What We Eat Matters
Food systems contribute 21% to 31% of greenhouse gas emissions globally, with approximately 15% of the global total coming from livestock. The physical scale of farming and animal agriculture is also truly massive, with approximately 40% of Earth’s ice-free surface used for agriculture. The climate impact of specific foods depends on a number of factors: how a food is grown or an animal is raised; whether growing or raising it results in deforestation; what resources, labor, energy are needed for its production and processing; how far it’s shipped to its market, with what mode of transportation, and within what packaging.
There are many conscious food choices you can make to help lessen your own contribution to the climate crisis. We’ve laid out some suggestions to raise awareness of why responsible food choices are important and how you can easily transition to help lowering your climate impact.
The Importance of a Plant-Based Diet
Global animal agriculture is a huge contributor to climate change, being responsible for more greenhouse gases than all the world’s transportation systems combined. The U.N. says “the livestock sector emerges as one of the top two or three most significant contributors to the most serious environmental problems, at every scale from local to global.”
It’s widely agreed that meat and dairy consumption generates more greenhouse gasses than does grain, vegetable, and fruit consumption. Additionally, beef is more carbon-intensive than pork, chicken and other meats. Sujatha Bergen, NRDC’s health campaigns director, told the Huffington Post in 2019, “If the average American cut just a quarter pound of beef a week from their diet, about one hamburger, it would be the equivalent of taking 10 million cars off the road for a year.”
The process of providing food and water to farmed animals, before killing, processing, transporting and storing their meat is extremely energy-intensive. Forests, which naturally absorb greenhouse gases, are cut down in order to supply pastureland and grow crops for farmed animals, all while the animals themselves release the single largest source of methane emissions globally – a greenhouse gas that is approximately 28 times more effective as carbon dioxide at trapping heat in our atmosphere.
Want to learn more about how to shift towards a more planet-friendly diet? You can find many delicious recipes online, and here’s a good overview, even if you don’t intend to become completely vegetarian.
Buying food produced locally avoids the climate burden of long-distance shipping. Therefore, we Brooklynites are very lucky to have access to nutritious food grown in the rich agricultural regions surrounding us such as eastern Long Island, New Jersey, and along the Hudson.
New York City’s Grow NYC program sponsors farmers markets across many neighborhoods, most of which are year-round. Find a farmers market near you!
Grow NYC also has a Fresh Food Box program for neighborhoods that lack access to affordable fresh fruits and vegetables. Check out the Fresh Food Box program on GrowNYC’s website.
Another wonderful resource is Misfit Market or Imperfect Foods, both programs that combines sustainable agriculture with a commitment to decreasing food waste, by delivering perfectly edible, though imperfectly shaped,organic produce directly to its customers.
If you can’t make it local, zero waste food shop online at Farm to People, which delivers fruits and vegetable grown using sustainable agriculture, along with other local products like eggs and bread. They support exclusively local farmers and producers, including the stellar Brooklyn Grange, a rooftop farm in Brooklyn!
Patronizing restaurants and specialty stores that implement sustainable practices and support sustainable agriculture is a way to lower your individual carbon footprint. While it might take a bit of research in the beginning, supporting these types of business bolsters their ability to continue their good practices.
The production of plastics from fossil fuels is predicted to rise 40% by 2030. A third of this plastic is for single-use products including food packaging. In today’s marketplace, avoiding plastic when shopping can be difficult, but there are some solutions.
Buying in bulk and using your own reusable containers helps reduce and eliminate unnecessary plastic and other waste. Many neighborhoods in Brooklyn have wonderful grocery stores with refillable and bulk sections –
- Buy Better Foods in Bedford Stuyvesant
- Flatbush Food Co-op in Prospect Park South
- Foodtown in Prospect Heights
- Green Hill Food Co-op between Clinton Hill & Bedford Stuyvesant
- Natural Frontier Market in Ditmas Park
- Park Slope Food Co-op
- Planted Market in Carroll Gardens (has food and personal care)
- Precycle in Bushwick (has food and personal care)
- Perelandra Natural Food Center in Downtown Brooklyn
- Rain:Living in downtown Brooklyn – specializing in personal care products
- Regency Store for Above and Beyond Members in Red Hook
- Sahadi’s in downtown Brooklyn – specializing in Middle Eastern products
- Tony’s Health Food Supermarket in Bedford Stuyvesant
- Ujamaa Health Foodstore in Crown Heights
*Note that 350Brooklyn does not have the capacity to vet private businesses, therefore does not endorse any businesses listed. This information is offered in good faith as a general guide.
Remember to BYOX!
Remembering to bring your own bottles, reusable bags, utensils, straws, and food and beverage containers whenever you’ll need them is a wonderful habit to make to help reduce excess plastic waste.
Join the refillable revolution by bringing your own containers and fill up at one of the many specialty Brooklyn-based refillable or bulk stores listed above.
Returning Nutrients Back to Earth
The UN’s Food and Agricultural Organization has estimated that one-third of all food produced for human consumption is wasted. Returning the nutrients in food scraps and leftovers to the soil via composting improves soil health, facilitates water retention, and lessens the need for fertilizers and pesticides.
In certain neighborhoods the NYC Department of Sanitation picks up organic waste for composting. You can find more information on your neighborhood’s collection schedule via NYC’s DSNY website.
A selection of farmers markets also offer food waste recycling. You can find more information on participating markets near you via the GrowNYC website.
Additionally, here are some other neighborhood services related to composting:
- BK Green Cart (serving North Central Brooklyn)
- BK ROT (serving Bushwick & surrounding neighborhoods)
- BK Green Cart (serving North Central Brooklyn)
- Reclaimed Organics (serving Manhattan,Canal St.to 49th St.)
- Roho Compost (serving businesses in midtown Manhattan, Williamsburg industrial zone, Industry City in Sunset Park & Long Island City)
- Sure We Can (serving Bushwick & East Williamsburg)
- Vokashi (serving residences in Brooklyn, Queens & Manhattan; serving businesses in Brooklyn, Manhattan & Long Island City)
*Note, all organic collection programs have been suspended for the duration of the Covid-19 pandemic and their resumption has yet to be confirmed – stay tuned for more info!
1. Nevin Ramankutty, Amato T. Evan, Chad Monfreda, and Jonathan A. Foley, “Farming the Planet: 1. Geographic Distribution of Global Agricultural Lands in the Year 2000,” Global Biogeochemical Cycles 22, no. 1 (2008).
2. “Is The Movement To Eat Less Meat Actually Making A Difference?” HuffPost Life, 07/30/2019
3. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations “Global food losses and food waste – Extent, causes, and prevention” (PDF)