Shifting less than one day per week's worth of calories from red meat and dairy products to chicken, fish, eggs, or a vegetable-based diet achieves more [green house gas] reduction than buying all locally sourced food.Yup. You heard that right. Red meat and dairy create a heck of a lot more emissions to produce than "lighter" meats and produce. Buying local is great; it supports your neighborhood farmers and keeps your "food miles" low. But according to this study, travel emissions are only 11 percent of foods' greenhouse gas totals. Actually producing the food? 83 percent.
So let's say you're making a once-a-week veggie commitment to lower your carbon footprint. What do you do when you're out of town or out on the town with friends? I went vegan in January of this year, largely for environmental and health reasons. It's been surprisingly easy -- when cooking for myself at home. Restaurants took a little while to learn how to navigate, especially when on the road. Here are a few tricks I've learned to finding a satisfying and low carbon meal while traveling or going out:
1. Check out www.happycow.net to find out if there are any recommended vegetarian or vegan restaurants in your area. If you're traveling with meat-eaters, it's best to choose one of the "not 100% vegetarian" options to keep them happy.
2. If there aren't any dedicated veggie options, more upscale pizza joints are a surprisingly good second choice. Just order without cheese, with extra sauce, and pile on the veggies. (If you're a strict vegan, you'll want to check on the crust recipe to make sure there's no butter or eggs involved.)
3. Asian restaurants usually have plenty of veggie versions or will let you sub in tofu for meat. Just remember to specify no egg and no fish sauce.
4. Menu graze. Most restaurants offer salads. Surprisingly few have truly vegan salads; luckily it's easy to create one with a few alterations. When ordering, look at what else shows up on the menu that you can sub in for meat and cheese salad toppings. Avocados can been a life saver. Trust me.
5. Sometimes you're just going to have to take a dive and eat junk food. French fries are almost always vegan. So are chips and salsa. They can tide you over in a tough spot until you can get to a grocery store to pick up a whole food smoothie (love me some Naked or Odwalla) or a salad from the deli.