Recently after switching to a strict pescatarian diet, I decided to do a little research on what that means for my carbon footprint. Now when I say “strict pescatarian”, that doesn’t mean I wake up and have caviar waffles with a side of whale broth for breakfast. That would be weird. My daily routine mostly consists of whole grains, dairy, fruits, and nuts. I still have work to do in the area of vegetation and I only have about 1 portion of fish every few days, primarily because I live 700 miles from the nearest ocean, frozen fish is blah, and farm raised usually tastes like mud. Forgive my snobbery.
As a side note, what’s interesting is when I had a totally unrestricted diet, I ate red meat almost every meal, usually with a few sides of whatever the heck I felt like. Tater tots was my first choice, but regardless of what the side was, 90% of the time it was fried, heavily processed, and pretty much crystalized in salt. Going pescatarian, now my natural inclination is to pass on most things processed and rarely do I eat anything fried unless its falafel. Which by the way if you haven’t had falafel before, I feel sorry for you… no really. But other than falafel, my sides are usually a banana, apple, and/or hummus, things far healthier than my normal drugs of choice. So going pescatarian overall has changed my palate to prefer more natural, low processed foods, further compounding my carbon footprint reduction.
Anyways, in 2014 research was completed in the UK on how much carbon is produced from various types of meat and plant-based diets. What they found is not that surprising, a vegan diet produces substantially less carbon than that of a heavy meat diet. Pescatarians fell right in the middle, about half the carbon output of carnivors, and only a hair more than vegetarians. (source)
So why does meat have a bigger carbon footprint than fish? Simple, it’s because of farming practices. The amount of energy it takes to factory-farm raise a million chickens is astronomical. Let alone shipping them across the country and cooking them. Fish predominantly comes from water that doesn’t require any energy or human intervention to be raised, also known as “wild caught”. Even with farm raised fish, such as trout, energy usage is far less than that of a chicken factory. Though they still have to be shipped and cooked like everything else, it’s the energy used to raise the animal before slaughter that’s the major culprit.
Now, I know what you’re thinking, what’s the point because there’s no way you’re giving up your chicken wings and Big Macs. That’s totally fine, you do you. Listen, life isn’t about driving one road, my road is going to look different than yours. While I may find it easy to live off of fish tacos and carrot juice, I still have work to do in other areas, like driving a gas guzzler. And then their’s the Prius kid with his 100% recycled flip-flops rolling up to the McDonalds drive thru window for his bag of burgers. We both are doing something totally cool and right, then blowing it somewhere else.
When it comes to reducing our carbon footprint, it’s not just about energy, our cars, and the amount of gasoline we use, it’s about what we eat too. So if you’re feeling like a shift in diet and want to immediately reduce your carbon footprint, going pescatarian is awesome. You’ll feel incredible, maybe shed a pant size or two, and help windmill kick your carbon footprint in half. If not, that’s cool too, stick to your recycled flip-flops and keep driving your Prius, as long as we’re all doing something, we’ll help keep the planet around for a little bit longer.