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WakeMed Blogs

Planetary Health

February 01, 2020

Did you know that your diet and lifestyle can not only affect your personal health, but it can also have a huge impact on community health and the health of our planet?

As we witness extreme weather and heat waves, worsening air pollution and the spread of insect-borne disease, it is clearly evident that climate change is a global emergency. Scientists who study climate change have known that the health of the planet has been degrading for a while.

Emerging research shows that the way we are growing and eating our food is having a lasting damaging effect on this planet we call home. It is said that by 2030, 90 percent of our major crops will be impacted by climate change.

At the United Nations Environmental Conference in March 2019, it was discussed that if people don’t make fundamental changes in what they eat, how they create energy, dispose of waste, and generally decrease the human footprint that is degrading air, water, and land, our planet Earth will not be sustainable beyond 2050.

Simple Steps for Reducing Your Carbon Footprint

There are simple things you can do to reduce your carbon footprint and help lower greenhouse-gas emissions. Your food choices can help fight climate change, and also improve your personal health.

Eat beans instead of meat, at least one day a week.

According to research published in the journal Climate Change, if every American swapped in beans for conventionally raised meat once a week for a year, it would keep 75.3 million metric tons of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere.

The Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations has stated that legumes and pulses such as beans, lentils and peas are the most sustainable protein sources on the planet. They require very small amounts of water to grow, they can grow in harsh, dry climates, they grow in poor nations, providing food security, and they act like a natural fertilizer thus improving the quality of soil. Several organizations have called for a shift towards a more plant-based diet and reducing the total consumption of animal foods.

Convert your yard into a vegetable garden.

According to Australian researchers, converting just 10 percent of yards to mulched garden saves 752,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide.

Eat locally grown, seasonal produce.

Consuming local foods can save energy from production and transportation costs. Reducing transportation can save fuel and reduce packaging waste. Eating what is in season can be cheaper as well!

Reduce food waste.

Almost a fifth of all methane emissions come from food waste rotting in landfills. If we composted all food waste, it would save 24.3 million metric tons of greenhouse gas from being emitted.

Reduce plastic waste.

According to Eco Watch, we currently dump the equivalent of one garbage truck per day into the ocean every minute. There’s enough plastic thrown away to circle the Earth four times. It’s now predicted that by 2025 there will be 8 million metric tons of plastic in our oceans, equivalent to 100 bags of plastic per foot of coastline in the world. And by 2050 there will be more plastic than fish in our oceans.

Reduce plastic waste by bringing your own reusable shopping bags. Reduce use of plastic/foam cups; carry your own reusable water bottle and coffee mug. Stop using plastic straws.

Saving the Planet for Future Generations

There is no Plan B. There is no other planet we all can move to. So it is of utmost importance that we do everything in our power to save our planet for future generations.


About Parul Kharod, MS, RD, LDN

Parul is a Clinical Dietitian in Outpatient Nutrition Services at WakeMed Cary Hospital. For information related to diet and nutrition, or to speak to one of our licensed, registered dietitians, contact Outpatient Nutrition Services today. Insurance coverage and costs may vary.