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Question of the Month: Time to Reduce Our Food’s Carbon Footprint?

What our carbon footprint says about our food choices.

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Carbon footprint of food

The U.S. dietary guidelines—nutritional advice published every 5 years by the Department of Agriculture and the Depart-ment of Health and Human Services—recommend core elements of a healthy diet for the general publication. While these guidelines may be helpful for our health, research published in Nutrition Journal says they’re not great for the planet and our carbon footprint.

The study authors say the carbon footprint of U.S. guidelines is higher than that for any of the six other countries analyzed, including Germany, the Netherlands and India—in fact, the U.S. guidelines were reported to have more than four times the carbon footprint of the guidelines in India, so what’s best for the environment doesn’t always align with what our government officials say is the healthiest diet. The higher U.S. carbon impact can largely be attributed to higher amounts of protein, and animal-based protein in particular, in the recommendations.

By and large, guidelines with a greater emphasis on plant-based eating within a 2,000-calorie diet were considered gentler on the environment. Since human food systems are a key contributor to climate change, there is an argument to be made that governments should strive to produce dietary guidance that considers both health and environmental impact.

Do you think future decision-making for the U.S. dietary guidelines should consider environmental sustainability? What changes to the recommendations would you suggest? Have you made any alterations to your eating habits with the environment in mind? Send your answers to Sandy Todd Webster at [email protected]

See also: Lower-Carbon Diets Healthier and Good for the Planet

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