If your New Year’s resolution is to eat better for the planet, a new Tulane University study finds it may be easier than you think.
Americans who eat beef could slash their diet’s carbon footprint by as much as 48 percent by swapping just one serving per day for a more planet-friendly alternative, according to a new study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
Using real-world data from a survey of what more than 16,000 Americans eat in an average day, researchers from Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine and the University of Michigan calculated how much of a difference people could make if they swapped one high-impact food item for similar, more sustainable options. They examined how the change would impact two metrics — their daily diets’ greenhouse gas emissions and water scarcity footprint, a measure of the irrigated water used to produce the foods they eat that takes into account regional variations in water scarcity.
The highest impact item in Americans’ diet is beef and around 20 percent of survey respondents ate at least one serving of it in a day. If they collectively swapped one serving of beef — for example, choosing ground turkey instead of ground beef — their diets’ greenhouse gas emissions fell by an average of 48 percent and water-use impact declined by 30 percent.