Can what you eat be more important to the environment than what you drive? Kate Geagan, registered dietitian in Park City, Utah, says Americans have an â€œSUV eating styleâ€ that contributes to global warming more than the cars we drive. Her book, â€œGo Green Get Lean: Trim Your Waistline With the Ultimate Low-Carbon Footprint Diet,â€ will be published in March (Rodale, $19.95). I interviewed Geagan about food habits and the connection to the environment and asked her to share tips with consumers about the advantages of eating green.
Q: How can changing our diet impact the environment?
A: The average distance that your food travels to get to your table is about 1,500 miles, according to a University of Iowa study,â€ Geagan said. â€œWhen we choose highly processed packaged foods, we contribute to global warming, so food is a new part of the dialogue about the environment. And this is something that everyone can do now and not wait for politicians to enact changes. An added bonus is that eating green saves green and what consumer doesnâ€™t want to save money on food?
Q: How is eating green different than being a vegetarian?
A: Only about 3 percent of the U.S. population identifies themselves as vegetarians, so that is not doable for most people. But what is doable is choosing local or regional foods to reduce our carbon footprint. This isnâ€™t just about eliminating meat or eating only organic foods. If your organic smoothie is shipped by air and freight halfway around the world, then it isnâ€™t healthy for the environment. Eating green strikes a balance between cost, health and the planet â€” a win-win for everyone.
Q: There are several online calculators that show us how our eating affects the planet. Are these useful tools?
A: They have a wide range of accuracy, but two of the online tools that I like are the Low Carbon Calculator from Bon Appetit atwww.eatlowcarbon.orgÂ and Eating Green Calculator from the Center for Science in the Public Interest atwww.cspinet.org/EatingGreen/calculator.html. Both are useful tools to increase awareness about our eating habits and can show you how small changes can have a big impact over the course of a year.
Q: What are your top three tips for consumers to go green?
A: Eat more plants and cut down on beef and dairy. You donâ€™t have to give up beef or dairy, but by eating meatless one day a week you can improve the environment and do something good for your health.
â€¢ Eat less food product and eat more food. Highly processed packaged foods consume valuable resources and they are usually not very healthful.
â€¢ Rethink your drink. Bottled beverages are heavy to ship. Consider drinking tap water instead of bottled water and rethink the diet soft drinks. Did you know it takes 2,200 fossil fuel calories to produce a one-calorie diet drink?