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Monday, December 17, 2018

Two Easy Things to Do Over the Holidays to Boost your Health (and help fight climate change)


By Amy Erixon, Toronto


         Donate your extra food.

2   Eat more fruits and vegetables. 

Doing these two things will not only make you feel great, but surprisingly, these are the most accessible and effective methods to reduce your personal carbon footprint and greenhouse gas emissions.   No kidding.  Your mom was right.  We can all do this. 

I used to listen to carols while trimming the tree, but in recent years, my multi-task activity of choice is searching the internet for inspirational podcasts, videos and courseware to learn how I can do more to move the needle on the issues that matter most to me.  Importantly, I nearly always discover something easy to share to help make the world a better, healthier, more equitable place. 

In a recent TED talk by Chad Frischmann, drawing from the NY times bestselling book he wrote with Paul Hawken entitled “Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming”, he outlines the top 20 steps, from the 100 most substantive solutions available to us today or in the near-term future.  Surprisingly, in the top 20 only 5 relate to energy, while 8 relate to the food system, including the 3rd and 4th most impactful, which are easy to do, save money, and don’t disrupt any jobs. 


In case you doubt whether such straightforward steps can really make a difference, the chart on the left shows the top 20 ways to reduce CO2 emissions over the period from 2020 to 2050, compared to a 2014 baseline.  The unit of measure is gigatons.  For reference, globally we are currently emitting 40 gigatons of CO2 annually, of which 25% is being absorbed by our oceans, leading to dangerous ocean acidification.  These 20 steps have the potential to reduce emissions by 740.83 gigatons, which represents 18 years worth of annual emissions over the next 30 years.  Just reducing food waste and eating more plants has the potential to eliminate emissions by more than 10% (136.64 gigatons, or just under 3.5 years).   This does not require becoming a vegetarian, rather the model assumes reduction in growth of meat consumption by 50% over the period.  For information about the methodology underlying the food recommendations, go to www.drawdown.org/solutions/food/plant-rich-diet.


Experts estimate that up to 35% of food in high-income countries is disposed of as waste.   Lower income countries cannot contribute much to this dimension.  Again, the drawdown methodology assumes that half of the increase in food waste is eliminated or composted (which reduces by 70% the harmful environmental impact, and delivers numerous additional benefits, including enriching soil, increasing crop productivity and stabilizing runoff, diminishing the harmful effects of torrential storms).   My community (Mississauga) has a both a comprehensive recycling and food and yard waste compositing program.  Based on personal experience, participating in those programs has made me far more aware of my consumption (and waste) profile.  In order to drive composting and reduce Great Lake algae blooms and other harmful ecological effects, new in-sink garbage disposals have been banned.   While this was an abrupt behavior change at first, after about one or two weeks, composting habits became a no-brainer.   If this solution set appeals to you, and your community has not commenced a composting program, the EPA has a handy on-line how-to guide complete with a directory of local resources to get started. 

In the spirit of giving during the Holidays, I wish you all health and happiness.

 The entire talk, and introduction to the Drawdown Project can be accessed at: www.ted.com/chad_frischmann_100_solutions_to_climate_change#t-208954. 

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