How food can protect the climate

Can you eat healthily and protect the climate at the same time? The simple answer: you can. And it’s not as complicated as it seems at first

Seldom fly, leave the car parked more often, use water sparingly – these tips for reducing your own CO2 footprint are well known, but not always easy to implement. It becomes even more confusing when it comes to nutrition . Can food protect the climate?

If you want to look at food from a climate protection perspective, the slogan is “less animals, more organic”. Michael Bilharz from the Federal Environment Agency brings it to this common denominator. “We should definitely eat less meat,” says author Malte Rubach, “but nobody has to become an ascetic”.

In his book “The ecological balance on your plate” he gives tips on how to “stay vital and healthy, eat with pleasure and not lose the fun of life just because someone leads you to believe that from now on you have to eat chickpea porridge and oat drinks Contribute to saving the world. ”Rubach has no objection to either chickpeas or oat drinks, he is concerned with not devaluing food across the board.

Eat less meat

According to Bilharz, the average CO2 footprint in the field of nutrition in Germany is around 1.7 tons per person per year – with a mixed diet. Vegetarians would be around 1.3 to 1.4 tons and vegans around 1 ton. And that only applies to the food. The Federal Environment Agency and the international community have set the goal of reducing the current total of over 11 tons of CO2 to less than 1 ton of CO2 per person per year.

According to Bilharz, what causes the most CO2 is products from ruminants, mainly beef, but also cheese and other dairy products, followed by pork and chicken.

Planetary nutrition as a guideline

If you want to limit yourself here, you can use the “Planetary Health Diet” as a guide. This way of eating is – as Rubach describes it – oriented in such a way that everyone gets enough to eat and at the same time the planetary limits of resources are not exceeded.

The “planetary diet” recommends a maximum of 300 grams of meat per person per week, preferably poultry or pork. The German Nutrition Society recommends no more than 300 to 600 grams per week. “Above all, the meat should be produced regionally,” says Rubach.

In addition, the “planetary diet” can add one and a half to three liters of milk or up to 300 grams of cheese and three to four eggs per week. Legumes and grains are being upgraded to the main source of protein, explains Bilharz.

Don’t problematize food

“As a consumer, you could agonize your head about where individual products come from when you eat,” admits Bilharz. Even life cycle assessment experts could not answer the questions in detail, because everything depends on the specific individual case.

“I warn against making food too strong as a climate protection problem, because we already have a lot of problems with eating – from anorexia to obesity, ” says Bilharz. Rubach also advises not to keep the moral standard too high; enjoyment should not be neglected.

Climate-friendly and healthy nutrition went hand in hand, says Bilharz. “Eat a plant-based diet if possible, pay attention to fiber, few animal fats and a lot of vegetables and fruit, preferably organic.”

Climate protection as a joint task

Bilharz recommends organic products because stricter restrictions apply here with regard to additives and ingredients, including meat or milk substitute products. The EU organic seal makes it easy for consumers. Those who want it more precisely can deal with the more extensive criteria of the various seals.

In most regions of Germany, it also makes sense to drink tap water, advises Bilharz. “There is absolutely no reason not to drink the tap water.” According to Rubach, beverages occupy second place in the Federal Republic of Germany when it comes to the development of greenhouse gases, right after meat.

“The CO2 footprint per liter is of course smaller, but the daily amount of bottled drinks in particular increases it.” So drinking more tap water would be a good approach.

Climate protection is always a joint task and not an optimization project for the personal halo, warns Bilharz. That is why it does not depend on a single measure, but on the balance sheet at the end of the year.

According to Rubach, eating is always a question of weighing up everyday practicality, pragmatism and ethical standards. “You can eat anything as long as you keep to a tolerable amount.”

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