Growing in popularity as the request from consumers to know about their carbon footprint. Carbon footprint includes your food. Where your food comes from, from how far, the inputs that are required, all factor in to the environmental impact of the food you eat.

What can you do to reduce your footprint?

One of the most important elements isn’t so much how far away the food came from but what it is you are eating.

Meat has the greatest environmental impact. In turn, vegetables provide among the least. Of all the products the least intense of the popular meats is poultry. The one with the most significant impact and damage on the environment is beef. Yes, your steak comes at a cost. And it’s not just four stomachs that produce a whole lotta flatulence. Sure, farts contribute to greenhouse gas emissions, But as the production of beef in general that has a greater impact. You have to think of all the feed required to raise a pound of beach. The water, feed, fertilizer for the feed, trucking, etc., all factor in.

Meat in general is a staple in wealthier countries, and as the middle class grows worldwide, the demand increases. But is it healthier? And is it hampering the environment? What are the alternatives?

Here’s the problem, how do you get your protein and maintain a balanced diet without meat?

One answer is to find new sources of meat protein including seafoods that can be farmed (and not necessarily in the ocean). Shrimp is one. Another solution, although less palatable in the west, is the relatively inexpensive and abundant market for insects.

But ultimately the answer goes back to vegetables. Increasing consumption of legumes and beans are a vital addition to any diet. If you have meat for every single meal, consider reducing consumption for just one simple meal a week. Having an attainable goal is important when it comes to making measurable shifts in eating habits.

Although it might take some work to figure out portion sizing when replacing meat with beans, once you find a few recipes to consider in the vegetarian realm, add them to your regular cooking routine.

Of course this all assumes that you do most of your cooking at home. Not only is it a great way to control where you’re buying and using food, it’s also a great way to save money.