Have you ever thought that the food that you’re consuming could be contributing to climate impact? From production to processing to transportation to storage to cooking to destruction to waste – all these stages produce greenhouse gas emissions, impacting the environment in varying ways. We call this total climate impact “carbon footprint”.
You might be wondering how are we faring in Singapore in our carbon footprint. Well, in Singapore, more than 90% of daily food needs comes from over 180 countries. Food imports are one of the key factors that contribute the emission which eventually may post a great challenge to climate change causing further stress on our food security. Any changes in our climate can adversely affect food distribution and result in a food shortage. This was evidently seen in 2008, where Singapore was threatened by rice shortage caused by massive floods in Thailand.
Hence, by reducing food carbon footprint, not only do we reduce our challenge on food security in Singapore, we also improve the impact on our health and environment in these ways:
· Health Benefits: Lower your risk for chronic disease such as diabetes, cholesterol and obesity by reducing intake of saturated fat, salt and sugar.
· Environmental Benefits: Reduced global emission through lowered food production which results in better air quality and slows climate change.
The current evidence shows that animal products like dairy, beef, pork and lamb are key contributors to the production of methane emission. Here are 4 key tips to reduce food carbon footprints.
Having a high fibre diet not only helps to lower the methane emission but overall has health benefits such as improved digestive health, weight maintenance and may also lower cholesterol levels, risk of heart diseases and diabetes.
Fibre rich foods are also thought to promote satiety which will naturally limit your intakes on food that produces heavy carbon load.
A study by A*star and Deloitte, shares that by substituting 25% of red meats with plant-based meats could lower greenhouse gas emissions per capita from food consumption by ~7%. You can contribute to lower carbon emission not by eliminating animal proteins completely but simply by swapping out animal protein with plant based protein such as beans, tofu, nuts and seeds or limit red meat intake to two times per week to get the nutrients you need for a well-balanced diet.
A plant based diet are usually lower in saturated fat, cholesterol and higher in complex carbohydrates and fibre, hence may lower the risk for coronary heart disease.
Food waste produces methane during decomposition when they get thrown away in landfills. According to Ministry of Sustainability and the Environment (MSE), it was reported that in 2019, Singapore generated about 744 million kg of food waste. That translate to wasting 2 bowls of rice per person per day!
We can reduce carbon footprint by reducing food waste, as an individual you can
· Buy, order and cook only what you can finish
· Turn leftovers into new dishes
· Donate excess food to needy organisations such as Willing Hearts, Food Bank Singapore
Check out this handy guide from NEA : https://www.nea.gov.sg/docs/default-source/resource/fwrguide.pdf
Do you know 80% of those surveyed said they are ordering from food delivery services more than ever before? – a 2021 survey by Deliveroo. Think about the amount of plastic and paper packaging used commonly in delivery and takeout services. You can reduce carbon emission by:
· Reduce - preparing home-cooked food for better nutritious and portion control or make mindful choices - order only what you need
· Reuse - Swap out plastics bags or containers with reusable ones or “Choose no cutlery” option when placing orders
· Recycle – Compost food scraps rather than throwing them away. Read more about composting here: http://www.zerowastesg.com/2009/02/04/start-composting-at-home/
Small changes can make big difference over time, reducing carbon footprint can also boost your health and the environment at the same time.
A*star and Deloitte study -
Deliveroo survey - https://sg.deliveroo.news/news/food-delivery-survey-2021.html
Daily food needs stats - https://blog.wwf.sg/climate/2019/09/food-security-singapore-climate-crisis/
Food waste stats - https://www.towardszerowaste.gov.sg/foodwaste/