SEAWEED TO THE RESCUE
Packed with calcium, potassium, magnesium, iodine and vitamin C, seaweed (or marine macroalgae) is a superfood that’s low in carbohydrates and high in protein. Celebrity chef Jamie Oliver has even attributed his weight loss to seaweed, calling it the “most nutritious vegetable in the world.” Sure, seaweed is delicious and good for you but did you know that it’s good for the planet, too? Environmentalists have long praised this marine plant as a potential climate change solution, and the rest of the world is finally starting to take notice. Over the past decade, seaweed cultivation projects and start-ups have popped up around the world with researchers, farmers and business entrepreneurs celebrating marine plants and seagrasses for their role in carbon sequestration, ocean de-acidification and as a zero-input food source.
WHAT’S SEAWEED GOT TO DO WITH CARBON CAPTURE?
Seaweed has been touted as a promising way to slow climate change because of its impressive ability to absorb carbon dioxide—the primary greenhouse gas contributing to climate change. By capturing or “sequestering” CO2 during photosynthesis and storing it in its plant tissues, seaweed forests have the potential to play an important role in reducing greenhouse gas emissions (and you can too, by eating more seaweed, for example). According to a study published in Nature Geoscience, seaweed absorbs carbon dioxide more efficiently than trees, and it’s estimated that it stores about 175 million tons of carbon around the world each year or about 10% of the world’s car emisssions. And that’s not all. Seaweed also improves the marine environment by extracting pollutants such as nitrogen and phosphorus from the sea, mitigating coastal erosion and enhancing marine biodiversity.
SEAWEED + THE SEA
As we pump more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, more of the gas dissolves into the world’s oceans, increasing the acid content of seawater and threatening shellfish and coral reefs. But seagrasses can help by absorbing CO2 from the ocean during photosynthesis, raising the pH to higher (less acidic) levels. Scientists have theorized that the removal of carbon dioxide by underwater vegetation can help support healthy reef ecosystems and recent studies provide compelling evidence to substantiate that theory.
Unlike land-based crops, seaweed is known as a “zero-input food” because it requires no additional fertilizer, pesticides, fresh water, feed or land to flourish. All it needs is the sun and the sea to grow up to 30x faster than land-based vegetables. It’s also a regenerative food source, contributing to the food web and providing a habitat for various marine species. These are just a few of the reasons seaweed farming has grown exponentially over recent decades, with more US farmers growing seagrasses than ever before.
HOW TO ADD SEAWEED TO YOUR DIET
The moral of the story? Eat more seaweed. We can all make choices that help tackle the climate crisis and they can be as simple (and easy) as incorporating more sustainable food choices into our daily diet. Start with healthy swaps: reach for seaweed snacks instead of chips or make seaweed the main attraction. Instead of carb-heavy tortillas, use nutrient-dense seaweed sheets and nori sheets to make delicious gluten-free turkey wraps or salmon rice bowls. You’ll be helping to combat climate change one salty, crunchy, delicious bite at a time.