Foods You Had No Idea Were Actually Destroying Our Planet
In 2018, The Guardian reported something quite troubling. Apparently, leading climate scientists announced that we only have 12 years to limit the effects of climate change on the planet. Additionally, reports from the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change stated that the temperature of global warming needed to be kept at 1.5 degrees Celsius to prevent further droughts, floods, extreme heat levels, and poverty.
And it’s absolutely terrifying to think about the fate of the earth if our habits don’t change.
But there are things we can do to help limit the impact of climate change. For instance, we can walk or ride a bike instead of driving. Even line-drying our clothes instead of using an electric dryer is helpful.
We can also play our part by picking our foods more carefully.
Food production accounts for 83 percent of emissions. And the transportation of that food accounts for 11 percent, according to a University of Michigan report. Your food also affects the environment because of animal waste production, water consumption, and deforestation.
If you’re looking to limit your carbon footprint, here are some foods you might want to be wary of.
Every morning, tons of us look forward to starting our days with a fresh pot of coffee.
Unfortunately, our coffee habit might play a role in the downfall of the world’s forests. According to One Green Planet, much of coffee’s impact on the environment centers around finding the space to grow it. Many coffee beans grow in Latin America. But Central America is also making room for the crop. Farmers there are clearing 2.5 acres of forest for coffee production.
Not only is avocado toast expensive, but it turns out, the main ingredient is troublesome for the planet.
According to California Avocado, about 90 percent of domestic avocados typically grow in California. Since the sunshine state isn’t naturally tropical, it takes about 74 gallons of water to grow just one pound of avocados, Mother Jones reported. That’s a lot of water for a state that recently experienced a decade-long drought.
More and more people favor plant-based milk over dairy.
And almond milk is especially popular. However, producing almonds requires a lot of water, one gallon per almond to be exact. Similar to avocados, a majority of almonds in the United States (and in the world) are grown in California. With an increase in demand for almonds in the past few years, water conservationists point fingers at nut farmers for contributing to California droughts, according to The Telegraph.
Sorry meat lovers, animal products are creating a major source of pollution.
It all starts with the animal’s poop. Every year, livestock and poultry produce copious amounts of fecal matter and waste. The waste results in air pollution and greenhouse gases that release into the environment. For example, when farmers and plants use cow manure as fertilizer, the phosphorus and nitrogen in the manure can run off into waterways, produce algae, and negatively impact drinking water.
Cheese seems harmless, right? Not exactly.
In terms of food with the largest carbon footprint, cheese falls right behind lamb and beef. Since cheese is, in fact, an animal product, it produces pollutants during the production process. There’s also the fact that a lot of people enjoy imported cheese. She effects of transportation also affect the planet.
Greek yogurt is another animal product.
Consequently, the animal waste that greek yogurt causes negatively affects the planet. But did you know that it takes three to four ounces of milk to make only one ounce of Greek yogurt? The remaining milk turns into acid whey that can’t be discarded easily. If the acidic liquid does reach waterways, it can taint the water, deplete the water’s oxygen, and kill fish in the process.
Who knew that corn could be so bad for the planet?
According to Boston’s NPR news station, farmers use approximately one-third of cropland in the United States for corn production. Along with other types of agriculture, corn uses nutrient-rich topsoil to grow. Unfortunately, researchers say we only have about 60 years until topsoil on the earth completely runs out.
Like almonds, cashews are one of the most popular nuts for alternative milk.
They also make many vegan recipes taste heartier. But there’s a major downside to the common cashew harvesting process. According to The Telegraph, the nuts have multiple layers of shell. And the two substances between the layers, cardol and anacardic acid, can cause terrible burns. To make matters worse, many cashew harvesters aren’t provided with gloves. They sustain permanent damage to their hands while working. And their compensation isn’t any better. For a typical 10-hour day, workers in some Indian locales receive about 160 rupees or $1.91.
Quinoa has become a power food for many.
Unfortunately, quinoa is anything but sustainable, especially in Peru. According to the BBC, the price of quinoa in Peru has increased 500 percent from 2005 to 2014. That spike was accompanied by an increase in production from 32,590 to 114,725 tons. So what was once healthy and affordable for locals is now overpriced and unattainable.
Soy is the holy grail of plant-based proteins.
In fact, soy provides valuable and tasty protein for many vegetarians, vegans, and really anyone trying to cut back on animal products. But soybean production requires a lot of land. And Latin America, a major soybean producer, has seen a massive increase in deforestation because of it.
Bananas are one of the top five favorite fruits in the United States.
And they make up about 11 percent of fruit sales at grocery stores. The fruits are imported from countries like Ecuador, the Philippines, and Guatemala since they aren’t native to America. And that’s where the negative environmental impact occurs. The transportation of the fruit releases significant amounts of carbon dioxide.
Not only is too much sugar bad for our bodies, but it’s also bad for the planet.
According to the World Wildlife Fund, 60 to 70 percent of sugar granules come from sugar cane. And 30 to 40 percent comes from sugar beets. During the sugar-making process, though, many natural habitats are lost. Sugar cane also needs a lot of water to be produced and uses heavy chemicals that contribute to water and air pollution.
Rice is a key dish in many countries.
And is one of the leading food crops in the world. Unfortunately, it’s even worse for the planet than researchers previously expected, according to The Independent. Rice production creates greenhouse gases such as methane when rice fields flood and nitrous oxide from rice field soil.
And that’s not all.
It’s estimated that nearly 2.5 percent of human’s global warming is the result of heavy rice farming. To curb the effects of rice on the environment, farmers are now attempting to minimize the amount of water they typically use. However, researchers believe that approach might be making greenhouse gases even worse.