Food/Diet and Climate Change
Research-informed and Negotiated Action Project
Our carbon footprint is getting bigger and bigger every year. The food industry today is a big part of climate change around the world. There are several factors that contribute to food's climate impact. Greenhouse gas emissions can increase or decrease depending on; how far the food has to be transported, what methods are used to grow it (organic vs pesticides), and how much energy it takes to produce the food. The average meal takes around 1200 km from the farm to your plate (Food and climate change, 2014). The longer the distance that food has to travel, the more carbon dioxide is emitted, which further increases the anthropogenic greenhouse effect. Synthetic pesticides are widely used by farmers to keep their crops safe. Producing these chemicals often takes burning fossil fuels. Manufacturing and transporting of pesticides use significant amounts of energy and add more pollution into the environment. When the pesticides finally get to the farmer and are used, they release even more gases into the air. The use of popular synthetic nitrogen fertilizers in soils release nitrous oxide which is 300 times more powerful than carbon dioxide at trapping heat in the atmosphere (Food and climate change, 2014) . Organic farmers use all natural fertilizers like manure and compost to help grow their crops, this helps in storing much more carbon dioxide in the soil and doesn't emit copious amounts of gases in the process. Livestock production accounts for 70% of all agricultural land food, and 30% of the land surface on the planet (Food and climate change, 2014). Unfortunately, meat is also a big producer of nitrous oxide and methane. It is estimated by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) that meat production is responsible for 18% of all greenhouse gases (Food and climate change, 2014). On top of all this, livestock (especially beef) is very inefficient to produce. Each farm animal takes great amounts of water, grain, and energy to produce. It takes 5-7 kilograms of grain and 15 cubic metres of water to produce just a single kilogram of beef. Now imagine these numbers on the amount of animals that can fit on 30% of the total land on Earth, it really does add up.
The Focus of our Study
We collected information at Erindale Secondary School by asking 30 total participants to complete a short survey of 5 questions pertaining to food and climate change in their daily lives. The participants were asked to circle whether they were male or female so there was an equal selection from both genders. The data was then grouped and analyzed to see if there was any correlations between the gender of the person and the questions that were asked.
Results of our Study
How much meat do you consume a week?
The data from this question shows that there is a correlation between gender and the amount of meat an individual consumes. On average, boys eat more meat than girls throughout the week. Most males were in the 3-5 range with one even saying daily, while girls mostly were in the 1-2 range. The reason for this could be because boys need more food then girls. Males are bigger so they need more protein and calories, meat is a great source of proteins, vitamins, and other nutrients.
Do you eat more beef or chicken?
There is a slight correlation as boys eat more beef than girls, the separation is very slim though. There is around a 2 person difference between meats. The females had a 12 person gap in the results for chicken, while males only had a 4 person difference. Overall, people are eating more chicken over beef. In both genders chicken was the more popular choice. Chicken is the more popular choice because people have the knowledge that chicken is better for you, and beef isn't recommended to be eaten more than once a week
Do you keep or throw out leftover food?
This part of the survey didn't have a correlation, both sides were basically even as most people keep their leftovers. This could be because most people aren't very wasteful and it also saves money to keep leftover food instead of buying new food.
Do you purchase organic or regular food?
There was no correlation between gender in this question. Yes was the most common answer but it was almost even through all 3 choices. This could be because most people like to buy foods that are said to be healthy. There was a number of people that were unsure as well because some students usually don't pay close attention to what produce their parents buy.
How much fast food do you eat per week?
There was a slight correlation in this area in that boys eat more fast food then girls. Most girls ate fast food around 1-2 times a week while the boys answers were spread out. Overall, the results said that boys eat more, this could be because boys are more inclined to eat fast food than girls. Fast food is marketed more towards males, also more females know how to cook and prepare their own food than males.
Overall, there was a very slight correlation in gender and food choices affecting climate change. There was no correlation between gender and food actions that effect climate change. For gender and food choices it seemed that boys choose the more impactful foods on climate change. In meat consumption males on average eat more meat than females. Males also seem to eat more fast food than females.
Some things our group could have done to improve the study was to survey a greater sample size of people to get more definitive results. We also could have created questions that pertained more to the individual. For example, instead of asking about whether they purchased organic or regular food, we could have asked if they pay attention to what kind of food they eat.
Actions You Can Take
- Support local farmers by buying local produce and meats.
- Cut down on meat consumption
- Don't waste food, keep leftovers, eat food before it goes bad
- Don't use pesticides and other chemicals on plants in gardens
- Contact grocery store managers, food companies, farmers, government agencies, or anyone else who has influence on the food industry to talk to them about certain food issues
Agriculture and Food Supply Impacts & Adaptation. (2013, September 9). Retrieved February 26, 2015, from http://www.epa.gov/climatechange/impacts-adaptation/agriculture.html
Food and climate change. (2014, January 1). Retrieved February 26, 2015, from http://www.davidsuzuki.org/what-you-can-do/food-and-our-planet/food-and-climate-change/
How to feed the world in 2050: Actions in a changing climate. (2012, March 28). Retrieved March 10, 2015, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gjtIl5B1zXI