Subbing tofu into diet can lower carbon footprint

How is it that something that only consists of two ingredients - soybeans and bittern (magnesium chloride) - can lead to so many both tasty and useful products? Tofu, made from boiling and combining these two ingredients, is the main component of numerous tasty dishes due to its popularity and utility. Foodies indulge in delectable tofu dishes, while ideally, restaurateurs are able to use the excess tofu to pay their energy bills.

We have all encountered tofu in our meals, especially those of us who obsess over Asian cuisine. Tofu can be found in sweet-and-sour dishes as well as miso soup. But did we ever think that the excess parts of perfectly cut tofu cubes would end up as the fuel powering our computers and iPod chargers? Well, maybe tofu isn't fueling such trendy accessories, but in Indonesia and India villages power their stoves and lighting with excess tofu from nearby tofu factories. Visit for a video of excess tofu being utilized by locals.

Tofu, also known as bean curd, is high in protein, low in saturated fat, and is a good source of calcium and vitamin E. For vegetarians, this is the perfect alternative to meat. Steaming tofu will provide the non-meat eater with plenty of calcium, phosphorus, and iron. Tofu is not usually injected with hormones and most brands are not genetically modified (yet). Different types of tofu typically sell at the market for about $3 and can be prepared for a good number of meals.

In addition to the nutritious aspect of tofu, some people believe that eating at a lower trophic level allows them to acquire more energy from the foods they eat. Tofu (soybean) is considered to be part of the primary trophic level, meaning that it harvests energy from sunlight and turns in into biomass. Primary-level plants are thought to hold the most amount of energy, and as the trophic levels progress, energy is lost. By this method, less energy would be acquired from eating a steak than from eating soybeans.

Tofu can also be looked at as a way to limit our carbon dioxide emissions. By choosing to substitute your meat consumption with tofu, you can limit your carbon footprint considerably. According to an article in Newsweek, producing one kilogram of beef results in more carbon dioxide emissions than going on a three-hour drive while leaving your lights on at home. Cows not only contribute a significant amount of methane (another greenhouse gas) into the atmosphere, but the transportation involved in the cattle industry is a major player in carbon dioxide emissions.

Cuyahoga County is fourth on a list released by Purdue University of the top 20 carbon dioxide-emitting counties. Switching to tofu is simpler than switching to a Prius or purchasing solar panels for your roof. Try starting with baby steps: have a veggie burger when you go out, or top off your salad with tofu instead of meat. Remember, your carbon footprint is following you - it's not something you can just shake off.


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