In our third week as Climate Pilots, our habits around food are changing quite easily. We’re following our five simple rules: eat local foods, buy fresh foods, buy organic when possible, eat less beef and generally eat foods lower on the food chain. The result? Better tasting food and better for us.
My first discovery, or re-discovery – local farmer’s markets. It’s been awhile since I’ve been to one, so I was thrilled to see the fresh vegetables and fruit. The cherry tomatoes melt in your mouth! Fresh corn, tomatoes, lettuce, cucumbers, squash, eggplant, in addition to fabulous fruits – the peaches and blueberries are perfect right now.
The market also has fresh locally made breads, everything from loaves and rolls, to coffee cakes, apple-cinnamon bread, sticky buns and fresh cherry pies. Much better tasting food than anything I’ve found in stores. I was pleasantly surprised to find items I had never seen in a farmer’s market: zesty chipotle spiced cheddar cheese and smoked gouda from a Virginia farm, fresh yoghurt with honey, fresh mocha ice cream from Middleburg Virginia, a local farm that provides a dozen varieties of mushrooms large and small, fresh honey, locally made jams and preserves, and my daughter’s new favorite, blueberry jelly with honey.
Our second discovery: we don’t need meat every day. The American culture seems to focus meals on meat – parties always include bar-b-qued chicken, pork or beef, hamburgers or the like. Even lunch generally includes a sandwich with meat, and breakfast often includes bacon, ham or sausage. Why so much meat? And some meats are much worse than others in CO2e. Beef has 17 times more CO2e than the equivalent amount of chicken. The reason is that not all greenhouse gases are created equal; some are far more harmful than others. Methane, which cows produce a lot of, is pretty bad stuff.
We had no idea that 140 grams of beef produces 170 of CO2e (equivalent carbon dioxide). The same 140 grams of pork produces 35 CO2e, while chicken produces only 10 CO2e, and beans even less, 4 CO2e. For a family of four, eating beef 3 days a week would result in 2250 CO2e (700 grams or about 1.5 pounds of beef, resulting in 850 CO2e, per meal); dropping to one night of beef and two nights of chicken would result in 950 CO2e. That’s a 58% reduction – a REAL difference.
Substituting chicken for beef completely results in a 94% reduction in CO2e for the same amount of food. Beef is an easy habit to break. Now that we know, we’ll be embarrassed to eat beef.
Our new habits: With our new awareness about the CO2e from meat, we’ve cut out meat for breakfast, eliminated beef altogether, and dramatically reduced meat consumption for lunch and dinner. I’ve switched to only vegetarian for lunch and, as a family, we only chicken, turkey or fish for dinner about 3 nights a week. And honestly, the food is better and we feel like we’re eating healthier.
I hit the farmer’s markets on Thursday and Saturday mornings, which carries us through the week. We buy all our fruits and vegetables, cheese, yoghurt, jelly and honey, and most of our bread at the farmer’s markets. Our new meals may consist of grilled eggplant or squash with goat cheese, a salad, bread and fresh fruit for dessert. My favorite lunch is hummus with fresh tomatoes and cucumber in a pita. My daughter Lee loves a veggie wrap: using a soft tortilla, she spreads some cream cheese, then adds cucumber, tomato, with salt and pepper. My son prefers tortilla with melted cheddar cheese and tomatoes on the side. Climate smart eating is delicious!
By Climate Pilots Kathy Harman-Stokes