The Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee has issued its latest recommendations, with some coming as a surprise to many consumers. For the first time the committee is urging Americans to consider “the impact of food production, processing, and consumption on environmental sustainability.” “Linking health, dietary guidance, and the environment will promote human health and the sustainability of natural resources and ensure current and long-term food security,” the committee says.
The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) has iterated that our everyday food choices affect global warming and the environment. They urge consumers to make better choices when grocery shopping because even small changes to what we buy and eat can help reduce global warming emissions, preserve our ocean resources and reduce toxic chemicals in the air, soil and water.
The NRDC offers its own guidelines to help consumers make healthier and smarter food choices.
Eat Lower on the Food Chain
Like the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, the NRDC also recommends we eat less meat. Foods that come from higher on the food chain require extensive processing, which uses more energy and releases more pollution. The NRDC estimates that if we all eliminated just a 1/4 lb serving of red meat each week, the reduction in gas emissions would be the same as getting 4 million to 6 million cars off the road.
Organic farming is safer for people and the environment because it uses no synthetic pesticides and fertilizers which contaminate the air, soil and water supply.
Compost Don’t Waste Studies estimate that the average household wastes 14 percent of the food it purchases, which inevitably ends up in landfills where it releases methane into the atmosphere as it decomposes. The NRDC urges consumers to only purchase foods they know they can eat before the expiration date, and to compost food waste instead of tossing it into the garbage can.
Buying local is not just about supporting local farmers. Although that’s great, it’s also about reducing the pollution and energy used to transport foods domestically and internationally.
The Meat Industry Weighs In
Beyond the fact that certain politicians have made it clear they oppose the new dietary guidelines, which fuse nutrition advice with environmental advocacy, heavyweights in the meat industry have also chimed in with their objections. They suggest that a dialogue about environmental sustainability was “outside the committee’s charter.”
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