Diet vows to thin carbon footprint

Attention chubby do-gooders, and maybe Al Gore. The global warming diet is here.

Food choice affects climate change, says San Francisco chef Laura Stec, who has penned — yes — “The Global Warming Diet” with Eugene Cordero, a professor of meteorology at San Jose State University.

The 250-page book is full of vegetarian fare, guides for relevant “discussion” parties, a few inconvenient truths and a cowcatcher full of scientific claims from the Union of Concerned Scientists, the United Nations and other sources.

“One of the most positive effects you can have on the environment begins on your dinner plate,” said Miss Stec, who calls her diet “global cooling cuisine.”

It’s that confounded carbon footprint that matters, not so much fat content or dreaded carbs, apparently. It takes 10 times more fossil fuel to produce a calorie of meat than a calorie of plant protein, Miss Stec said, a fact she gleaned from a 2006 U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization report.

Flatulent cows and methane-producing manure piles contribute to 18 percent of all greenhouse gases, the report said, the equivalent of 33 million cars on the nation’s roadways. The authors also have figured out how much raw material goes into the making of a big, juicy hamburger: 11 pounds of grain and 2,500 gallons of water.

Meanwhile, most ignore the fact that meals often are comprised of long-distance foods.

“The average meal travels 1,500 miles to get to your dinner plate,” the authors write, tracing the routes of vegetables from Western fields to Midwestern food brokers to grocers.

“All this moving about adds ‘food miles’ to dinner and greenhouse gases to the environment,” they said.

The book, which will be published later this year, already has competition. Nutritionists at Britain’s University of Wales have developed a weeklong eco-diet with low food mileage, less processing and no red meat or chocolate, which they say have “a high impact” on the environment.

The District-based Center for Science in the Public Interest offers “Six Arguments for a Greener Diet,” which advocates vegetarianism in the name of healthy living, not to mention less “food poisoning, water pollution, air pollution, global warming, and animal suffering,” says author and CSPI director Michael Jacobson.

He figures that Americans consume more than 1 billion pounds — and 1 trillion calories — of food each day.

Others have seized the marketing potential of environmental guilt. Nabisco offers “organic” Oreo cookies, for instance. Advertisements for Lotte, a Japanese ice-cream manufacturer, reason that frozen treats reduce body temperature and therefore lessen the need for energy-consuming air conditioning.

In mid-July, the AmericasMart Green Product Showcase will display a collection of gourmet foods, area rugs, clothing and gifts that are organic and biodegradable and use renewable resources. And Wal-Mart has announced that it plans to buy more local foods to cut back on transportation — and all those fossil fuels.

“I think food miles is going to be the next big issue of sustainability,” said Peter Redmond, vice president of seafood and deli.

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