Environmental and climate protection is one of the top priorities these days. People live much more consciously than a few years ago. Plastic bags have largely disappeared and the food industry is also changing when it comes to packaging. When it comes to nutrition, consumers can also do their part to protect the climate. Tanja Bosch talked to Birgit Krause, nutrition specialist at AOK Ulm-Biberach, about what to watch out for and how to eat with the weather in mind. On Monday, May 16, there will be a free AOK online conference on the subject.
Mrs. Krause, what role does nutrition play in protecting the climate and the environment?
A very important one. After all, food production is responsible for up to 21 percent of the world’s CO2 emissions. That is almost a quarter and therefore very high. 44 percent of that comes from animal product production alone, which is huge. For comparison: for plant products it is eight percent.
So should everyone be vegetarian or vegan?
If it’s just the weather, yes. But that would be too extreme. After all, eating can also be a pleasure. But everyone can do their part and use more plant-based products. So more fruits, vegetables, legumes and nuts instead of eggs, meat and sausages. Health also benefits from this.
Meat, for example, is an important source of protein. How can this be compensated or replaced?
Legumes are usually neglected in our diet. But they are a good source of vegetable protein. Lentils with spaetzle are very classic. Ideally, legumes should be eaten together with cereals. If you also want the string sausage to accompany it, that’s no problem either. It is simply a matter of becoming aware of the effects that animal products also have on the climate.
But if I am reluctant to do without meat and sausages, which animal products are better than others?
Beef is highly up for discussion as it has one of the highest CO₂ emissions. This is because cattle chew and then burp, releasing additional methane. Every kilogram of beef sold in Germany generates around 16.7 kilograms of CO₂. That’s 6.9 kilograms of CO₂ for pork, 4.5 kilograms for poultry, and 3.6 kilograms for fish.
What else can consumers do to shop in a climate-conscious way or eat in a climate-conscious way?
In principle, the rule applies to buying regionally and seasonally. Transport routes are also important, so it is better to walk or cycle to the supermarket or, even better, to the weekly market. Because not only is what is on the plate at the end important, but also how it got there.
This is how climate-conscious shopping triumphs in the region
How do you shop seasonally and regionally?
This is pretty simple. If you go to the supermarket, for example, there are many regional products that are also labeled as such. If the fruit and vegetables come from Germany, that’s a good sign. We don’t have strawberries at the moment, the season is yet to come and you have to wait for them. For example, many people eat cucumbers and tomatoes throughout the year, but we only eat them when it is very hot. Because cucumber and tomatoes have a cooling effect and are therefore very suitable for consumption in summer. Nature has already thought of something. She gives us what we need at certain times of the year.
What about the food in the freezer?
Fresh is always better in terms of climate awareness. Because with deep-frozen products, the CO2 share is always higher due to deep-freezing and storage. Therefore, it is better to buy and eat fresh and sustainably produced food with short transport routes. The important thing is also not to throw anything away, but also to cook the leftovers from time to time. Food waste is extremely high. It is estimated that 80 kilograms of food per person are thrown away every year. More awareness would be very helpful here.