Eating healthy meals –lots of fruits, vegetables, dairy and seafood – takes a higher toll on the environment than meats, according to new research from Carnegie Mellon University.
“Eating lettuce is over three times worse in greenhouse gas emissions than eating bacon,” Paul Fischbeck, professor of social and decisions sciences and engineering and public policy, said in a news release.
“Lots of common vegetables require more resources per calorie than you would think. Eggplant, celery and cucumbers look particularly bad when compared to pork or chicken.”
Fischbeck and two other researchers studied the food supply chain to determine how the obesity epidemic in the United States is affecting the environment.
Specifically, they examined how growing, processing and transporting food, as well as food sales and service and household use take a toll on resources in the form of energy use, water use and GHG emissions.
They found that getting weight under control and eating fewer calories has a positive effect on the environment and reduces energy use, water use and GHG emissions from the food supply chain by approximately nine percent.
However, eating the recommended “healthier” foods — a mix of fruits, vegetables, dairy and seafood — increased the environmental impact in all three categories: Energy use went up by 38 percent, water use by 10 percent and GHG emissions by six percent.