It's been awhile since we've published a blog post, but SPARC has been busy with plenty of activity and collaboration over the past few months. So far this fall, we've welcomed a new cohort of Student Fellows, hosted a fabulous kick-off event at United By Blue in University City, and partnered with CUSP (Climate and Urban Systems Partnership) Philadelphia to host a Working Group Meeting + Training for our students at the Franklin Institute. We've been up to a lot, and we know a lot of our local campus sustainability groups have been, too!
Penn Sustainability Review (PSR) is one such campus group. In keeping with SPARC's mission to provide a platform for communication and resource-sharing to improve students’ impact on the sustainability of their campuses, we hope that sharing the work of organizations like PSR can inspire students on other local campuses to pursue related projects and initiatives. With Thanksgiving and other winter holidays fast approaching, the following PSR article might resonate with some of you as you are planning your holiday meals and festivities. Enjoy!
Full article also available at www.psrmagazine.org
Article republished here with permission of Penn Sustainability Review (PSR)
Environmental advocacy groups often stress the impact that individuals can make by changing aspects of their daily lives to conserve energy. The advice typically given by these organizations involves reducing the amount of electricity and gas one consumes by taking the initiative to turn off your faucet while brushing your teeth, or riding your bike more often than using automotive transportation. While this type of instruction can be extremely helpful to minimize one’s personal carbon footprint, it often fails to mention a large part of our individual carbon footprint that comes from the food that we consume on a daily basis.
Food is an aspect of our lives that many take for granted--specifically, in areas where it is readily available, such as on college campuses. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, the farming of livestock contributes to 18% of global greenhouse gas emissions (Livestock Environment and Development). Note that this 18% does not include carbon emissions from agriculture grown primarily for human consumption or fishing.
If this figure alone [above] does not give you pause, the fact that livestock produce 35% of human-caused methane emissions should (Livestock Environment and Development). Methane is a dangerous greenhouse gas that contributes largely to climate change, in addition to many other compounds people routinely pump into the air by activities like driving and burning coal. Moreover, the amount of carbon emissions produced during the production stages of food--including both plants and animals--is 85%, while approximately 11% of a food’s lifecycle from creation to consumption is from transportation alone (Wilson. See Figure 1). While it constitutes a relatively small portion of the greenhouse gas emissions compared to the actual production of food, it is important to keep in mind that this “food” category includes meats, which require much more energy than animal byproducts (i.e. milk, eggs, butter), and even more so than plant-based foods (i.e. bread, vegetables, fruits). By reducing the amount of meat manufactured and transportation of food products from one location to another, particularly by plane, food production would be much more sustainable for the long term health of our environment and resources.
The task of eating sustainably is not always simple. In fact, it can be quite difficult because of our likes, dislikes, and the food that was introduced to us at a young age. For this reason, I will be taking the initiative to explore local restaurants and eateries in search of delicious sustainable foods. I will rate each food based on its relative sustainability value, and review the taste and service of each eatery. As a food enthusiast and avid baker, my goal is to provide my readers with the best food reviews along with meals to select at the locations reviewed that will be more environmentally friendly than say, a hamburger with beef imported from abroad.
The Alberta Rural Sustainable Alternatives Network (ARSAN) has created a list of principles to determine ways in which any food can be sustainable, which I will use in future blog posts to determine the sustainability of restaurants in University City and local Philadelphia area. This slightly modified version will determine my sustainability rating of meals in posts to come (Alberta Rural Sustainable Alternatives Network).
Principles of Food Sustainability
While you ruminate over this list of qualities, please ruminate over my next post’s eatery of choice: Copabanana. Due to the vast selection of meats and vegetarian options offered at Copa, the sustainability of the restaurant may be a surprise. Stay tuned for the verdict to come in two weeks!
- 1. Must directly or indirectly (livestock) from a sustainable, healthy soil that gives and receives its nutrients in a cycle and over time grows its food-producing capacity rather than losing it
- 2. Production is in sync with the natural environment and supports the biodiversity on which food production directly or indirectly depends
- 3. Food can be produced at local climate conditions and with the amount of water available in the area
- 4. Production of food at all parts of the supply chain strives to maximize use of sun energy and minimize use of fossil fuels
- 5. Can be obtained from the wild if it is done without damaging the natural ecosystems
- 6. Livestock is an indispensable part of a healthy sustainable farm environment and its production is mutually beneficial to animals and the larger ecosystems of which they are a part
- 7. Production supports the diversity of both plants and livestock and also diversity within species (different breeds and varieties)
- 8. Grown or raised and processed locally, avoiding the costs and environmental impact of transportation. The closer it’s production is to the point of consumption, the better
- 9. Processed without industrial ingredients, complex industrial equipment and facilities that require excessive amounts of energy to build and operate
- 10. Requires minimum levels of processing; the less processed it is the better
- 11. Processing enhances nutritional qualities and/or preserves foods for off-season consumption
- 12. Best if eaten in season; if it is preserved, this should be done with minimal damage to its nutritional qualities and by using renewable energy
- 13. Sustains human health; first, it must not be harmful, but even more importantly, it has to provide nutrition that will allow people to stay healthy over generations
- 14. All groups involved in food production; farmers, processors, workers, business people, traders, etc. can sustain their livelihoods at the level comparable to other sectors of the society
- 15. Produced by a very diverse and large group of local farmers and food entrepreneurs; together they form a co-operating, resilient and sustainable web of food supply
- 16. Needs to be tasty, cherished and celebrated when eaten
- 17. Contributes to, builds and helps sustain cultures which it is part of
Alberta Rural Sustainable Alternatives Network. "Principles of Sustainable Foods." ARSAN. N.p., 2013. Web. 17 Feb. 2015. <http://arsan.ca.sustainable-foods/principles-of-sustainable-foods.html>.
Livestock Environment and Development. "The Role of Livestock in Climate Change." Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. N.p., 2015. Web. 15 Feb. 2015. <http://www.fao.org/agriculture/lead/themes0/climate/en/>.
Wilson, Lindsay. "The Tricky Truth about Food Miles." Shrink that Footprint. N.p., 2013. Web. 16 Feb. 2015. <http://shrinkthatfootprint.com/food-miles>.