Sustainability: food for the climate

Global warming, depleted oceans, destabilized ecosystems: Our planet is on the brink of extinction. Urgent action is needed- even in our diet. What we can look out for

Sustainability: food for the climate

Meat, milk and dairy products

„To achieve the climate targets, we need to reduce the consumption of animal products by 70 to 80 percent", says Professor Dr. Hermann Lotze-Campen of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research.

„Switch to plant-based alternatives as much as possible.“ If you eat meat frequently, you can make a big difference by sticking to the "Sunday roast" principle oriented. Selection also plays a role: poultry is more climate-friendly than beef. If it does have to be a beef steak, the meat is best sourced from regional organic pasture farming. Nevertheless: eat rarely!

Climate-friendly diet: less animal products, more regional and seasonal products

Climate-friendly diet: fewer animal products, more regional and seasonal produce

© Getty Images/Stone/Thomas Barwick


One kilo of regional tomatoes causes 0.2 kilograms of CO2 in summer- Greenhouse produce in winter five kilograms. „Even in winter, there are plenty of seasonal vegetables to choose from. When it comes to fruit, it can sometimes be imported goods", This is the tip from certified ecotrophologist Stephan Weigt from the Association for Independent Health Advice (UGB). Vegetable boxes make seasonal shopping easier. Seasonal calendars show which fruits and vegetables are freshly available.


Regional produce saves on transport and greenhouse gases. Airfreighted goods fare particularly badly: One kilogram of asparagus shipped to us by air freight in winter generates 30 kilograms of CO2! In season, asparagus arrives at the supermarket by truck, causing about 19 grams per kilo over a distance of 100 kilometers. German apples, which are stored in cold storage in the summer, may perform worse than those that come by ship from New Zealand.


Compared to meat, fish has a good climate balance, but it is problematic in view of the overfished oceans. Aquaculture is not always better either: "Salmon, for example, are predators", says Jana Fischer from the consumer advice center in Hamburg. „They are fed partly with fish waste, but also partly with bycatch. This, in turn, is then missing from the ecosystems.“ The decisive factors are stocks, region and fishing methods. Fish from European farms, such as carp, are considered to be less problematic.

The WWF’s online fish guide is an aid to orientation. Overall, the environmentalists from WWF advise to eat fish only occasionally. For the supply of healthy fatty acids, you can also reach for high-quality vegetable oils and products from algae.


„As long as the legislator does not make traceability obligatory, an informed purchase decision is unfortunately only possible to a limited extent", says Stefan Weigt. What helps? „Look for the Fairtrade seal and buy from local farmers at weekly markets.“

Organic products

In terms of greenhouse gas emissions, organic makes little difference. For some products, they are even slightly higher. On the other hand, other emissions to air, soil and water are lower than in conventional cultivation. Again and again one reads from bio enterprises, which offend against guidelines. Nevertheless, organic is often the better choice, says Jana Fischer: "What is conspicuous as a grievance on individual organic farms is often permitted in conventional agriculture.“


It’s not just what ends up in the cooking pot that counts- but also how it gets there: Therefore, when shopping, refrain from unnecessary car journeys. Also make sure not to waste any food if possible. According to a study by the market research company GfK, in 2020 edible food would end up in the trash in 86 percent of German households. A meal plan can help: This way, purchases can be planned well and what is already available can be recycled.

Basically: "Start withchanges that are easy for you", Jana Fischer says. „Not everyone has to give 100 percent, but everyone has to take a big step together.“ It’s also clear that consumers alone can’t stop the climate catastrophe. It is up to politics and business to create reasonable framework conditions for this to happen.

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