (if you are eating meat) picking grass-fed over grain-fed can make a real difference. National Geographic estimates that a vegan consumes around 600 fewer gallons of water than the average American. Then there’s all the embodied water in the energy you consume and the products you buy, many of which come from water stressed regions of the world. So as you buy less stuff and make your home a model of energy efficiency you’ll also be working water wonders for the people and ecosystems that need it most.

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