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article imageStudy Says: Eat Less Help the Environment

By Bob Ewing     Jul 23, 2008 in Environment
Study finds a healthier diet and a return to traditional farming can help reduce energy consumption in US food system by 50 percent.
In the United States an estimated 19 percent of total energy used is taken up in the production and supply of food. The majority of this energy comes from non-renewable sources.
David Pimentel and his colleagues at Cornell University in New York have published a study in the Springer journal Human Ecology setting out a number of strategies which could potentially cut fossil energy fuel use in the food system by as much as 50 percent.
The number one suggestions is individuals need to eat less, especially considering that the average American consumes an estimated 3,747 calories a day, a staggering 1200-1500 calories over recommendations.
Animal products and junk and preprocessed food dominate the American diet. These food require more energy to produce foods such as potatoes, rice, fruits and vegetables do.
Reduce junk food intake and lower meat consumption and realize a massive impact on fuel consumption as well as improving health.
A move towards more traditional, organic farming methods would help because conventional meat and dairy production is extremely energy intensive. Similarly, in crop production, reduced pesticide use, increased use of manure, cover crops and crop rotations improve energy efficiency.
Changes in how foods are processed, packaged and distributed could also help to reduce fuel consumption. Although well-established energy-saving considerations in lighting, heating and packaging materials all have their part to play, the authors again highlight individual responsibility as having the biggest impact.
The most dramatic reduction in energy used for food processing would come about if consumers reduced their demand for highly processed foods. This would also help cut down food miles and its related fuel cost as US food travels an average of 2,400 km before it is consumed.
The consumer is in the strongest position to contribute to a reduction in energy use. As individuals embrace a ‘greener’ lifestyle, an awareness of the influence their food choices have on energy resources might be added encouragement for them to buy good, local produce and avoid highly processed, heavily packaged and nutritionally inferior food. This would not only lead towards a cleaner environment, but also towards better health.
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