When you think of environmentally-conscious eating, you probably think of buying locally-grown foods and organic produce, but did you ever consider what you’re throwing away?
Cutting down on the worst foods for the environment may sound paradoxical, but it’s the easiest way to reduce your food waste and save the planet.
It’s always a good idea to eat your veggies, but some foods have more of a negative impact on the environment than others. Some foods require a lot of packaging, while others are super-processed—and others are simply transported over long distances.
Knowing what the worst foods for the environment are will allow you to make better decisions when you head to the grocery store.
Some of the Major Ways Modern Food Production Affects Climate Change
The modern food production system is a complex mix of agriculture, storage, manufacturing, and transportation that all affect the climate. These five points outline some of the major ways the food industry affects the climate.
As we become more aware of the health costs of eating animal products, many of us are switching to a vegan diet. But how do our dietary choices impact the environment? Turns out, not having meat in your diet can make a big difference for the planet.
If the entire world were to go vegan, we’d see a decrease in greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to removing 211 million cars from the road.
Even if you’re not ready to give up meat altogether, reducing your meat intake is still beneficial. Meat production is extremely resource intensive and requires massive amounts of water and energy. By reducing how much meat you eat, you’ll be taking steps to help the environment.
Food production is a major contributor to climate change. Livestock production contributes more greenhouse gases than the transportation sector in some countries.
This is because it is a large-scale industry, with lots of machinery and facilities that require lots of energy. The livestock themselves also emit large quantities of methane gas, which is a much more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.
Foods That Are Bad for the Planet
In modern times, the planet we live in is in serious trouble. With our growing population and our ever increasing demands for resources, we’ve had to develop technologies that allow us to live in ways that are less damaging to the planet.
Unfortunately, sometimes these technologies have unintended consequences. Here, we’ll take a look at some of the things that are bad for the planet.
While healthy eating is important, it’s important to remember that the foods we eat can have a huge impact on the environment. From the greenhouse gasses emitted during food production to the packaging and transport packaging the foods are delivered in, food choices make a big difference.
And, with global warming a significant concern right now, the choices we make about the food we eat can have a huge impact on the planet.
Genetically Modified Foods
Genetically modified organisms, or GMOs, are foods or animals that have had their DNA altered in a way that does not occur naturally. (The genes from one species are inserted into another species to give that second species a desired trait.)
This can be done to improve crop yields and reduce the need for pesticides, or to produce animals that are more muscular or that have more nutritious meat.
But GMOs aren’t just found in the produce aisle: Many of the corn and soybeans grown in the U.S. are GMOs. And since many processed foods contain corn syrup or soybean oil, you’re probably eating GMOs even if you’re careful to avoid processed foods.
Foods That Contain Palm Oil
Although palm oil has a bad reputation as a natural resource that harms rainforests, the reality is that palm oil can be a sustainable, earth-friendly product when produced responsibly. Produced from the fruit of the African oil palm tree (Elaeis guineensis), palm oil is a commercially important vegetable oil used in processed foods, soaps, cosmetics, and many other products.
As a food, palm oil is 50 percent palmitic acid and 50 percent oleic acid, both of which are healthy saturated fats.
In the search for a cheap and plentiful alternative to hydrogenated vegetable oil, food manufacturers have turned to palm oil. From frozen pizza to granola bars, palm oil is in about half of all packaged goods.
But palm oil production comes at a high price for the environment. If you want to avoid unhealthy fats, your best bet is to read ingredient lists and look for hydrogenated oils. The palm oil industry is causing irreparable damage to tropical rainforests and orangutan habitats, and threatening its very survival.
The deforestation is causing the extinction of many plant and animal species. According to the World Wildlife Fund, the area of primary forest destroyed in Indonesia between 1990 and 2012 was larger than the size of New York City.
Packaged and Processed Foods
We all know that packaged and processed foods can wreak havoc on our health. But did you know that they are also harming the environment? More than two-thirds of packaged and prepared foods found in supermarkets contain ingredients that are bad for the environment, according to a new report by the Environmental Working Group.
The organization analyzed more than 96,000 products and services and found that a wide variety of packaged foods—including baby foods, frozen pizzas, and canned soups—contain ingredients that are not good for the environment.
One of the most harmful things that we do to the planet — on both an individual and collective level — is waste food. According to a report by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), the average American tosses out nearly 200 lbs. of food waste per year.
Although some of this is unavoidable (you’ll never be able to eat that wilted lettuce you bought before it went bad, for example), there are ways that we can significantly reduce the amount of food waste that is created.
Many Nonorganic Foods
The Pesticide Action Network North America (PANNA) is an international organization that advocates a change in the use of pesticides in the world. The organization’s main focus is on pesticides which are used in a large scale on crops, but which have been found to be harmful to human health or the environment. The group strongly promotes organic farming methods, and works to raise awareness about the dangers of processed food.
In our world of over-consumption and “fast-fashion” there is a lot to be said for making the right choices. I’m not saying you need to give up everything you love (although you should), but at the very least it’s worth taking a look at what the worst choices are, and how to avoid them as much as you can. If you’re looking to save some money, time, and energy, it doesn’t get much better than this bumper collection of the most environmentally-unfriendly foods on the planet!