Written by: Sameed Naushad


According to theguardian.com, food systems contribute from 21% to 37% of global greenhouse gasses. The foods we eat have a great impact on the environment, from what materials are used to package them, to the waste they cause. With climate change becoming a bigger issue as time goes by, we need to be mindful of the impacts the foods we eat have on the environment. Here are 5 common foods that have negative impacts on the environment, and their alternatives.

1. Cow Beef to Chicken

To start, cow beef is one of the most popular meats in the world. Though it is widely consumed, it releases greenhouse gas emissions into the air, which causes climate change and pollution. According to forbes.com, one kilogram of beef releases 60 kilograms of greenhouse gas emissions into the air. These include methane, carbon dioxide, and nitrous oxide. As seen on the chart below, beef releases more than double of the next most polluting food, lamb meat, which shows how impactful it is.

Since beef is very harmful to the environment, a better meat option could be chicken. Though chicken emits 6 kilograms of carbon dioxide, which also contributes to climate change, it is also known to be one of the most environmentally friendly meat options, and its harms are far less than that of beef.

2. Dairy Cheese to Vegan Cheese

Secondly, like beef, dairy cheese is up high on the list for being one of the biggest emitters of carbon dioxide in the world. It is ranked as the third-worst food, accounting for 21 kilograms of carbon dioxide emitted for every kilogram of cheese. Another reason it is so bad is that it requires a lot of milk to make. A kilogram of cheese requires 10 liters of milk, which can be very harmful coming from cows. Dairy animals like cows release lots of methane, which is reported to be 25 times worse than carbon dioxide.


As dairy cheese is not a great food option for the environment, a better cheese option would rather be vegan cheese. Vegan cheese is made out of plant foods like nuts, soy, seeds, and root vegetables. Since vegan cheese is completely plant-based, its carbon footprint is significantly smaller than that of dairy cheese.

3.“Oreos” to Back to “Nature Classic Creme Cookies”

Thirdly, “Oreo” is the most popular and best-selling cookie brand in the world. It is owned by a huge company called “Mondelēz”, which also owns “Cadbury”, “Ritz”, “Chips Ahoy!”, and more. “Mondelēz” uses palm oil for its foods, which is extremely harmful to the environment. Palm oil is a major cause of deforestation and releases mass amounts of carbon dioxide into the air. “Mondelēz” has promised to use more sustainable palm oil, but according to a report from the World Wide Fund for Nature, their efforts are inadequate to stop deforestation.

As “Oreos” have a significantly negative impact on the environment, an alternative food that you could eat is “Back to Nature Classic Creme cookies. These are cookies similar to “Oreos”, except the company only sells plant-based foods, except for some products that contain honey. Back to Nature products are biodegradable, non-flammable, and odorless, having much less harm to the environment.

4.“Coca-Cola” to “Karma Cola”

Next, “Coca-Cola” has been the number one selling soda in the world for many decades. Despite its popularity, “Coca-Cola” has also been reported as one of the most unethical companies in the world due to its large amounts of plastic pollution. An audit checking for plastic trash around the world in 51 countries found “Coca-Cola” to be the number one polluter, accounting for 11,732 pieces of trash.


An alternate soda that can be a replacement for “Coca-Cola” is “Karma Cola”. “Karma Cola” has a focus on doing social good and having environmental benefits. The company encourages its farmers to grow crops sustainably and to resist clearing out rainforests for palm oil and timber plantations.


5. Almonds to Hazelnuts

Lastly, almonds are known to be the least environmentally friendly nuts to produce as they require lots of water in the process. According to medium.com, a single almond requires at least 4 liters of water to grow. Water scarcity is becoming a global issue around the world with many countries having a lack of water clean supply. As Canada is a country very rich in freshwater, we could use our privilege and be sustainable with that water, to be mindful of other countries which don’t have the same access.


As almonds require an abundance of water to grow, a more environmentally friendly option is hazelnuts. Hazelnuts require significantly less amount of water than almonds, as they are drought-resistant. Not only that, but they prevent soil erosion and remove huge amounts of carbon from the atmosphere.


To conclude, the foods we eat can have a massive impact on the environment. By switching foods that harm the environment with better alternatives, we could have a positive impact on the environment. This could also lead us to help prevent global issues like climate change and water scarcity. These were just 5 out of the many beneficial food alternatives that you could switch to. Start making changes today for a positive impact on the environment’s future!


Works Cited

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Jackie, et al. “Juicy Oven Baked Chicken Breasts or Thighs – Easy Recipe!” The Novice Chef, 26 Mar. 2021, http://thenovicechefblog.com/the-best-baked-chicken-recipe/.

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