This weekend begins the “Earth Week” starting with the March for Science and culminating next weekend with the People’s Climate March. Both will be held in Washington, DC, with satellite marches across the nation and around the globe. We are living in a perilous time: we’ve already exceed the greenhouse gas emissions goal of 350 ppm, each year tops the previous one as “the hottest on record” and efforts are underway to gut the Environmental Protection Agency. The effects of climate change, including drought, floods and increased temperatures wreak havoc on crops, threatening our food supplies. We can make a significant reduction in our climate emissions through our food choices (9% of all greenhouse gas emissions in the US come from agriculture). Torah teaches us that we are God’s partner in protecting creation, bal taschit (do not destroy/waste) is a central teaching, and our calendar follows the agricultural cycle. “The LORD God took the man and placed him in the garden of Eden, to till it and tend it” (Genesis 2:15). The following tips to reduce one’s carbon emissions through food choices can be easily be done at home, schools, and shuls (and details about Jewish involvement in the People’s Climate Shabbat/March and other resources).
1. Go veg
Worldwide, 1/5 of all greenhouse gas emissions come from livestock, according to the UN. Don’t blame cows though-it’s humans eating so much meat and dairy (Nine billion, yes with a b, farm animals are killed for food in the United States annually).
2. Say no to bottled water
Producing and schlepping bottled water across the country (and globe), is a huge waste. 17 million barrels of oil are used to create all of the bottled water Americans consume annually (not including transportation). The process of bottling water produces 2.5 million tons of carbon dioxide, each year. And, 44% of bottled water is actually just tap water.
3. Cut your food miles: eat local like the Israelites
The average American meal travels 1,500 from farm to plate, creating significant carbon emissions. As Rabbi Julian Sinclair explains, “Biblical food production is regional. Each part of the Land of Israel is known for the particular kinds of crop and produce native to it.
Eat locally grown food, whenever possible: find your local farmers here.
4. Pass on pesticides
Pesticides were recently declared by the UN a “global human rights concern… [and] it is misleading to claim they are vital to ensuring food security.” Opting for growing food without chemicals, fertilizers and pesticides will help farmers better adjust to the impacts of climate change and “also offers a major potential to reduce the emissions of agricultural greenhouse gases.” In fact, regenerative organic agriculture can capture carbon emissions from the air and trap it in soil, while still producing as much food as “conventional” agriculture.
5. Bal taschit: Don’t waste food
The UN found that 1/3 of all food produced worldwide for humans is “lost or wasted.” The production of this much food totals to:
-3.3 Gtonnes of carbon emissions (3rd largest contribution to global emissions, after the US and China)
––the use of 30% of agricultural land worldwide
-wasted water that is three times the size of Lake Geneva
“Landfills are the third largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the US.”
Instead of throwing out food scraps and paper, opt to compost them instead. This will reduce one’s emissions and create nutrient rich soil that will capture carbon dioxide emissions. And your plants will love the compost!
7. Save seeds
Get involved by growing, swapping and protecting seeds.
Ensuring that our seeds can grow under changing climatic conditions will not happen by locking them in a vault. Seeds need to continuously be grown to ensure they are resilient and adapting to climate change.
8. Get involved with Jewish efforts at the People’s Climate Shabbat and March in DC and in cities across the nation. And, click here, here, and here for Jewish educational and advocacy resources.