Food has the second highest carbon footprint contribution in our lives. A quarter of global emissions comes from food. There is a carbon cost in how it is produced, such as using heated/cooled greenhouses, pesticides, animal food and chemical fertilizers. There is also a cost when it is processed, transported and stored. Then there is the waste problem, the less waste the better.
However not many know which foods have the highest carbon footprint.
Meat is the biggest contributor, especially beef. Half of emissions from food are from animal products so reducing the amount of meat in our diet is an obvious place to start, and eating less meat and more vegetables is healthy too. How often do you eat meat? If you eat it every day why not start with meat-free-Monday?
This will help you try new foods and start to explore cooking without meat, which can be daunting if you aren't used to it. Once you are more comfortable then gradually reduce it more until you eat meat once a week. Include beans and pulses and you'll be getting plenty of healthy protein.
You might like to try a non-dairy milk too. Dairy milk has 3 times the carbon footprint of other alternatives. Plant-based milks have added vitamins and calcium and can be used in cooking and baking, as well as drinking.
My favourite is hot chocolate made with oat milk, it's delicious. Cutting meat and dairy products from your diet could reduce an individual's carbon footprint from food by two-thirds, according to an Oxford study, published in the journal Science.
Even if you choose to reduce meat and dairy, rather than cutting it out altogether, you'll still be making a big difference. When you do eat meat, choose better quality such as local, grass fed and organic. If you eat it less often then maybe you can afford to pay a bit more for the quality.
It's not all about meat though. We are used to having all manner of fruits and vegetables in our supermarkets all year round, but is this planet friendly? There's a big difference between buying a tomato in January to buying it in August. Do you know when foods are in season?
The best way to ensure you are eating seasonally is to sign up for a veg box, our local suppliers are Paul's Organic Veg and Langton's Farm. The market has locally grown food too. You'll be surprised what you get and it's always a treat when you get the first strawberries of the year in July or the asparagus in February. It always tastes best when it's in season too because it's full of nutrients.
Try to cook as much as you can, and try to learn how to substitute ingredients for ones in season, mix it up a bit! Stir fries and curries are brilliant, you can chuck pretty much anything in with a sauce and they taste great.
It's even better if you grow your own. Why not try something easy like Rhubarb, strawberries and new potatoes. All of these can be grown in containers and will taste so much better than anything you'll find in the supermarket.
Organic food is more planet friendly because of the lack of pesticides and chemical fertilizers, taking care of our soil. Organic food tends to be more expensive, but the prices have become more comparable recently, have a look next time you're shopping. You might decide to choose a few items to go organic with such as eggs, flour, milk etc. Organic animal products have high standards of animal welfare too.
When it comes to waste there is a lot we can do. Make sure you know what's in your fridge or cupboard. Move items with a short date to the front so you don't forget it is there and get a nasty surprise! When you open a jar write the date you opened it on the label with a marker pen so you know when it's time to chuck it away. If you know you aren't going to eat something in time then freeze it.
Have a look at portion sizes. Weigh or scoop out your rice or pasta before you cook it so you don't cook too much, and buy your food loose so you only buy what you need.
So, in summary, you do have the power to Eat Green and help the planet. Give it a go!
· Reduce the amount of animal products you use
· Learn to eat seasonal foods
· Find local suppliers
· Buy organic