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For a lower climate footprint, vegetarian diet beats local (sciencedaily.com)
46 points by colobas 79 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 27 comments

Did a new years resolution to try and do what I can to lessen climate change. Calculated carbon foot print with a calculator. Concluded main changes needed was to changes required eat less red meat and drive and ride cars less. Try and consume less new things, prefer buying used things. Buying quality items that lasts long instead of cheap buy and throw.

Changing to vegetarian diet and driving less had the biggest impact.

For me it was air travel. That was more than diet even though I didn’t travel much. Home heating was also a lot in my cold city.

Also, reduce then reuse then recycle in that order.

Btw it's not really necessary to consume >only< vegetarian / vegan food. Since couple of months I try and eat vegan meals for one day per week and reduce eating meat to at most 2 times per week. I can gladly say that this is manageable, not a big deal for all of us and doesn't require so much strictness ( IMO ). Nevertheless the benefit for the environment is not as big than being a vegan / vegetarian, but still bigger than eating meat 7 days per week.

Side topic, but meat these days is quite expensive if you really take it from a quality manufacturer ( Bio meat in Germany costs 3 times more than the "regular" one ). You can imagine what kind of meat you get if you don't have to dig deep into your pocket for a meal.

As a cooking enthusiast I struggle with finding vegetarian recipes that are appealing to me, my wife and kids, even if we’d like to eat more vegetables.

As a “carnivore” or at least omnivore, most dishes feel like they’re either missing some part (i.e. “dinner is just a salad”) or trying to imitate a meat product.

You probably aren't using vegetarian foods with enough fat or protein. Veggie based meat substitutes often have ridiculously low fat contents so I have to add oil to get some umame flavor out of them. Like tofu grind that you might use as a substitute for ground beef is like 5% fat whereas hamburger is 10-20%. Adding some olive oil makes a huge difference.

Legumes like lentils and chickpeas are also very filling, and you can easily make them into amazing curries with very little effort by slightly overcooking the lentils, pan toasting the chickpeas, mixing them together with some coconut milk and whatever spices go with your palate. I like to use curry leaves, garlic, cumin, thai green chiles, salt, and onion as a base. The fat from the coconut milk will nicely improve the texture of the lentils (which have too much protein and fiber relative to fat to have the right texture) and as it cooks down you'll get something akin to a coconut milk korma or a close enough approximation that you can take it from there and just have it with rice or blanched spinach.

Cold turkey could be hard. Try transitioning slowly. As a start, just cook more veggies and load up your plate with them. Roasted broccoli, cauliflower, brussel sprouts, etc., can be amazing. You can also substitute less-bad meats (turkey burgers instead of cow, etc.) or try out some of the veg. substitutes.

Going slowly would be my recommendation as well. I transitioned to lacto-ovo vegetarian over the course of somewhere between 2-3 years. First was red meat, then poultry, and then fish. Even there, I had tiny goals -- I started with, "I won't buy this at a supermarket, but I'll eat it if I'm offered, or at a restaurant."

I'm also a really picky eater, and it took about that amount of time for my palette to start to change, to the point where I now really enjoy salads, mushrooms, tofu, and well-cooked veggies.

Changing a pallet is hard, it's OK to do it gradually, and it's OK to experiment and find setups that work for just you. I'm still working on softer veggies like baked beans; everyone says they're really healthy, but I saute about 90% of the veggies I eat. There's something about steamed or boiled veggies that just grosses me out.

But there were other foods I thought I'd never like before, and it's been really interesting especially over the last 4-5 months to go back and try foods that I dismissed before and discover that I suddenly like them a lot more.

> Cold turkey could be hard. Try transitioning slowly

Aim for reducetarian and go with the flow. Experiment, and think in terms of possibilities; not limitations. That being said, artificial restrictions can aid as extrinsic motivation, stimulating you to experiment. It could also lead you to conclude that it is too <fill in> (e.g. boring), thereby giving up, while the reason is that you did not put in enough thought, time, and -ultimately- effort.

For no particular specific good reason (apart from having lived as full-time vegetarian for ~10 years, vegan ~2 years and reducetarian for another ~10) I can recommend the book Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi. [1]

[1] https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/8086216-plenty

Oh yeah, adding a fried egg to blanched spinach and quinoa is also very filling. If you're willing to eat eggs they can be extremely versatile with vegetables.

Have you tried cheese and beans and cooked vegetables? Look up Asian and Indian/Nepali cuisine for ideas.

Indian and Thai food is amazing. They might not be strict vegetarian as they still use fish sauce or ghee, but it's doable.

Also consider that your taste buds adapt, after a while going veggie you may find traditional cuisine too much fat or salty

In my town there are excellent vegetarian restaurants. Great inspiration and ideas for self cooking.

The biggest takeaway I get from the article is that the average annual food-sourced CO2 emissions is equivalent to driving 6000km. Average car owners in North America do quite a bit more than that annually (and likely in a vehicle that produces much more CO2 per km than the europe-based study would use)

Oh wow, I just did the calculation myself (3.22 trillion miles and 330 million people) to see the 9800 miles per capita driven in the USA.

What a waste. I hope that at least most of it is long haul trucking or something with personal value like a vacation, rather than just commuting.

The average American commute takes 26.9 minutes: https://www.npr.org/2018/09/20/650061560/stuck-in-traffic-yo...

9800 per capita should be completely unsurprising to any American. If all you did was drive to work, it'd be a mere 40 miles per workday (5 days a week, 50 weeks).

Non-Americans might be surprised about it. But let me be clear: driving is the backbone of American society. Always has been. The classic video game Oregon Trail is about Americans making one long commute across the entire country, so they could find better jobs. Which honestly explains a lot about Californians: our ancestors traveled the whole of the United States to get here, what's a short 2 hour commute to work on the 405 every day?

Our country is HUGE, almost all of it is habitable, and we have a sprawling road system. We have the option to work where it's most profitable, and live where it's most comfortable. And boy do we take advantage of that.

Good or bad, that's the U.S., so I hope people aren't too surprised when they learn that we've been burning a lot of gasoline in our cars. And also perhaps why we have such a pro-oil/coal culture.

This isn’t really why people like to eat “local”, though. Local food is popular primarily because it tastes better since it’s fresher.

Greenhouse emissions from meat/dairy production (the all chain) in highly efficient meat industries of 1st world countries, are negligible when compared to to other sources. [1]

Even when looking at the global numbers and taking into account countries with less efficient systems, the global total is still less than 15% of all greenhouse emissions. [2]

[1] https://ourworldindata.org/co2-and-other-greenhouse-gas-emis...

[2] https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Environmental_impact_of_meat...

Makes sense, cows are bad for the environment, no matter how far away they live from you.

Also reduced water requirements and longer term perishability for supply chains are huge. These foods are often also affordable by a wider set of the population, further improving supply chain efficiency. Finally, the aggregated benefits in terms of reduced diet-based diseases or chronic conditions that require waste in a variety of ways to systematically treat.

Cows are not bad for the environment. In fact cows can be fed waste products from cereal production (straw), or can graze on land not used for agriculture (sheep are even better for that), which make them useful to squeeze food out of land.

Intensive breeding at larger scale has an environmental impact, same as all human activities at large scale. And eating too much meat may not be great for health.

But a chicken or fish near you is far more environmentally friendly than vegetarian food from father places. So the title is a bit misleading.

Your claim seems to be refuted by a lot of sources,


The title is not misleading. Local meat, fish & dairy are worse all around than far-away vegetarian foods.

This is not an argument for or against being vegetarian, just a more or less indisputable measurement of food production.

Technically diary products are still vegetarian so the title is still inaccurate. It should be vegan to be correct.

Are they? The study left out fish, so I didn’t see that conclusion in there. Also, the title is pretty much the conclusion of the study: eating vegetarian has a greater environmental impact than eating local.

So why are they generalizing their claims when they have left out whole category of foods? And they consider dairy as not vegetarian that’s not accurate either.

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