From growing crops and raising livestock to packaging and trucking, getting food onto people’s plates produces a lot of carbon pollution. According to U.N. estimates, about one-fifth to one-third of global greenhouse gas emissions come from the food system.

There are many ways to reduce those emissions. But Seth Wynes of the University of British Columbia says not all solutions are created equal. For example, eating locally produced food or avoiding plastic packaging can help. But he says what makes a far bigger difference is when people choose to eat less meat.

“Eating more plants is really important because they’re lower on the food chain. There’s less energy wasted on your way to the top of that food chain,” he says. “If you think about all of the energy that goes into raising a cow, all of the fertilizer needed for all of the foods that get fed to that cow, the energy needed to power the slaughterhouse, and so on, it’s just a ton of effort, energy, and fossil fuel emissions going into that product.”

So Wynes says it’s important to help people understand how their food choices affect the climate so they can more effectively reduce their impact.

Reporting credit: Sarah Kennedy/ChavoBart Digital Media.