Updating my carbon footprint as a physician without diabetes on an LCHF diet – More about cars and carbohydrates than cows

2018.05 Low Carb and Low Carbon - Ted Eytan MD-1001 872
2018.05 Low Carb and Low Carbon – Ted Eytan MD-1001 872 (View on Flickr.com)

This is an update of a previous post from October, 2019 with a new calculation, additions to my learning, and a purchase of carbon offsets for this year.

Climate change is a threat to human and planetary health

… and so is metabolic disease

People who eat animal-sourced foods to maintain their metabolic health are equi-capable and equi-responsible for mitigating climate change.

Calculating carbon footprint

It’s very difficult, if not impossible, to accurately calculate one’s carbon footprint, because of the different assumptions made about lifestyle in each model.

I’m using the United Nations’ Carbon Offset Platform calculator as a baseline. A more comprehensive calculator with good documentation developed at UC Berkeley is also available (see references). The UN calculator allows you to buy offsets following your calculation, which is convenient. I’ve written about how to do all of that in a separate post.

Diet

This seems to get all of the attention in personal carbon emission reduction, even though it’s not the most dominant source. There are a lot of theories about this, related to ideological and political considerations. I’ll start there since that’s the environment we’re in.

Estimations of animal sourced food vs a vegan diet seem to range between increase in emissions by 0.8 – 2 metric tons of carbon emissions/person/year. The UN model adds 1.21 metric tons for a meat-inclusive diet so that’s what’s I went with. I have gone farther in depth to model the assumptions made by these calculators and believe that 1.2 metric tons makes sense.

  • Animal sourced food diets emit more carbon than vegan ones, the question is by what margin
    • I am aware of the literature around regenerative agriculture and other approaches; my understanding is that these are still in the theoretical stage – if anyone has better information, send my way.
  • The model used in this calculator is based on the Standard American Diet (SAD) and not low carbohydrate, healthy fat, real food (LCHF) approaches
    • It includes snacking, refined grains, and artificial foods, and does not incorporate impacts of greater health care use from these things
    • It assesses food source based on “carbon emissions per kcal,” which doesn’t account for nutrient density, amount of food required for nourishment and associated carbon costs (packaging, transport, etc etc).

Since 2019, a new study out of Japan has modeled the diet-related carbon footprints of high carbon emitting households and low-carbon emitting households and found just 9% of the difference is related to meat purchases. See: Metabolic Health Mythbusting: Meat Consumption Does Not Explain Differences in Household Food Carbon Footprints in Japan)

Goods and services, including health care

Here’s that image, again – where cars and carbohydrates come together in an un-healthy way….

2018.05 Low Carb and Low Carbon - Ted Eytan MD 1001-766
2018.05 Low Carb and Low Carbon – Ted Eytan MD 1001-766 (View on Flickr.com)

Energy – source of greatest emissions

  • Not owning a car reduces emissions by 2.51 metric tons / year
  • Household energy use and air travel are significant contributors to the carbon footprint. Compared to last year, I’m planning on reducing air travel, which is responsible for the 3 metric tonne reduction. That’s equivalent to going vegan for 3+ years.

Overall footprint, carbon offsets

The greatest impact on carbon footprint is in managing energy use, and that includes energy used for transportation as well as to create goods and services whose use could be averted (such as health care).

I have purchased carbon offsets for the footprint above for 2020. I’ll post on that next (trust, and verify).

Our climate is changing:

2018.05 Low Carb and Low Carbon - Ted Eytan MD-1001-781
2018.05 Low Carb and Low Carbon – Ted Eytan MD-1001-781 (View on Flickr.com)

And, we’re in the era of diabetes reversal, why don’t more doctors know?

Feel free to check my work in the comments, we have a desire to know rather than a desire to be right.

References

  1. United Nations: offset.climateneutralnow.org
  2. CoolClimate Network: coolclimate.org/calculator
  3. Jones CM, Kammen DM. Quantifying Carbon Footprint Reduction Opportunities for U.S. Households and Communities. Environ Sci Technol [Internet]. 2011 May [cited 2019 Oct 3];45(9):4088–95. Available from: https://pubs.acs.org/doi/10.1021/es102221h

Disclosures

See my disclosures page. Short version: I have none.

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