How is it possible to reduce the CO₂ footprint with food? Our main topic moves the SRF community. Tips and answers to frequently asked questions.
Our food causes more greenhouse gases than transport. In order to achieve the climate goals, climate researchers agree, we must change our diet: towards more legumes and less meat or dairy products.
The SRF community also had a lively discussion on how we can eat sustainably.
Tips from the community for sustainable eating
- As local as possible: buy directly from the farmer.
- Harvest or preserve yourself, e.g. E.g. pick wild garlic for pesto. Dry the apples in the fall.
- Planning is everything: creating a meal plan.
- Use leftovers: Prevent food waste, because what is not eaten consumes greenhouse gases unnecessarily.
- It’s about more than CO₂: Pay attention to labels, e.g. B. with the Advice from the WWF.
“You are what you eat!” SRF user Angela Doppelhofer quotes the philosopher Ludwig Feuerbach as saying. Like some users, she tries to buy seasonal groceries as much as possible and to pay attention to a sustainable diet. “It has worked for me over the past few years.”
Climate sin avocado?
What has raised questions is the choice of foods for the Self-experiment by SRF Knowledge “Food for the climate”for which our author had a climate-friendly diet for seven days.
I don’t understand why you should eat avocado and kumquats that come by plane. We have seasonal and regional vegetables.
It’s true: Local, seasonal vegetables have the best climate balance. For our 7-day challenge, we chose the menu based on what the average Swiss eats, and sometimes avocado or fish are on the plate. This allowed us to see how these products make a difference in terms of the climate footprint.
What is surprising: the organic avocado from Italy is not as big a climate killer as feared. Eaternity Managing Director Manuel Klarmann says: “In Italy, the avocado does not need a lot of water and provides a lot of proteins. I don’t know where the myth comes from!”
Vegetable proteins from legumes or even avocados are a good substitute for meat products, which have a much higher CO₂ footprint.
Cultivation as a major climate driver
What is also often overestimated is the influence of transport. “People often overestimate this,” says Klarmann. Nitrous oxide, which is produced when fertilizers are used, is 300 times more climate-friendly than CO₂.
As a result, the majority of greenhouse gases are generated during the cultivation of food and not only during transport. The avocado from Italy arrives in Switzerland by truck – in terms of greenhouse gases, air transport is the main factor.
This is how you recognize airborne goods
For imported food, the ship is the most climate-friendly way, ahead of the truck. In last place is the plane: It is twice as harmful to the climate as the truck. Manuel Klarmann explains how you can tell in the store what is coming to Switzerland by plane:
- Short shelf life: «What would break very quickly is flown in. Mango, for example, lasts a week. But a ship is on the road for two or three weeks.”
- sun-ripened: «When something is «sun-ripened» and comes from far away. Eg avocado or berries from Peru. They come from Spain by truck.”
- The price index: “The price shows it: It is much more expensive to transport groceries by plane, as you can see from the asparagus prices, for example, before the season starts here.”
Even kumquats are better than their reputation. Seasonal local fruits would be the best choice for the climate. But because kumquats are much lighter than oranges, for example, and still contain many vitamins, the small citrus fruits do better in the climate balance:
Kumquats cause about half as many greenhouse gases as oranges and also come from Spain by truck and not by plane.
Climate protection as a bigger task
Some users state that they reduce meat and pay attention to the origin of the food, but do not want to change completely.
Also because they see politics and business in particular as having a duty to do more to protect the climate:
As a single consumer, this is too exhausting. It needs changes from the grocery stores or the WHO. Maybe info in the supermarket.
SRF user Roland Barth draws attention to the range of supermarkets that are already offering strawberries in February, but also explains: “But there are many consumers who want that! Then that will also be offered.”
Ultimately, it remains a task for everyone – whether political guidelines or a personal decision, what goes on the plate.
Food for the climate: what is good and what is not?
- Legumes such as lentils or beans
- Meat alternatives: cause significantly less CO₂e than meat
- Seasonal fruit or vegetables
What worsens the climate balance:
- Processed Dairy Products
- spirits and wine
- Fish and meat: The WHO recommends 1 x red meat, 1 x white meat and 1 x fish per week