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Dwelling with local weather change: three methods to scale back your carbon footprint subsequent time you store for groceries

It's not Costco's crab legs that could kill the earth, but the rest of that warehouse-buying frenzy that could use a rethink.

Bringing food – especially meat and dairy products – from the farm to the plate is a major contributor to global greenhouse gas emissions. According to the Carbon Brief, food production is responsible for a quarter of these emissions worldwide and takes up half of the planet's habitable surface.

This leads some scientists to believe that a vegetarian diet or an even stricter vegan diet is the best way to reduce an individual's carbon footprint – nutritional pros and cons aside.

However, a report on Wednesday suggests that our grocery shopping habits also play an important role. The bigger culprit behind dietary carbon emissions lies in the lure of bulk shopping for supposed savings and convenience, as well as other habits that lead to food waste rather than what we put in our mouths. Although one of the results in particular suggests that wasted empty calories increase both the waistband and the carbon footprint.

Since animals usually inefficiently convert the plants they eat into energy, meat and dairy products in particular cause higher emissions than fruit, vegetables and grains. It is understandable, therefore, that much of the research on climate change in relation to food has focused on diet choices.

Read: Should you pay a "meat tax" on your burger? Some environmentalists say it is a necessary step to save the planet

And: Steak Ta Ta? We have to achieve “peak meat” in 10 years to combat climate change

Most of these recommendations, however, are based on an "Average American Diet". In reality, not everyone eats the same types or amounts of foods. To accommodate this diversity, Hua Cai, an associate professor of environmental and ecological engineering and industrial engineering, and her colleagues at Purdue University wanted to assess actual grocery purchases by U.S. households and identify the hotspots of CO2 emissions from those purchases.

Read: The weight gain during COVID-19, especially among younger consumers, is causing changes in the way Americans eat and dress

The researchers analyzed detailed food purchase records for over 57,000 US households in 2010 and added up the greenhouse gas emissions from growing and harvesting the food. Information on packaging and transport was not included. Then they compared the emissions calculation with the one that would be generated by buying food for healthy and sustainable nutrition as a benchmark.

The team's analysis found that 71% of households surveyed could reduce their carbon footprint, and they identified three main ways for consumers to do so without necessarily eliminating entire categories of food such as meat, fish or dairy products.

The researchers suggest:

Small households of one or two people should buy less food in large quantities, which is often more than what is eaten, and manufacturers should offer inexpensive package sizes.

Eliminating high calorie, low nutritional foods would reduce potential overall emissions by 29% while potentially improving health outcomes.

People should buy less savory baked goods and ready meals. Although these foods are responsible for relatively low carbon emissions, the large amounts of these items that are purchased add up to significant emissions.

The peer-reviewed study was sponsored by the nonprofit American Chemical Society, whose members have roles in the food preservatives industry. Funding also came from Purdue University's environmental and eco-engineering program.

Gestures, big and small, to slow global warming are in focus this month as the world's economic powers, developing country leaders and the protesters who hold them all accountable gather in Glasgow for what some consider to be the most ambitious Efforts denote not lowering global temperatures more than 1.5 degrees Celsius in years.

According to the United Nations World Meteorological Organization (WMO) Greenhouse Gas Bulletin, greenhouse gases in the atmosphere hit another record last year, and that trend has continued into a stormy and drought-prone year 2021.

Read: Climate hotshots in the hot seat about private jets and other habits that increase the CO2 footprint on the COP26

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