We all know that too many pastries, cookies, burgers and chips are terrible for your health, increasing the probability of developing lifestyle conditions like obesity, cholesterol issues and diabetes, among other things. Now here’s one more reason to stay away from sugar–it damages the environment.
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A new study published this month points out that foods like this aren’t just bad for you; they’re terrible for the earth too. The study, conducted by University of South Australia (UniSA) dietitian Sara Forbes, reviewed 20 studies on the environmental impacts of food consumption in Australia and New Zealand, concluding that both countries needed to make more sustainable food choices.
According to the study, core foods, which include fruit and vegetables, grains, lean meats, fish, eggs, nuts, seeds, legumes, milk, cheese, yoghurt, are estimated to contribute between 67-73 per cent of total food-related greenhouse gas emissions (GHGe) in Australia. Not surprisingly, meat, grains and dairy contribute the most emissions, while fruit and vegetables are two of the lowest contributors. Non-core or ‘discretionary’ foods, including sugar-sweetened drinks, alcohol, confectionery and processed meats, account for between 27-33 per cent of food-related GHGe, adds the study. Packaging, too, contributes to this. According to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), food packaging materials and containers make up almost half of the total solid waste accumulated in the dumpsites and the landfills.
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In the study, Forbes agreed that discretionary foods have higher cropland, water scarcity and ecological footprint. “Meat also emits greenhouse gases, although its water scarcity footprint is lower compared to dairy products, cereals, grains, fruit and vegetables,” she said. However, she also added that with the world’s population slated to reach 10 billion, there is no way to feed those numbers without changing how we eat and produce food. “It is time we better acknowledged the environmental impacts of the type and amount of food we eat, considering the planet as well as our health,” she said.