How do you eat as climate-friendly as possible?​

Food for the climate
How do you eat as climate-friendly as possible?

Of course, our diet should be as healthy as possible. More and more people are also making sure that their food causes as little climate impact as possible. But what is the point?

For many people, their diet is a very personal issue. And yet what we eat has a global impact. Because the production of food is a driver of global warming. So what could a climate-friendly diet look like? It’s clear: meat usually causes significantly higher emissions than plant products. Also can Food cause more CO2 from being transported from far away. However, experts do not always agree on the details. An overview of World Food Day on October 16.

Is organic better for the climate?

Organic is good for the environment in many ways. However, according to nutritionist and author Malte Rubach, organic food does not necessarily protect the climate. “The productivity of organic production is not as high as in conventional production,” says Rubach. This is due to the fact that artificial fertilizers, concentrated feed and genetically engineered feed have to be avoided. “Doing without these things reduces productivity.” This results in a higher CO2 footprint per kilogram of organic food.

According to a study by the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research (Ifeu), for example, one kilogram of whole milk causes around 1.4 kilograms of CO2 on average – with the organic variant it is 1.7 kilograms.

Silke Oppermann, an expert at the environmental organization WWF, believes that this is too short-sighted. Through the use of mineral oil fertilizers and pesticides in conventional areas, soil organisms would die off very quickly. “With the loss of soil organisms, the soil’s ability to store CO2 and carbon is also lost,” says the consultant for sustainable nutrition and climate protection. Soil is the second largest store of CO2 after the oceans.

Which is better: milk from cows or from plants?

Oat, soy, rice and almond milk – there are many milk substitutes. According to a large-scale study published by the online publication “Our World in Data”, cow’s milk performs significantly worse than plant-based products in all relevant environmental aspects. The Federal Environment Agency (Uba) also generally advises the consumption of plant-based alternatives.

WWF expert Oppermann points out that rice and almond milk have a less good environmental balance than oat milk. “Because rice has a relatively high CO2 footprint, also due to the way it is cultivated. And with almonds, the problem is that mainly in Spain and California are cultivated and water scarcity and drought play a role there.” Anne Klatt from Uba says: “If the water scarcity in the growing regions of the vegetable raw materials is taken into account, cow’s milk can be more advantageous than some alternatives, for example based on soya or almonds.”

Nutritionist Rubach finds the comparison between cow’s milk and milk substitutes misleading. The latter would have significantly fewer nutrients and proteins. As a result, more of it has to be drunk, which in turn increases the CO2 footprint.

Cheese or meat – what is more harmful to the climate?

That depends very much on the manufacturing method of the individual product. In general, however, it can be said that between 4 and 13 liters are needed to produce one kilogram of cheese milk second hand. According to the Ifeu study, one kilogram of cheese – depending on the type – causes around 5.7 kilograms of CO2 and more. A kilogram of chicken weighs an average of 5.5 kilograms. “That’s because chickens are very productive,” says Rubach. Pork also has a lower average value of 4.6 kilograms of CO2. The situation is different with beef: the production of one kilogram of meat causes an average of 13.6 kilograms carbon dioxide.

How harmful are drinks to the climate?

“Of all the greenhouse gases caused by our diet, drinks are in second place, right after meat and ahead of grain and dairy products,” says Rubach. “Beverages have a comparatively small footprint per liter, but in total we drink 2.5 liters a day and that adds up.” Tap and mineral water have the least impact on the climate, followed by bottled and prepared beverages such as coffee and tea. “With tea, for example, the biggest cause is the boiling of water, not the tea itself; with coffee, it’s the roasting,” says Rubach.

Here is the photo gallery: These regional fruits and vegetables are available in October


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