When it comes to choosing what we eat, the food industry often plays a big role in shaping our options.
Although consumers have some degree of agency when it comes to buying groceries or ordering meals, the food available in supermarkets, restaurants, and workplaces is largely determined by producers, retailers, and other institutions.
This means that for those looking to reduce the carbon footprint of their diets, the greenest options may not always be the most convenient or appetizing.
Nevertheless, the environmental impact of our food choices is significant.
Scientists estimate that food production is responsible for 35% of greenhouse gas emissions, with meat production being one of the biggest culprits.
In fact, meat production causes more than twice the pollution of fruits, grains, and vegetables.
This is why experts suggest that one of the most meaningful changes people can make to curb greenhouse gas emissions is to eat less meat.
According to a report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), transitioning to a sustainable, low-emissions diet is crucial for mitigating the worst effects of the climate crisis.
However, this shift cannot rely solely on individual choices. Instead, producers, retailers, restaurants, workplaces, and governments must work together to make plant-based foods more convenient, enticing, and tasty.
For some, adopting a vegan or vegetarian diet may seem too extreme. However, the IPCC report found that even small changes, such as adopting a Mediterranean-style diet that is rich in grains, vegetables, nuts, and moderate amounts of fish and poultry, can have a significant impact on reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
In fact, if everyone met basic nutritional recommendations that involve eating more fruits and vegetables and less red meat, emissions could fall by 29% by 2050, according to one study.
One area where significant changes can be made is in the beverage industry. Many companies are now offering vegan alternatives to traditional dairy products, such as almond milk or oat milk.
These alternatives are not only more environmentally friendly but are also healthier for those who are lactose intolerant or have dairy allergies. The vegan beverage market is projected to continue to grow in the coming years, with sales expected to reach $30 billion by 2027.
In addition to plant-based milks, many beer and wine producers are also creating vegan options. Traditionally, animal products such as isinglass, a type of fish bladder, have been used in the production of beer and wine.
However, vegan options that use alternatives such as bentonite clay or pea protein are becoming more widely available.
Coffee is another area where vegan options are becoming more popular. Many coffee shops now offer a range of plant-based milk alternatives, and some companies are developing vegan instant coffee that uses plant-based creamers.
While the beverage industry is just one aspect of our diets, it is an area where significant progress is being made.
By offering more vegan options, these companies are making it easier for people to make more environmentally conscious choices.
As consumer demand for sustainable options continues to grow, it is likely that we will see even more innovative solutions in the years to come.