In a previous article, I presented the top 10 solutions to climate change, as quantified and ranked in Paul Hawken’s book Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming. One sector that deserved more attention in that article was food.
Food is key to climate action
Food presents one of the greatest opportunities for reversing global warming, ranking high among the top 10 solutions for its greenhouse gas reduction potential. In addition to #9 silvopasture and #11 regenerative agriculture, which are production-side solutions, #3 reduced food waste and #4 plant-rich diet require consumer participation.
The topic of food waste, #3, is receiving increasing media attention here in Japan. You may have heard the news about food waste at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games, where as many as 25% of pre-ordered meals for staff and volunteers were thrown out. This was a heart-wrenching statistic, not only as an environmental issue but as a social one, given the many people who are struggling because of Covid-19. Reducing food loss and waste requires more than just consumers buying only what they need. Solutions are necessary at the level of producers and in government policy all along the supply chain.
The other solution, #4 plant-rich diet, is about switching to a vegan or vegetarian diet. There are many compelling reasons to do so: First, the methane that cows belch is a powerful greenhouse gas. Not to mention, growing feed for cows requires its own resources, and their excrement requires processing. Excessive intake of animal protein is also a risk factor for various health issues.
As a practical issue, switching to a vegetarian diet all at once is hard to do, so I practice what Drawdown calls “reducetarianism.” I make intentional but low-stress efforts to prepare meals that combine plant-based protein such as natto (fermented soybeans) or tofu with satisfying and satiating dishes my children love, like potatoes or sweet potatoes. Japan’s Consumer Affairs Agency recently announced that the use of “meat” terminology (肉, ミート) is acceptable on labels for animal protein alternatives, such as “soy meat,” as long as the product’s plant-based origins are also made clear, and this should help boost the popularity of such foods. If you like to cook, I recommend trying out a new recipe with plant-based protein. Your health and the planet will thank you.
Michi Goto (Author), Translation by Stephen Jensen