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Did you know? The food system is a significant contributor to global climate change. The production, processing, transportation, storage, and disposal of food account for almost one-third of greenhouse gas emissions.
The food system is also affected by climate change. Extreme weather patterns and shifts in temperature are presenting challenges for farmers around the world. This may have significant implications for the global food supply unless new crop varieties are developed and the effects of climate change are mitigated.
Be carbon smart! Carbon-smart choices minimize emissions when considering the entire lifecycle of food. Making carbon-smart food choices goes beyond just what you eat – it also encompasses how you eat – how and where you shop for food, what you do with your waste, and more. In addition to reducing GHG emissions, carbon-smart choices can also have a variety of nutritional, economic, environmental and social benefits.
Make a difference. The individual choices you make can significantly reduce your food-related greenhouse gas emissions. The tips in the “Carbon Smart Food Pocket Guide” and on this website will help you reduce your carbon “food print” and get you on your way to becoming a carbon-smart consumer!
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This site is a part of the “Changing the Food System to Change the Climate” project, launched by the 100-Mile Diet Society and the UBC Farm in 2008-2009. While each organization’s food system and climate change education and research work will continue in the future, this site is specifically presented as the online home for the UBC Farm’s “Carbon Smart Food Pocket Guide.”
The food guide comes as a printed pocket guide, and this site offers complementary information, sources, and details to provide a more complete picture as to what you can do as a consumer to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions associated with food. Pick up your own copy of the pocket guide from the UBC Farm.
While we have no idea if Theron Parlin’s “Benevolence” theme was designed with climate change in mind, we have chosen to use it un-modified for this site. The header image has it all: clean air, photosynthesizing grasses, and soil building up its soil carbon levels.
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On-farm activities demonstrating low-impact, sustainable, and carbon-friendly agricultural techniques at the UBC Farm are an integral component of “Changing the Food System to Change the Climate.” On-farm activities and accomplishments include:
1. Restoring the farm’s ecosystem to address loss of habitat and provide essential ecosystem services
The introduction of buffers, habitat set-asides and hedgerows to the farm’s landscape greatly increased the farm’s on-site biodiversity. During this project, over 1,000 square metres of new hedgerows have been established, significantly expanding the farm’s already-existing hedgerow areas. Significant volunteer contributions also assisted with the work to sheet-mulch a new 100-meter (linear) hedgerow in preparation for planting.
These hedgerows provide important habitat and ecosystem services, and are home to some of the 80+ bird species found on-site. Students continue to work alongside farm staff to research into species selection and conduct biodiversity assessments.
2. Demonstrating production and use of renewable energy in agriculture
There is growing interest in many sectors in the use of biofuels as a potential alternative to fossil fuels. By demonstrating some of the pros and cons of biofuel production at the UBC Farm, visitors are able to create informed opinions of the technology and its potential.
Over 100 square metres of demonstration plots featuring over-winter biofuel feedstock crops were planted in September 2008. Canola seed was selected from farm-saved canola varieties from an earlier biofuel feedstock assessment trial.
Miscanthus plants – another potential non-food biofuel crop – were planted in Spring 2009 within the new hedgerow establishment. To help visitors identify and learn about these biofuel crops, a signage project is currently underway. These demonstration plots provide a venue for further research developments in biofuel production.
3. Growing and selling climate-friendly produce
Soil management and irrigation practices significantly affect greenhouse gas emissions. In our effort to model sustainable, low-input agricultural practices, the UBC Farm has increased the use of soil-conserving cover crops and reduced tillage by using living mulch in pathways. By building soil fertility through biological nitrogen fixation in cover crops, we have been able to reduce overall inputs and associated GHG emissions in the production system.
The farm also upgraded 60% of field areas to low-flow drip irrigation systems to conserve water and prevent over-saturation of the soil. Fuel consumption was reduced by conducting more produce deliveries to campus food outlets and off-campus restaurants by bicycle.
Soil sampling and analysis data indicates conservation and, in some cases, increases in stable soil carbon in cultivated fields.
4. Educating Vancouverites about the environmental impacts of the food system
Over 40,000 visitors came to the UBC Farm in 2009 through a variety of workshops and field events. Climate change and carbon-smart eating were key focus areas for public education efforts, with the goal of creating a critical mass of “empowered eaters” with the knowledge and desire to make changes to their food consumption habits.
Over 1,000 people attended the UBC Farm’s 2009 Season Kick-Off Event + Official Launch of the Vancouver 100-Mile Diet Foodshed Map. This festive day provided an opportunity to highlight the connections between climate change and the food system in a “mouths on” way, as we collaborated with a local chef and Urban Grains CSA to serve 100-mile pancakes. Continued record-breaking attendance at the UBC Farm’s Saturday markets indicates the carbon-smart message – primarily in the form of the pocket-guide – will continue to be received by a wide audience.
This continued outreach effort targets all ages, ranging from elementary school students to high school students, and adults to seniors groups. In partnership with Sustainability Television, we are working together to carry out online education in the form of a series of shorts videos related to carbon-smart eating that will be viewable on the Sustainability TV website in summer 2010.
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“Changing the Food System to Change the Climate” addresses the impact of the food system on climate change and the environment. In particular, this project looks at the continued release of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions – and related local contributions to global climatic changes – through the production, processing, and consumption of food. It also addresses the loss of habitat and essential ecosystem services due to intensive agricultural cultivation.
The main goals of this project are two-fold: to demonstrate low-impact, sustainable agricultural techniques, and to transform the dietary choices of Vancouverites through a public education campaign.
The project proposes a variety of solutions to address the environmental impact of the food system on both the producer and consumer sides. These include demonstration biofuel crops, carbon-neutral food production, carbon sequestration through agricultural stewardship, low-input farm-scale food production, establishment and restoration of hedgerows for wildlife habitat, and the production and dissemination of a consumer-targeted “carbon-smart food guide.”
This innovative project brings climate change strategies together in one location, the UBC Farm, providing the opportunity for a full-system understanding of how a variety of small actions can create a significant impact. The UBC Farm provides a dynamic venue for education and demonstration of alternative food production and consumption models. Most importantly, this project is not just theoretical: it demonstrates these strategies in a hands-on, accessible way at the UBC Farm, the last working farmland in the City of Vancouver.
“Changing the Food System to Change the Climate” has been generously supported by Environment Canada, the Vancouver Foundation, and VanCity. Special thanks to students in the UBC Faculty of Land & Food systems for their help in creating the Carbon Smart Food Pocket Guide.