If you care about protecting the environment and swear by a diet full of fruits and vegetables with the fervor of Chris Traeger, well, you're lettuce head is about to explode. According to new research, your "healthy" and vegetarian diets are actually destroying the planet -- and at a rate significantly higher than delicious, but decidedly unhealthy foods like bacon.
A new study from researchers at Carnegie Mellon University finds that eating fruits, vegetables, dairy, and seafood (as recommended by the USDA) is actually more harmful to the environment because they require more resources to produce, and ultimately, result in higher greenhouse gas emissions per calorie than other foods, like meats. In other words, all those times you've stuffed reusable shopping totes with fresh, organic produce didn't just feed you, but climate change, too, you monster.
“Eating lettuce is over three times worse in greenhouse gas emissions than eating bacon,” said Paul Fischbeck, professor of social and decisions sciences as well as engineering and public policy at Carnegie Mellon, in a press release. “Lots of common vegetables require more resources per calorie than you would think. Eggplant, celery and cucumbers look particularly bad when compared to pork or chicken.”
Fischbeck and other researchers looked how Americans' food supply chain impacts the environment by examining the energy use, water use, and greenhouse gas emissions that result from how our foods are grown, processed, transported, sold, stored, and ultimately eaten. While maintaining a healthy diet could help reduce some of these environmental impacts, the researchers determined that the recommended diet of fruits, vegetables, dairy, and seafood had a negative impact in all three categories. Specifically, energy use went up by 38%, water use by 10%, and greenhouse gas emissions by 6%, according to the release.
Translation: these foods are probably good for your health, but they're not necessarily good for the environment... and that's not good for anyone. But then again, are any of the foods we generally eat environmentally friendly?
“There’s a complex relationship between diet and the environment,” said Michelle Tom, a Ph.D. student in civil and environmental engineering, in the release. “What is good for us health-wise isn’t always what’s best for the environment. That’s important for public officials to know and for them to be cognizant of these tradeoffs as they develop or continue to develop dietary guidelines in the future.”
Well, if eating bacon is good for the environment, I'm Captain Planet.
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Tony Merevick is Cities News Editor at Thrillist and has always known, deep down, that bacon makes the world a better place. Send news tips to firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @tonymerevick.