Climate protection: Avoiding meat saves almost 100 million tons of CO2

Everyone can protect the climate in a variety of ways. A vegetarian diet without meat would be effective across the board because up to 100 million tons of CO₂ could be saved.

Climate protection also includes changing your diet. The choice of what food ends up on our plates has a significant impact on the future of our planet. Because more than a third of the earth’s surface is used for agricultural purposes.

In addition, food waste, overfishing and unfair distribution of food place equal strain on people and the environment. That’s why the WWF is calling for a change in nutrition. We show how this can work – including delicious recipes for climate protection and more health.

Climate protection through vegetarian nutrition – around 100 million tons of CO₂ would be saved

With the right, mainly plant-based diet, greenhouse gas emissions are saved. In this way, we not only protect the climate and resources, but also make a significant contribution to health. Our menu with too many calories, too much meat and sausage and too few vegetables needs to be revised. Because no more than a quarter of your daily protein requirement should be covered by meat.

In Germany, on average, two thirds of the protein requirement is covered by products of animal origin. Alternative and high-quality sources of protein are legumes such as beans, lentils or lupins. Nuts and algae are also rich in plant protein, which should be consumed more often to protect the environment. According to WWF, a vegetarian diet in Germany would save 98 million tons of CO₂.

Soy is mainly grown as food for animals

If all citizens in Germany were to eat a vegan diet, around 102 million tons of emissions could be saved. As a further consequence, the agricultural use of the earth’s surface would be reduced due to a plant-based diet. Because vegetarians and vegans only need half the amount of arable land compared to people who eat meat every week.

Only four percent of the soy-growing area is used for the production of plant-based foods such as tofu or soybean oil. The majority of the rest ends up in animal foods in the form of soybean meal, primarily for feeding pigs and chickens. Consequences of soy monoculture: deforestation and illegal forest fires.

Significantly reducing meat consumption also saves climate emissions

A flexitarian diet alone brings a variety of health and environmental benefits. Halving meat consumption to around 470 grams of meat per capita and per week significantly saves climate emissions: based on people in Germany, that would be around 56 million tons less CO₂ and 18 percent less nutritional land consumption.

If meat, then it’s better to eat organic than cheap

If you can’t do without meat, you should try organic poultry. Because the production of poultry meat causes less CO₂ than pork or beef. Organic meat production avoids imported feed from Brazil and uses regional or even the company’s own feed. In addition, white poultry meat has health benefits for humans compared to red meat.

Animal food production contributes to climate change

To let the numbers speak for themselves: Almost 69 percent of diet-related CO₂ emissions arise from the production of animal foods such as meat and sausage as well as butter, cheese and other dairy products. The fertilization of feed fields in particular pollutes the environment – especially water bodies. The result: loss of biodiversity and species diversity.

Over-fertilization also leads to a significant decline in field and meadow birds as well as insects such as bumblebees, bees and butterflies. The number of flying insects alone has been reduced by around 76 percent in the last 30 years. Overfishing, illegal fishing and questionable farming methods also disrupt the ecological balance.

Reading tip: World climate – Germans eat less and less meat – an industry is changing

WWF calls for nutritional change

For these reasons, the nature and environmental protection organization WWF is calling for a restart of global food systems. The report “This is what the future tastes like” addresses governments, companies and consumers alike. Because the goal is to understand that human health and ecological sustainability are linked and that everyone can contribute to the nutritional transition for the climate.

The aim is to create sustainable food systems that reduce negative impacts on the environment and human health while preserving biodiversity and a fair and socially just distribution of food in the world. This is achieved through a change in diet, which in this country alone could reduce food-related land requirements and greenhouse gas emissions by almost 50 percent.

How does the nutritional transition work? A closer look at shopping and eating habits helps. The first choice should be to consume certified foods that comply with ecological and social standards, as well as seasonal and regional organic foods, mainly plant-based protein sources and – if meat at all – regional pasture-raised meat. Also important: avoid palm oil and food waste.

For a sustainable future, food should consist mainly of regional products and seasonal vegetables and fruit. A seasonal calendar helps to make this plan feasible. This shows all available vegetables and fruits at a glance. Simply hang a seasonal calendar in the kitchen. Shopping at weekly markets also supports regional products and their manufacturers.

Changing your diet with more plant-based proteins not only helps the climate and protects vital resources. Because soy, lupine, beans, lentils or even mushroom proteins and microalgae have health benefits. Plant-based protein sources often have higher and healthier protein contents than meat and dairy products – and without fat and cholesterol.

This is how switching to a vegetarian diet works

With a plant-based diet, a good mix of protein sources is essential to absorb all the important amino acids. As an example: soy, hemp and quinoa all contain essential amino acids. Nuts also provide protein as well as vitamins and minerals. The first choice should be local nuts such as walnuts and hazelnuts. They have a better CO₂ balance than, for example, almonds.

A handful of nuts is a good option as a snack between meals. These can also serve as a delicious ingredient in porridge. A recipe suggestion: Mix oat flakes, crushed walnuts, grated apple and carrot pieces with a little cinnamon, cardamom and oat drink and leave in overnight Refrigerator to let go. In the morning you can optionally add some yoghurt and other fruits.

Legumes can also be integrated into many tasty recipes. Red lentils go well in a tomato pasta sauce, chickpeas in hummus as a spread, peas or green beans as a soup addition, falafel burgers or even bean salad. The correct preparation of legumes is important so that lentils, beans and lupins are better tolerated.

Legumes are easier to digest if they are soaked long enough and in enough water before cooking. Raw lentils, chickpeas or beans are best left in water overnight. Indigestible carbohydrates such as stachyose and other oligosaccharides are released from the legumes, which can cause flatulence and abdominal pain.

Recipe ideas for a meat-free diet:

Great dishes can be made with tofu or Soybean meal as a meat substitute conjure up things like chili con smoked tofu. The smoked tofu tastes like bacon or smoked meat and gives not only sauces but also soups an unmistakable taste. Also in the form of one Substitute scrambled ice Smoked tofu can be grated into small pieces and fried with soy yogurt and yeast flakes. Sprouts go well with this.

Another vegetarian recipe idea: Cauliflower schnitzel with lamb’s lettuce . Cauliflower is available seasonally in Germany in July, August and September. Alternatively, the recipe also works with kohlrabi, zucchini, eggplant or celery. The vegetable slices are fried with a walnut-Parmesan breading and served with a salad with mushrooms or with berries or plums.

Hank Peter

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