How Is Plastic Affecting the Arctic?

ice in the Arctic ocean
Ice in the Arctic ocean

A new review article, “Plastic Pollution in the Arctic“, contends that high levels of plastic pollution (including microplastics) have infiltrated the Arctic and intensified climate change’s effects. Plastics from agriculture, hydrocarbon exploration, landfills, illegal dumping, industry, households, fisheries, offshore industry and other such sources are routinely carried to and within the Arctic by atmospheric and aquatic circulation systems. As plastics move through the Arctic, they gradually break down and release greenhouses gases, including methane and ethylene.

Is There Plastic In the Arctic?

Transported plastics from local and distant sources are broadly distributed throughout the Arctic. The United Nations estimates that approximately 150 million tons plastic debris may be scattered across the Arctic. Plastics are found on Arctic shores, in the water column, in sea ice and in the bodies of marine biota.

How Does Plastic Pollution Affect Marine Life?

Arctic wildlife are known to ingest, become entangled in or smothered by plastic debris. “Plastic Pollution in the Arctic” reports that Arctic species such as sculpin (Triglops nybelini), the northern fulmar (Fulmarus glacialis) and belugas (Delphinapterus leucas) have been found with plastic inside them. Plastic ingestion may even affect marine invertebrates like zooplankton in the east Canadian Arctic and the Fram Strait (a sea channel between Greenland and Svalbard). The review further reports that the organismal impacts of plastic infiltration to many endemic species remain largely unknown.

The Fundamental Links Between Climate Change and Marine Plastic Pollution In The Artic

Plastics drive climate change, in return, climate influences distribution of plastics. Also, both climate change and plastics have oil and gas origins. Plastics are derived from greenhouse gases (GHGs) and continue to release GHGs throughout their life cycles as they degrade. Plastics and microplastics are thus expected to increase ocean heat content (OHC). According to “Plastic pollution in the Arctic”, plastics could also promote glacial thawing by affecting their light absorbance, structure and rheological properties.

Circulation systems, including wind, ocean currents and freshwater river flows, continue to move plastics through Arctic ecosystems long after they are originally introduced. Physical impacts associated with climate change effect the concentrations and distribution of plastic in the Arctic. Sea level rise or higher poleward wind speeds from global warming could transport greater levels of plastic debris to Arctic ecosystems.

These interactions suggest that climate change and plastic pollution are mutually reinforcing. The Arctic may be more sensitive to the effects of ocean warming and plastic pollution than most environments because of its permafrost, snow and ice. Climate change strategies aimed at mitigating ocean warming, will have to account for the emissions from plastic sources as well.

Are Climate Change and Plastic Pollution Related?

Plastic pollution and climate change are the most influential stressors to marine environments globally. These stressors are simultaneously occurring and interactive. Marine plastic pollution is made up of the plastic products that have accumulated in the world’s seas. From production to end-of-life, plastic materials release potent greenhouse gases, like carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4) and ethylene (C2H4). Greenhouse gases from plastic materials contribute to ocean heating and exacerbate climate change.

Climate change refers to long term shifts in a region’s temperature or weather patterns. Climate events, such as flooding and storms, impact the concentration of plastic’s global distributions. A 2022 review titled “The Fundamental Links Between Climate Change and Marine Plastic Pollution” assembles evidence that demonstrate the feedback loops between climate change and marine plastic pollution.

How Does Climate Change Affect Pollution?

Plastics (including microplastics) are transported from place to place by way of winds, water flow patterns, and storms. Wind and storms can influence the dispersal of plastics. The same is true of flooding events and rainfall patterns. Climate change is already beginning to increase the frequency and magnitude of extreme weather phenomena, and will likely continue to spread plastics into novel environments, where they may disrupt ecosystems and or release heat trapping gases.

How Plastics Contribute To Climate Change

The 2022 review has three categories for plastic’s climate change contribution: “1) plastic production, transport and use; 2) plastic disposal, mis-managed waste and degradation; and 3) bio-based plastics”. From the very beginning of their life-cycle, plastic and bioplastics are greenhouse gas sources. Making plastic requires extracting organic materials, such as crude oil or plant matter, which are burned to be refined and processed. The resulting plastic must too be heated for molding and manufacturing. After use, the plastic product may be recycled, become landfilled, be incinerated, or end up an environmental pollutant. In each case, the plastic will emit more CO2 as it degrades or is melted, according to a 2019 study referenced.

Greenhouse Gas Emissions From Plastic Production

Climate change influences the distribution of plastic waste; plastic has substantial greenhouse gas contributions, which enhance ocean heating and climate change. Put another way, changes in climate and climate-driven extreme weather events influence the spread of plastic across environments, from oceans, to freshwater systems, to terrestrial areas. But co-concurrently, plastic influences climate change by releasing emissions twofold throughout its life-cycle; production (including refining and manufacturing) and after-use life (including landfills, recycling, incineration and environmental waste).

Can Plastic Pollution Cause Climate Change?

An interesting review titled, “The Fundamental Links Between Climate Change and Marine Plastic Pollution”, describes the interactive relationship between climate change and marine plastic pollution. The review’s authors claim that climate change and marine plastic pollution are linked in three ways: a) the production of plastic relies on fossil fuel extraction and is thus a greenhouse gas contributor b) climate and weather influence the distribution and spread of plastic pollution across environments c) marine ecosystems and species are presently vulnerable to both climate change and plastic pollution.

plastic bottle in water

Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Plastic Production

The rise in plastic demand is likely due to its reputation as an inexpensive and lightweight material that has a wide range of uses. Plastic is used for packaging, electronics, toys, utensils, safety gear and infrastructure. Even so, plastic drives greenhouse gas emissions throughout multiple stages of its so-called “lifecycle”, from extraction and refining to transportation, incineration and recycling.

As common plastics degrade, they continue to emit greenhouse gases like methane or ethylene, which intensify ocean warming. Bio-based plastics, plastics made from biomass, are no exception. While bio-based plastics do produce fewer greenhouse gases than conventional plastics, they still release heat trapping molecules during their lifecycles. Degrading plastic products fragment into microplastics and smaller constituents parts that can be toxic to humans and marine organisms.

How Does Plastic Move Around the World?

Climate inevitably influences the movement of plastics between environments. Plastics are circulated by the flow of water and wind. Extreme weather, like floods and windy storms, can move plastics from one system to another. Flooding riverine systems can transport plastics into the ocean; tropical storms from oceans can push plastics into onto terrestrial surfaces. Releasing plastic into the ocean or onto landfills is not the end of that plastic’s life cycle. Plastic and microplastics continue to impact the ecosystems long after they have been disposed of by humans.

How Does Plastic Affect Marine Ecosystems?

Climate change is altering the distribution of many species by subjecting them to novel thermal conditions. When marine habitats heat up, the species within them are usually forced to move to new regions to find more suitable temperatures. Heating oceans also contribute to hypoxic zone and coral bleaching. Plastic, on the other hand, can is ingested by marine species, which can low survival odds. In some cases, marine animals become entangled by plastic products or have their feeding pathways obstructed.

Plastic also potentially facilitates species migrations because plastic debris attracts encrusting organisms and microbial communities. Therefore both climate change and plastic pollution can contribute to species movement between ocean regions. Increased species mobility can bring about invasive species risks.

How Does Plastic In the Ocean Affect Climate Change?

Authors of the review, “The Fundamental Links Between Climate Change and Marine Plastic Pollution”, reason that climate change and plastic pollution are fundamentally linked to one another. Plastic production is heavily dependent on fossil fuel use and the release of greenhouse gases as it degrades in oceans, both of which enhance ocean heating and climate change. Plastic dispersal across environments influenced by climate change-driven extreme weather. Marine ecosystems and species are vulnerable to these threats.

Climate Change Impacts on Seabirds and Marine Mammals

A new review published in Ecology Letters, a peer-reviewed scientific journal, assessed seabird and marine mammals’ responses to climate change and climate variability. Researchers based their analysis on data from more than 480 preexisting studies and found that “the likelihood of concluding that climate change had an impact increased with study duration”.

In other words, detecting the influence of climate change on certain species requires long-term observations. Furthermore, the analysis posits that species which had more limited temperature tolerance ranges and relatively longer generation times were reported to be most affected by changes in climate. (Generation times are temporal intervals between the birth of an individual organism and the birth of its offspring).

Seabird species: Australian Pelican (Pelecanus conspicillatus)

How Does Climate Change Affect Marine Life?

From the 484 peer-reviewed studies that matched researcher’s inclusion criterion, 2,215 observations were compiled into a database and mapped. This includes 1,685 observations for seabirds and 530 observations for marine mammals. 54% of observations for seabirds were distributed towards northern hemisphere (39% of observations from temperate and polar regions). For marine mammals, 83% of observations were distributed toward the northern hemisphere (53% of observations from temperate and polar regions). For both seabirds and marine mammals, tropical and subtropical regions represented a mere 8% of total observations.

What Marine Life Is Most Affected by Climate Change?

Authors of the preexisting studies found 38% of total observations to be related to climate change, 49% were attributed to climate variability, and 13% were attributed to both. Reproductive success and adult survival were the most common response variables studied on both taxonomic groups (60% for seabirds and 34% for marine mammals). According to the new review, “a significant majority of observations concluded that climate change had an effect on both the seabird and marine mammal groups for all the response classes”. Response classes include demography, distribution, condition, phenology, behavior and diet.

How Does Climate Change Affect Marine Biodiversity?

The longer the duration of the original studies, the more likely authors were to infer that the observed changes in taxonomic groups were due to climate change rather than climate variability. 189 of the preexisting studies (669 observations) that demonstrated climate change effects had a time span above the estimated average threshold of 19 years. Generally, studies on marine mammals were able to demonstrate climate change responses based on shorter time scales (17± 5 years) versus seabirds (22 ± 3 years).

What Is Causing Ocean Warming?

If you want to measure the rate at which global temperatures are rising, then the world’s oceans are perhaps the best places to observe. This is not only due to the fact that Earth’s surface is more than 70% water-covered, but also because ocean water absorbs 90% or more of Earth’s excess heat. Heat energy captured by ocean water is known as “ocean heat content”, which stores that heat for indefinite periods of time.

Ocean Heat Content

Because ocean water soaks up high proportions of atmospheric heat, they are essential for regulating Earth’s climate. Most of the ocean heating is stored at depths between 0 – 700 meters. Air would warm more rapidly without the ocean’s immense heat trapping capacity. Consequently, heat content builds near oceanic surfaces as they take on increasing amounts of heat.


Average Global Temperature by Year

A new analysis authored by 23 researchers that was published in the journal Advances in Atmospheric Sciences uses data across seven ocean basins to assess world ocean warming trends. The study titled, “Another Record: Ocean Warming Continues through 2021 despite La Niña Conditions”, finds that ocean waters have been monotonously increasing in temperature since the year 1958, and that the rate of change sharply quickened toward the end of the 1980s, with 2021 containing more heat energy than any other year on record since recordings began sixty years ago.

Was 2021 the Warmest Year On Record?

With this, 2021 beat the previous record set by 2020 as the year with the most heat energy in world oceans. The team used preexisting sets of data from various measurement devices in conjunction with climate model simulations to prove the accelerated rate of ocean warming in recent decades. It is then inferred that the relatively recent temperature spikes are mainly attributable to increased greenhouse gas concentrations brought on by human activity. The analysis asserts that “the increased concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere from human activities trap heat within the climate system and result in massive changes in the climate system”.

Table 1 from study: Another Record: Ocean Warming Continues through 2021 despite La Niña Conditions

Is the Climate Rising?

The study lists 2018, 2017, 2019, 2020, and 2021 (in order from least hot to most hot) as the hottest five years of the global ocean since the year 1955. These 5 years, which are quite recent and in close proximity to one another. This suggests that mean temperatures are approaching new highs.

Cowspiracy Ocean Facts Summary

Fisheries harvest marine organisms across the globe. While fisheries do generate food and profit, they could be doing much more harm than good for underwater ecosystems. The film Cowspiracy makes a convincing case for the deleterious affect that large-scale fishing operations have on ocean environments, species variety and species abundance. Cowspiracy depicts modern fishing as a largely unsustainable industry that could lead to fishless oceans by 2048.

fish near water surface
Fish near water surface

Fishing As Depicted By Cowspiracy

Fish and other marine life are mostly hunted as food. However, some species are used for other commodities. Sharks, for example, are sometimes hunted for their skin which can be used in the making of leather. Other species like whales and manatees are regularly harmed or killed unintentionally by getting caught in fishing nets. The Cowspiracy Facts page sites a Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) document which states that in the year 2017, between 51 – 167 billion farmed fishes had been killed for food. That same year an estimated 250 – 600 billion crustaceans were also farmed and killed for food. Even animals that are not eaten by humans are caught and killed inadvertently because of drift netting or trawling. Susan Hartland of Conservation Society says that animal populations are being extracted from oceans more quickly than they can recover. Marine species are therefore collapsing under the immense pressures of modern hunting. The unintended catches, sharks, sea turtles and dolphins, are referred to as bykill.

Keystone Species and Trophic Cascades

Apex predators often act as keystone species, meaning that they have disproportionately large effects in their natural environments. This makes the removal of sharks particularly concerning. As top predators, many sharks species exert top down influence in their respective food webs. The removal of sharks, and other keystone species increases trophic cascade risks. Trophic cascades are the ecological chain of events triggered by the removal or addition of top predators.

Agriculture, Fishing and Algae Blooms

“Livestock operations on land have created more than 500 nitrogen flooded dead zones around the world in our oceans…” According to Dr. Richard Oppenlander, an environmental researcher featured in the Cowspiracy film. Water pollution comes in the form of pesticides, herbicides, heavy metals, plastics and other waste material. However, animal agriculture is the leading cause of ocean pollution – a fact which is stated explicitly in the Cowspiracy film. Animal agriculture run-off upsets nutrient balances in aquatic ecosystems by introducing phosphorus, nitrogen, manure and potassium from chemical fertilizers. These excess nutrients can cause alae blooms, leading to uninhabitable zones for marine species. Blooms of algae drain sunlight and deplete oxygen levels – making the environment unsuitable for most other lifeforms in the ecosystem.

Bottom trawling contributes to inhabitable zones similarly. Bottom trawling, also referred to as “dragging” involves casting a fishing net to the sea floor. Trawling disturbs sediments along the sea floor which causes carbon to be released. Once carbon dioxide is released from sediments, it is then absorbed by ocean seawater. Elevated carbon levels allow water to trap in more heat and further facilitate algae and plant overgrowth.

What Environmental DNA (eDNA) Reveals About Migration From The Ocean Twilight Zone

So-called twilight zones, also known as disphotic zones or mesopelagic zones, house vast populations of unexploited fish and unexplored habitats, which make these aquatic regions extraordinarily interesting to marine researchers and conservationists. Environmental DNA metabarcoding may prove useful for learning about organisms that live down in ocean twilight zones and how these species travel. Equally as important, using environmental DNA for sampling can preserve the ecological processes and fragile species that inhabit these middle ocean zones.

What Is The Twilight Zone?

The twilight zone is a layer of water depth that is penetrated by significantly less light than what can be found closer to the water’s surface. For this reason, the twilight zone is cold and quite dark, making it unsuitable for most photosynthetic plant species. Twilight zones can be found around the world and are not unique to any specific body of water. According to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the twilight zone can be found at a depth of about 200 meters to 1000 meters (650 to 3,300 feet) beneath the water’s surface. This layer range is below the water’s photic layer- the sunlit area, and just above the midnight range.

EDNA Metabarcoding Animal Samples In The Mesopelagic Zone

While some species spend their lives in undisturbed depth range known as the twilight zone, many animals move in and out of it. Species fish, squid and plankton likely swim in darkness to find food or to keep away from predators. These traveling carry environmental DNA signatures with them, which reveals detailed information about the creature. A new study by researchers, Elizabeth Andruszkiewicz Allan, Michelle H. DiBenedetto, Andone C. Lavery, Annette F. Govindarajan and Weifeng G. Zhang simulates the physical conditions that cause environmental DNA samples to move through the twilight zones.

Their conclusion: environmental conditions like currents, wind, and mixing do not significantly impact the vertical distribution of DNA samples. To be precise, their computer generated model demonstrates that eDNA samples didn’t move beyond a 20 meter range of where it was released into the environment. If this model reflects the actual conditions of marine ecosystems in twilight zones, perhaps changes eDNA concentrations can be used to determine which fish species are present at a sea depth or how long species spend at varying depths. This has groundbreaking implications for tracking marine species travel patterns and migration more generally in aquatic ecosystems.

DNA double helix molecule strands
DNA double helix

More On Conservation

There is still much to learn about the carbon sequestration potential, ecological processes and biological diversity profiles of middle ocean twilight zones. Here at eco Treatise, we are quite vocal about the need to protect ecosystems during sampling missions, ultimately disturbing them as little as possible. Sampling techniques like trawling, bait camera trapping and other forms capture carry ethical concerns which could hamper further research.

Twilight zones likely provide ecological services to the network of species that migrate in and out of them, and more permanent inhabitants. In order to preserve full ecological function and avoid disturbing species, researchers will have to prioritize more minimally invasive sampling techniques. Sampling approaches that are minimally invasive to species and ecosystems are more likely to win over public approval.

Whales As Ecosystem Engineers

A new study published in Nature sheds light on the roles whales play in marine ecosystems. Researchers used metabolic models to estimate whale feeding volumes. Whale tagging and acoustic acoustic measurements were used to calculate whale prey densities in the Atlantic, Pacific, and Southern Oceans. Their results suggest that previous assessments greatly underestimated baleen whale prey consumption. Further, researchers reason that larger whale populations would add to the “productivity” of marine ecosystems by perpetuating iron recycling.

whale tail protruding from ocean's surface

Prey Consumption and Nutrient Cycling

Baleen whales are the largest carnivorous marine mammals, so naturally, they feed on tremendous amounts of krill, zooplankton and other prey. Krill is turned over in stomachs of whales (Mysticeti). Once krill has been digested, their iron contents are released back out into the aquatic ecosystem where it floats towards the water’s surface due to water pressure. Iron rich excrement yields nutrients for phytoplankton, which are microscopic plants that use photosynthesis to make energy.

Phytoplankton are then consumed by other creatures in the environment, including krill! Krill feed on the phytoplankton that grow using the nutrients from recycled metabolized – recycled – krill. In other words, baleen whales populations perpetuate nutrient cycling. At one level, krill are consumed by whales. Subsequently, whale waste supplements phytoplankton growth, which helps sustains krill populations.

By comparing the prey consumption more than 300 tracked whales in this new study to per-capita consumption estimates from the early 20th century, researchers were able to reason that southern krill populations has to be considerably higher than they are today. Whales were found to eat up to three times more krill and other prey than previous assessments have supposed.

Researchers were able to determine how much whales eat by tagging individual whales by attaching electronic devices on their backs. These electronic devices carry cameras, microphones and of course, GPS locators. These electronic tags, in conjunction with acoustic measurements of prey biomass, informed researchers on whale eating cycles and intake volume. Of course, prey intake varies between different species of whale.

The Krill Paradox

The almost infamous krill paradox refers to the mystery in marine ecosystems regarding the removal of large predators, like whales. When whales are hunted, and their populations consequently decrease, so do the population sizes of krill. This perplexes researchers because they intuitively expect krill populations to grow wildly in the absence of whales which eats thousands of tons of krill daily. Instead, the opposite is true: as whales are removed from the ecological system, krill populations shrink. The new study illuminates exactly why this phenomenon occurs. Krill depend on whales to produce nutrients for the microscopic plants that they eat. Declines in whale species members leads to fewer iron being sent toward the water’s surface in the form of whale excrement. Which ultimately contributes to less plentiful meals available for krill populations.

Implications For Restoration

The conclusions of this study may have potential for marine ecosystem restoration efforts. Conserving or enhancing marine ecosystems will not only demand limits on whale hunting, but also for the deliberate effort of whales, and likely other influential species. Species like whales are evidently essential for the continued functionality of the ecosystem that they are enveloped in.

What Are Ecosystem Services?

Ecosystems services are benefits to human welfare made possible by processes of the natural world. Modern livelihoods depend on nature for various services, materials and ingredients. Micro-bacteria in marine ecosystems produce oxygen. Plants and soils regulate our climate through capturing and storing carbon dioxide in the air. Wetlands curb flooding for coastal territories. Medicines are pulled from various kinds of plants like sage, ginger, turmeric and aloe vera. Ecosystems play a critical role in managing biological diversity, and supporting the food webs, species abundance and habitat variety which produce ecosystem services.

What then, are ecosystem services? They are natural capital, the biotic and abiotic benefits that people obtain from natural environments, plants, microscopic bacteria and animals. The 2006 Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MA) outlined four distinct categories of ecosystem services to help map the different kinds of benefits provided by habitats and natural environments. The categories are useful for identifying how an ecosystem service is beneficial, and perhaps hint at the value of the service.

Though it is impossible to put a price figure on nature’s contributions, we may determine the value of an ecosystem service by its utility, either for humanity, other species or the ecological system itself. Categorizing these services is useful for policy and research purposes. Which may be the reason that conservation efforts are usually designed to manage, protect or enhance an environment because human welfare-interests or economic motives. Overuse of an ecosystem’s resources is characterized by accelerated rates of species loss, habitat destruction, deforestation, changes in climate and pollution.

Four Types of Ecosystem Services

There are four main types of ecosystem services: provisioning, regulating, supporting and cultural. Each one of these classifications describes unique qualities made possible by ecological systems. A single ecosystem may encompass multiple types of services or it may offer only one.

managed park garden
managed ecosystem; garden

Provisioning Services

Provisioning ecosystem services are the substantive, or material benefits that humanity derives from ecosystems. This type of service includes raw materials like wood, fresh water, metals and medicinal herbs. Foods too are provisioning services, as they supply communities of people with the nutrients they need. Most human foods are grown on farms, synthesized from natural ingredients or extracted from animal stores. In any case, our foods and medicines are sourced from nature’s processes in some capacity or another.

Regulating Services

Regulating ecosystem services are sometime known as managing services. Services of this type governs various cycles and processes of the ecosystem. Regulating services play essential roles in managing the water cycle, the carbon cycle, soil quality, crop pollination and water purification. Regulating services also moderates climate and the intensity and frequency of weather events.

Supporting Services

The natural processes within ecosystems are part of the ecosystem’s own continued survival, health and maturity. As ecosystems mature, they grow more complex, supporting greater profiles of species richness and allow more interactions between organisms. Supporting services refer to an ecosystem’s capacity to sustain various forms of life and the operations that keep the ecosystem functioning.

Cultural Services

Our art, architecture, knowledge, religions, tourism and recreational practices are all influenced by cultural services. Cultural services are the non material contributions that we derive from the natural world.

Here’s Why Epicurious Left Beef Recipes Behind

slab of raw beef
slab of raw beef

This year, the food company Epicurious decided that it would not add anymore beef recipes to its “recipe’s list”. The company stated that it will no longer feature recipes that include beef on its homepage or social media feed. Epicurious made it obvious that they were leaving beef behind for climate change, and posted that “… think of this decision as not anti-beef but rather pro-planet”. In this decision, Epicurious supports sustainable agriculture in more ways that one.

Why Has Epicurious Banned Beef Recipes?

To promote sustainable agriculture, Epicurious will not longer add beef recipes to its site. The consequences of unsustainable farming practices are most apparent in water and land use. Livestock animals eat massive amounts of vegetation so that they can meet their caloric requirements. Cows are large animals and are costly to raise to maturity. Just one dairy cow may consume tens of thousands more calories than any human does, and their calories come strictly for plants. Growing enough food for livestock limits the amount of land and water that could be used for human consumable crops. Livestock animals also need space to roam, play and interact.

Why Are Cows Bad for the Environment?

We must be tactful in how we use land, as it is not an unlimited asset. The same is true of our air. Methane is an element of natural gas found in underground reserves, produced in land-fills and released during enteric fermentation in ruminants, like cows. As mentioned in Epicurious’ blog post, “Every Question You Have About Cattle, Climate, and Why Epicurious Is Done With Beef”, the crops fed to livestock is made using pesticides and fertilizer that are derived from fossil fuels.

When that feed is metabolized in cows, it is converted into manure that is then spread over fields or runs off into water ways. In certain water systems, organic waste introduces excess nutrients, such as phosphorus and nitrogen, and facilitates algae overgrowth. Algae blooms deplete the oxygen and sunlight from surface water ecosystems, causing illness and sometimes death in other species within the environment. On land, manure releases nitrous oxide and methane into airways and drives rising temperatures. The Environmental Protection Agency reports that in 2019, 10 percent of America’s greenhouse gas emissions came from its agriculture sector.

Epicurious has expressed that not eating beef is a means to reduce one’s carbon footprint. Here at ecoTreatise, we believe pork, chicken, seafood and dairy may also be left behind if chefs are looking to further reduce their overall environmental impacts. Sustainable lifestyles require that we be mindful of the water, land and energy intensity of the products we consume.