The official student newspaper of St. John's School.

Eating Habits and Climate Change

Your dinner makes a difference. Or rather, what you eat in general makes a difference. Meals and diets have long been a topic of controversy in the eyes of newspapers, scientists, and the public. It seems like every two weeks, there is a new diet fad, and that the latest advice changes with the tides.

This is because food is versatile. It is used to satisfy hunger, preserve and share a culture, to show support, or broadcast an opinion.

Recently, an increasing number of people all over the world are using their meals to broadcast a very important message: we can all make a difference to stop climate change. The widespread adoption of vegetarian and vegan diets could save millions of lives and trillion of dollars.

“There is huge potential, from a health perspective, an environmental perspective and an economic perspective,” said study author Marco Springmann, a researcher at Oxford University.

Diet is by no means the only contributor to climate change, but it is a large one, and is on the easier side to change.

It can be proven that Americans love meat by just looking at the menu of Mcdonalds, Chick Fil A, or Burger King. However, if you take a closer look, all three of them have some sort of veggie burger, salad, or other meal option, with Chick Fil A allowing customers to order a meat sandwich without the meat.

For many people, especially within the SJS community, where most of us have access to grocery stores that sell convincing meat alternatives, it can be a pretty seamless transition.

Last summer, I made a transition in my diet. For environmental and ethical reasons, I switched from my omnivore diet to a pescatarian diet, and recently gave up dairy in large amounts. I can say from firsthand experience, it is not nearly as hard as you may originally think.

Trying different meat alternatives to find what you like and getting some ahead of time is a great first step in preparation. For all diets, and especially vegans, who have a lot of restricted foods, planning out where you are going to get all of the necessary nutrients, vitamins, amino acids, and protein in what you eat is very important.

The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michal Pollan is a great read that goes more in depth on this idea..

Diet is a very personal choice. The want to change your diet should come from belief in the reasons why, instead of doing it to fit in or because of peer pressure. However, there are immeasurable benefits to switching to a plant based patty on your burger.

Researchers at the University of Oxford found that cutting meat and dairy products from your diet could reduce an individual’s carbon footprint from food by up to 73 per cent. Globally as much as 29% of planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions come from food production each year, and more than half of those come from meat and dairy.

The livestock sector alone accounts for 16.5% of global greenhouse gas emissions, representing a significant burden on the climate from within the food system .

This means by not even being fully vegan, you can almost quarter your carbon footprint that comes from food, while also supporting animal welfare. Global energy-related carbon dioxide emissions grew in 2022 by 0.9%, or 321 million tonnes, reaching a new high of more than 36.8 billion tonnes, according to the report.

This is a frightening amount of carbon being released into the ozone layer, with only vague “by 2050” plans to stop it. We don’t have that long.

It is better for the earth to live a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle, and I encourage you to try it, even for just a week. There are great meat alternatives, and you can try to do it only a few times a week.

If you have little control over what you eat, talk to your parents, and try to do what you can. Just next time you go out to eat, think twice before you order.

There is no Earth 2.0.

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