Does LEED have a place in your diet?
What if you could help prevent climate change three times a day? What would you be willing to change? You’ve already changed your light bulbs and programmed your thermostat. The next step you can take is your food, so today I’m writing about what we eat—and greenhouse gases.
What you purchase at the market directly impacts climate change. Animal product cultivation generates greenhouse gases in the following ways:
- Carbon Dioxide (CO2) comes from land clearing and fertilizer application to grow grains to feed animals and humans. There are emissions from farm operations (processing, milling, and farm equipment operation) and food transportation (especially refrigerated)—often large fleets going long distances.
- Methane (CH4) comes from ruminant (for example, cows) digestion. It’s 44% of livestock emissions, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (UNFAO).
- Nitrous Oxide (N2O) is emitted when nitrogen is added to the soil through the use of synthetic fertilizers to grow animal feed and other food products. It is also emitted during the breakdown of nitrogen in livestock manure and urine. N2O has a (100-year) global warming potential of 310.
A lot of attention is starting to be paid to these issues. The USDA is considering telling us how what we eat affects the environment, and the New York Times recently exposed the tremendous suffering of animals used by the U.S. Meat Animal Research Center to research higher meat production yields.
In 2013, the UNFAO assessed that 14.5% of human-induced GHG emissions are attributed to livestock, with Cattle (meat/milk) representing about 65% of livestock sector emissions (buffalo 9%, sheep and goats (meat/milk) 6.5%, pigs 9%, chickens (meat/eggs) 8%).
Additionally, ecosystem fragmentation, species habitat degradation, loss of biodiversity, water use for animal hydration and processing, and manure waste disposal are all related to current food consumption patterns. According to USDA figures, the aggregate food supply in 2000 provided 3,800 calories per person per day. Of that, USDA’s Economic Research Service estimated that the dietary intake of calories then was just under 2,700 calories daily per person. That’s a lot of waste.
All of this points to factory food farming practices—particularly for meats fish, cheeses, and eggs, combined with long-distance transportation within the United States or across the globe—as detrimental to the planet.
How are these issues addressed in LEED now?
- LEED for Existing Buildings, includes a credit that rewards projects for using local food/beverages or those with certain certifications.
- LEED for Neighborhood Development, has a credit that rewards projects supporting gardens and agriculture.
- Pilot Credit 82: Local Food Production is earned when the project team demonstrates onsite food production or partnering with a Community Supported Agriculture program or local farm.
We want to know how you address food-related climate change and greenhouse gas emissions in your buildings. What are your ideas for how LEED can address it with new pilot credits? What do you see as the most pressing issues between food and buildings/occupants? And, what have you been reading lately about the data?