We live in interesting times, to say the very least. And with that comes interesting challenges. The energy space is slap bang in the middle of those challenges…
People all over the world are suffering from the ever increasing gas and electricity prices. There is just not enough for everyone with the current global state of affairs, and then add in the fact that with every megajoule of gas or electricity we use, we are basically supporting war efforts, it is far from ideal. We need to look for ways to decrease our need for energy.
Many of us are working on accelerating the global energy transition, promoting energy efficiency and renewable technologies. Now is the time to move to solar, update the electricity grid and use other alternative sources. There is unfortunately no easy or quick fix for these issues that urgently need relief, but there are some small ways we can try to help with our daily consumption, and in turn, hopefully lower the outrageous costs many of us are facing.
Turning down the heating in our homes, taking shorter showers (or cold - not for everyone!) and bike instead of taking the car for short distances. If everyone would be doing these things we would collectively use about 10% less energy.
There is another thing we can save energy on however, one that is often overlooked. It is easier than taking a cold shower (and definitely more fun).
That thing is the food we eat. If we could change the way we ate just by a little, we can make a huge impact - saving an additional 9% of our total energy use.
Our whole food system requires a lot of energy. Some things however obviously require much more energy than others. For example, the dietary energy derived from bread is about the same as the energy put in to make the bread. If the same grains are used as animal feed, then the energy inputs are much larger than the dietary energy output, as much as seven to eight times. Another good example: roughly twenty-five times more energy is required to produce one calorie of beef than to produce one calorie of corn for human consumption.
" If we could change the way we ate just by a little, we can make a huge impact - saving an additional 9 percent of our total energy use. "
Meat comes from animals that need food to get fatter, pretty obvious. It clearly is not a very efficient way to fill the needs we have, when we can grow nutritionally equivalent calories to feed ourselves directly without the use of an animal. Cut out the middle man, or cow. Meat makes for curious math: about 25 calories is required to create just 1 calorie of beef. The ratio for pork is nearer 15-to-1. Even the most ‘efficient’ meat, chicken, requires 9 calories of input to produce just 1 calorie of food. It’s like throwing away 8 plates of food for every one that we eat.
Vegans may indeed be able to boast that their diets use 90% less energy than the average person, and even those who eat only eggs and dairy can lay claim to significant energy efficiency.
Researchers have for a long time called attention to the substantial feed, water and land requirements for meat and dairy. More recently, the greenhouse gas intensity of these food products has spurred a flurry of discussion regarding the climate impacts. The environmental costs of the current food system and the disproportionate contribution of animal-based food items to these costs are by now firmly established. Now there is one more thing that we can add to this list, the energy needed to create this type of food.
As an added bonus, because plant alternatives need about 7 times less land per unit protein or energy, replacing animal-based items with plant alternatives also frees up agricultural land that can then be repurposed for growing additional food – or anything else for that matter - nature, wildlife, recreation - think about the the endless possibilities with so much free land!
The good thing is, you do not have to eat grass or leave meat off the table. There are now many companies, large and small, that make delicious, nutritious meat replacements, and they taste just like meat. Some of which have been in tasting sessions where both consumers and top chefs could not even tell the difference. There is also the ever growing popularity of whole foods - get experimental with vegetables, alternative meat, check out recipe blogs, and enjoy some creative new meals for you & your family. Not only for your health and taste buds, but also for our collective energy consumption.
Next time you decide what to have for breakfast, lunch, dinner, a quick snack, you can help save energy with a simple choice: more plant based options. Vote with your fork. It is easy, it is effective and it is delicious! Every bite helps!