What we eat — or don’t eat — can affect our environment in big ways.
For instance, scientists recently found that the food we get from animals takes up 83% of the planet’s agricultural land, which means there’s less natural space like forests.
Wildlife populations have plummeted since the 1970s, as humans push more and more into natural land for agriculture and other purposes.
One way to encourage food systems to change, the researchers say, is to focus our diets more on plant-based proteins like beans, nuts, and lentils.
Reducing our meat intake could help restore forested areas and sequester carbon, leading to as much as a 16-year’s-worth of carbon dioxide emissions being removed from the atmosphere.
Another issue with our current food system is the amount of waste it produces. The USDA estimates that waste makes up 30-40% of the food supply. That was 133 billion pounds of food in 2010.
All that wasted food ends up in landfills, which then contributes more methane — another powerful greenhouse gas — to the atmosphere.
Food being wasted also means that all the fossil fuels, water, and labor that went into producing that food was also wasted.
However, researchers caution that changing how we produce food and how we eat it is only part of the solution.
To best protect the environment, experts call for reducing our dependence on fossil fuels and even a complete overhaul of our energy consumption.
Read more stories about the environment here.