PLANT-BASED NUTRITION FOR ENVIRONMENTALPRESERVATION

In my latest book, Thrive Foods (click here to download the Introduction and three recipes), I take a deep look at the food production industry. Specifically, I delve into examining the amount of each natural resource required to produce food; arable land, fresh water, fuel (mostly fossil), and the emissions created. My goal was to determine the foods that deliver the most nutrition (micronutrients), while requiring the least amount of each natural resource in their production. That of course will show us exactly what foods are best for both personal and environmental health.

To determine this, I developed something I call the Nutrient-to-Resource Ratio, which considers the amount of each natural resource that goes into food production in direct exchange for the amount of nutrients that food offers. The goal is simple: get as high a level of health-boosting micronutrients from food, while expending the smallest amount of each natural resource to do so. (Essentially, it's a mathematical way of saying plant-based whole foods make a lot of sense).

Based on these findings, I've been able to determine the top foods and therefore have been able to selected Thrive Foods Direct ingredients. Because of this, Thrive Foods Direct Meals are among the best for you as well as being an optimal environmental choice.

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WHAT CONSTITUTES ENVIRONMENTALLY FRIENDLY FOOD CHOICES?

A food source that emits fewer emissions during its lifecycle is a good start for a more environmentally friendly food choice. And one that isn't a land, water, and fossil-fuel hog would be nice too.

In 2008 my colleagues and I at Sequel Naturals enlisted the help of a Calgary-based company called Conscious Brands to determine the best food options from an environmental perspective. Focusing on breakfast, the report considered the following three different types of breakfasts:

TRADITIONAL AMERICAN BREAKFAST

Consisting of 2 eggs, 2 slices of bacon, 2 links of sausage, 1 slice of toast, and 5.3 ounces of hash browns, the traditional breakfast scored 2.9 pounds of carbon dioxide.

LIGHT AMERICAN BREAKFAST

The light American breakfast comprised of a cup of cereal, 1 cup of cow's milk, 1 cup of yogurt, and half a banana; it came in considerably lower, at just 12.3 ounces of carbon dioxide.

PLANT-BASED WHOLE FOOD SMOOTHIE BREAKFAST (or simular plant-based option)

The fully plant-based smoothie option, made up of a dry weight of 2.3 ounces of hemp protein, yellow pea protein, brown rice protein, flaxseed, maca, and chlorella came in at only 1.2 ounces of carbon dioxide. That's 10 times fewer emissions than that of the light American breakfast, and 38 times fewer than the traditional American breakfast. If we wanted to blend the smoothie with half a banana, it would come in at 2.1 ounces, still 22 times lower than the traditional American breakfast, and 5.8 times lower than the light American breakfast.

So, with these numbers in hand, we can consider some options. For example, if one person were to switch his or her traditional American breakfast for a plant-based whole food option, the CO2-equivalent savings would be equal to driving a midsize car from Vancouver, B.C., to Tijuana, Mexico: the whole length of the Western United States.

Now, if everyone in the United States swapped his or her traditional breakfast for the plant-based option, the amount of emissions saved would be the equivalent to those created driving over 409 billion miles (409,853,744,250 miles, to be exact). That's equal in distance to over 1.7 million trips to the moon.

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Growing food to feed to animals, which will in turn feed us, requires significantly more arable land than growing plants for our direct consumption. The reason so much food needs to be grown to feed these animals is that very little of the food energy passed on to the livestock is returned through their meat.

To give an idea of how energy is lost in the production of animals, here's a breakdown:

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Factoring in irrigation for feed crops, it takes at least 2500 U.S. gallons of water to yield 1 pound of beef (some sources estimate it can take as much as 12,000 gallons). Thats 59.5 standard bathtubs worth of water to get a couple of sirloin steaks or a big helping of prime rib to your table.

In contrast, only about 60 gallons of water, enough to fill 1.36 bathtubs, are needed to produce a pound of sweet potatoes.

About 100 gallons of water, the capacity of 2.3 standard-size bathtubs, are needed to grow one pound of hemp seed.

NUTRIENT-TO-EMISSION RATIO

In the following examples I use calories as the method of comparison, as opposed to weight or volume. Comparing the amount of emissions required to produce an equal number of calories from a variety of sources gives, I believe, the fairest comparisons.

Lentils Vs. Chicken

Producing meat in the form of a chicken creates the fewest emissions as far as animal agriculture goes. Yet calorie for calorie, chicken emits 5.57 times more CO2e in its production than lentils. And since lentils are 3.7 times more nutrient dense than chicken (lentils have a nutrient density of 100, and chicken has a nutrient density of 27), 20.6 times more greenhouse gases (5.57 x 3.7) will be released into the atmosphere to obtain the same amount of micronutrients from chicken as from lentils.

Steamed Vegetables Vs. Baked Salmon

Steamed vegetables have a nutrient density average of 304, and salmon has a nutrient density of 39, which means that you'd need to produce 7.8 times more salmon to yield the same nutrient levels of steamed vegetables. Therefore, to obtain the equivalent amount of micronutrients from salmon as from steamed vegetables would mean 41.44 times more greenhouse gases being released into the atmosphere.

Our meal containers are made from recycled PETE (number 1) plastic, and can be recycled easily once you're done with them, with minimal energy expenditure.

We are also going to implement a program that will allow Thrive Foods Direct customers to send back their packaging (sticker with free return postage included with meal delivery) to be reused. Those who participate in this program will receive a credit for a free day's worth of food. Details to come...

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