Sunday 27 April 2014

Nitrogen Emissions and Demitarian Diets

Nitrogen is widely used as fertilizer in agriculture. This creates a range of negative environmental effects. When this combines with car emissions it produces particulate pollution harmful to humans. Runoff from farmland cause algal blooms in dams and the sea. Nitrous oxide is also produced which is one of the most powerful green house gases.
Much of this nitrogen fertilizer is used to produce feedstock to produce beef. A recent study for the European Union calculated that halving meat and dairy products could lead to a reduction in nitrogen emissions by 25 to 40%. The reduction of meat consumption for environmental reasons has been termed demitarianism.

Demitarianism and a reduction in meat consumption without avoiding meat altogether (vegetarianism) could be an appropriate strategy for areas of Africa where marginal land may support livestock but not crop production. However this reduction will only happen if people are given alternative food consumption and production options.  This has implications for the built environment.

Built environments can support a reduction in meat consumption in a number of ways and this has been developed as criteria within the BEST and SBAT tools. Support can be provided in the following ways:
  • Vegetarian options: Building policies and catering contracts can require that facilities such as restaurants and canteens provide vegetarian options. This can also be extended to favour local products and therefore stimulate the local agriculture and reduce transport impacts.
  • Local production: Urban and site designs can provide for local production of grown food such as vegetables and fruit. This can located areas of the site or on the roof of the building.  If designed appropriately food produced can enhance diets of building occupants and reduce the consumption of meat.
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