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Global Warming and Your Food


DID YOU KNOW that our food system is a major contributor to global warming? The U.S. food system uses between 17-19% of the total energy supply in the country, (1)(2)(3)(4) contributing a significant amount of greenhouse gas emissions to the atmosphere everyday.

How is this possible? Greenhouse gases are generated in many ways and many are created even before our food is grown.

On large-scale, modernized industrial farms (which traditionally grow only one or two crops—called monoculture—that rely heavily on pesticides, fertilizers, and fossil fuels), greenhouse gases are created in a multitude of ways. Pesticide and fertilizer applications, irrigation, lighting, transportation, and other machinery are powered by greenhouse gas-emitting fossil fuels. The production of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides alone require the equivalent use of over 123 million barrels of oil, making them one of the largest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions in agriculture.

The overuse of agricultural chemicals pollutes watersheds and kills plants that could otherwise capture greenhouse gases and actually reduce global warming. As the plants decompose they emit methane, a greenhouse gas, into the atmosphere. (6)(7)(8)(9) Methane is also emitted by the 95 million cows raised each year in the United States. The waste from these animals, and 60 million hogs raised every year,x are collected and stored in stagnant manure pits which release not only a pungent smell, but more methane.

Once our food is grown it is transported throughout the country to grocery stores and markets. The average American meal has traveled about 1,500 miles before it arrives on your plate.xi All told, the U.S food system uses the equivalent of over 450 billion gallons of oil every year.(11)



You can have a major influence on global warming by making better food choices, and reducing your “FoodPrint.”xiii Your “FoodPrint” reflects the amount of greenhouse gases that were created in the production and shipping of the food that you buy. The “Coolest” foods have the lowest FoodPrint and are made without producing excess greenhouse gases. When foods that produce higher FoodPrints—those considered “Hot”—are avoided, we reduce our individual contributions to global warming. An easy way to tell if your food is “Cool” or “Hot” is to ask yourself these 5 basic questions before you buy. 


1. Is this food organic?

2. Is this product made from an animal?

3. Has this food been processed?

4. How far did this food travel to reach my plate?

5.  Is this food excessively packaged?

Read more to find out more details about these questions and to find out more about your food choices:






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