Spring is upon us, and with it comes sunny weather, flowers in bloom and more fresh produce. Earth Day is April 22, and what better way to revisit how we treat our planet than looking at food, one of the greatest resources we use?
How many consumers equate the way they eat to their carbon footprint? A recent study published in Climatic Change, encompassing 55,504 participants from the EPIC-Oxford cohort, addressed this concept. It found that the kilograms of carbon dioxide equivalents per day (kgCO2e/day) was 7.19 for high meat-eaters, 5.63 for medium meat-eaters, 4.67 for low meat-eaters, 3.81 for vegetarians (no meat, poultry or fish) and 2.89 for vegans (no animal products).
These numbers suggest that consumers could decrease their environmental impact as fewer animal products are consumed, and that consuming a plant-based diet may cut one’s greenhouse gas emissions in half.
Plant-centric diets are many times lower in total calories, saturated fat, cholesterol and sodium, while higher in fiber and antioxidants. Alternatives on the shelf like soy and almond milks, legume-based proteins, mock meats, and dairy-free desserts, alongside plenty of fresh, canned and frozen fruits and vegetables, can present opportunities for supermarket customers to enjoy wholesome as well as innovative products. As dietitians, we realize that consumers have many different diets and preferences; however, some simple swaps for plant-based fare can be an environmental and health-conscious advantage.
At Kroger, our Discover Local campaign focuses on locally grown products, with an emphasis on great quality. The less time food is on road, rail, water or air equates not only to a greener approach, but also a cost savings that can be passed on to the customer.
Current numbers from the Environmental Protection Agency indicate that 13 percent of all global greenhouse emissions are from transportation and 14 percent are from agriculture. Retailers can be leaders in limiting the distance from farm to table, to control the amount of energy expended in putting brands on the shelf.
Other ways to honor Mother Earth this month include adhering to the four Rs: reduce, reuse, recycle and repurpose. Customers continue to strive to use less and do more with less, in efforts to save money, decrease clutter and contribute to sustainability efforts. Capitalize on this time to talk to your packaging department, category managers or CPG manufacturers to brainstorm ways that can decrease packaging waste and make your products even more appealing.
The sustainability movement involves much more than what’s happening outside the walls of your stores. Take a harder look at plant-based offerings, waste, packaging, sourcing, geography and even seasonality to engage and retain customer interest and support resources for generations to come.
Consuming a plant-based diet may cut one’s greenhouse gas emissions in half.