Eat less meat
Reducing meat consumption is among the most significant individual choices we can make for reducing our GHG emissions and improving food security for others worldwide. While industrial agricultural activities of all types use resources and produce greenhouse gases, a recent World Resources Institute report found that animal-based foods are much more resource-intensive and environmentally impactful to produce than plant-based foods. For example, beef production requires 20 times more land and emits 20 times more greenhouse gas emissions per unit of edible protein than common plant-based protein sources such as beans, peas and lentils.
The United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that the meat industry generates nearly one-fifth of man-made greenhouse gas emissions, which is more than the entire transportation sector. The United Nation’s report, Plates, Pyramids, Planet (in collaboration with the Food Climate Research Network at the University of Oxford) concludes that a plant-based diet has advantages for health and the environment, and encourages nations to adopt not only nutrition guidelines, but sustainability guidelines as well.
Over the last decade, some Americans were doing their part to help out: our nation’s beef consumption has decreased by 19 percent, according to a recent report by NRDC. Many reduced their red meat consumption for health reasons: according to a study by BMJ reported in the NYTimes, a diet high in red meat consumption increased the rate of dying from cancer, heart disease, respiratory disease, stroke, diabetes, infections, kidney disease and liver disease.
To have a positive impact on the environment, eating less meat does not require eliminating all meat from your diet, but simply eating it less frequently and/or in less amounts. Rather than a large separated portion, meat can be used in less amounts to complement the flavors of a dish. Meatless Monday campaigns emphasize that if America went meatless one day a week, it would be the equivalent of not driving 91 billion miles – or taking 7.6 million cars off the road.
In the United States, according to the EPA, conventionally-produced foods travel roughly 1,500 miles from farm to plate and are responsible for 5 to 17 times more CO2 than local and regionally-produced food. When you eat local foods, you not only support the local economy but you also eat more sustainably because local foods are in season, produced in the region with less resources, and travel less distance to your plate. Less packaging and storage is required if food does not need to be transported over long distances. For example, most asparagus is transported through air freighting, which is very carbon intensive, so eating locally grown significantly reduces the energy consumption for that veggie.
Tips for eating locally and seasonally
Jersey City supports nine farmers markets that offer fresh vegetables, fruits, locally raised meat and poultry, eggs, dairy, flowers, and regional honey. Select vendors and farmers accept SNAP/EBT vouchers; Women, Infants & Children (WIC) vouchers; and Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program (FMNP) vouchers.
We are called the Garden State for a reason: we have many New Jersey Seasonal Fruits and Vegetables to choose from.
No backyard but want to grow more of your own local food? Get involved in local Jersey City community gardens.