The environmental aspects the biggest pro, in my opinion


#1

I feel that if they manage to make Soylent vegan (they already have, right?) and we can also make sure that every ingredient in the mixture is from a sustainable source, then this is the ultimate fix for the environmentalist such as myself.

I can’t wait to see how this all develops, and I’m sure the team behind Soylent wants to make it as sustainable as possible.

Or am I missing something here?


#2

If you were optimising your food solely for minimal environmental impact, I’d have thought that devolved food production in the form of growing crops locally would be the way to go. That is, each town has its own largeish allotments, and cities have greenhouses. This minimises transport environment-costs. To me, the main benefit of Soylent is nutritional completeness with no thought involved in its preparation. Of course, eco-friendly Soylent would be an excellent thing, but we don’t actually have much information about that (of which I am aware, anyway).


#3

I haven’t seen any analysis of how efficiently the processed ingredients can be created vs consumption of crops, but theoretically soylent would have less environmental impact than a world with exclusively local farming.

  • There is an incredible amount of waste with normal food.
  • Certain areas/climates are better suited for crop growth than others
  • Even with hydroponics and advanced greenhouse high yield super efficient GMO, economies of scale would make it cheaper to mass produce
  • Transportation costs (in terms of carbon footprint) will go down to 0 in the long term.

#4

The idea that eating local is better for the environment is kind of a fallacy. It can be in lots of cases, but…

  1. Transportation accounts for a fairly small fraction of a food’s carbon footprint. The practice of growing, fertilizing, harvesting, and processing the food is generally far more energy intensive. In these categories, smaller local farms are generally less efficient than larger farms, because of economy of scale.
  2. Even when it comes to transportation, shipping food from far away can be more efficient than getting local food. Local food is usually transported in several different, small deliveries to local restaurants. Food shipped from large far away farms usually stops at several different locations in a single delivery. When you look at the carbon emissions per unit of food, this the larger shipments are usually more efficient.

That being said, I think Soylent would generally be extremely efficient. Going vegetarian or vegan is already one of the biggest ways (arguably the biggest) to lower an individual’s carbon footprint. Growing meat is extremely energy intensive and wasteful. When it comes to shipping, you’re getting an entire week or month of food in a single shipment. Plus, it’s shipped as powder so it’s less shipping weight.

I think this is a huge selling point.


#5

I really don’t know how much the mining-for-minerals affects the Soylent environment tally, though. I certainly agree that there is waste with normal food, but that’s with us not optimising for environmental friendliness - almost all of that could in principle be eliminated if the government were to require that a plan be put in place to minimise environmental impact. (I’m talking about a hypothetical situation in which we cared enough about environmentally-friendly food to make it the top food-related priority beyond “keep everyone alive”.)

Economies of scale make it cheaper to mass-produce, yes, but in this scenario, cost is not a priority.

Hmm, will transport cost really go down to 0? OK, I can imagine that in fifty years if we ever get fusion and excellent battery technology then yes, but this is very long-term - I was thinking of plans that could in principle be started now.

The biggest hurdle does indeed sound like the Dubai kind of situation (with extremely harsh conditions and no space). Perhaps then a centrally-manufactured Soylent for those places which really cannot grow their own food.

Point 2 - I’m working in a scenario where a decree comes from on high that “we must reduce the environmental impact of our food, no excuses”. Presumably then the problem of food distribution would be fixed, and then it would presumably be much more efficient because the time isn’t spent on motorways, for instance.

Point 1, though - I didn’t know this. It sounds plausible, too (it passes my “is this really true?” detector). Do you have any sources? (If not, I’ll look myself - it’s an interesting topic :smiley: )

I certainly agree that Soylent would be much more efficient than meat-eating. (Then again, most things are…)


Carbon footprint of Soylent 1.0 production?
#6

I agree with you, I think thoughtfully manufactured food like this can go a long way toward addressing the nutritional needs of the X billion people supposedly on the way.

  • Soylent could be the ideal tool to alleviate starvation/meet basic nutritional needs in areas without stable governments – much more efficient than 1000lb. bags of rice etc. This eases pressure wild animal populations and allows people to work on something other than acquiring enough calories.
  • Dairy and meat production are unconscionably bad in many ways of course, and any reduction in their consumption is necessarily a good thing. I hope Soylent is delicious enough to move people away from thoughtless daily milk drinking, which of course supports/promotes the veal industry, among other evils.

can’t wait to try it.


#7
  1. I guess I was considering the environmental benefits as a personal choice for the consumer, or a selling point, which I think is different than your hypothetical scenario of a government decree.
  2. This study by Carnegie Mellon researchers says that transportation accounts for 11% of carbon emissions and delivery for 4%. More than 80% come from the production phase It was referenced in Superfreakonomics. It certainly is an interesting topic. This episode on local food from the Skeptoid podcast blog is worth reading/listening to. My first point in there is discussed as well.

#8

OK, I’m sold - assuming the mineral environment-requirements aren’t too onerous, then, it looks like Soylent may be better for the environment than whole-food. (I still think the biggest pro is not having to think about what you’re going to eat :smiley: )


#9

Yeah, I would be curious to know the environmental impacts of acquiring the minerals. I suppose it’s very possible that it can be a particularly wasteful process; after all, it is taking a resource and separating the one mineral you need. If that is the only use for the resource, I imagine it could be wasteful.

Soylent would actually have the unique potential of allowing a consumer to know precisely what the carbon footprint of their diet actually is. If you were to eat a cheeseburger, for example, there are several different ingredients that have so many steps from farm to plate. It’s difficult to understand the environmental impacts of a single meal, let alone every meal you have in a week. If the people at Soylent kept track of everything, you could easily get a very accurate estimate on your food.


#10

Yeah, exactly. Knowing my exact impact on the environment (hopefully as low as it could possibly be in this day and age) truly makes me fap the most about this product. People always whine that it’s hard or whatever to be green, but Soylent obviously couldn’t make it easier.

Aah, can’t wait to see where this is going, and hopefully, in time, a report on the exact progress from mineral to final product can be made!


#11

Yeah, that’s something I don’t think anyone has talked about yet. Their initial lofty mission statement made me assume… but can they get everything from renewable sources? It sounds like it should be a straightforward answer though.

I suppose once they release the ingredient list we can look up the production method of each.