Read the new Green Impact blog written by Chloe, one of this year’s Green Impact Project Assistants. Chloe writes about how our food choices affect the environment and suggests some easy ways to minimise our impact.
Eating is one of the few things all seven and a half billion of us humans do, whether it be a “Big Mac and fries” from the USA or “Bak kut teh” from Malaysia. It’s no surprise then that this process of global grazing can seriously affect the world around us, for better or for worse, but how can we ensure that the food we eat is good for ourselves and good for the planet?
1. Eat Locally and Seasonally
Although it may seem a hassle at first, growing your own food can be extremely beneficial to our bodies and the world around them. Growing produce yourself can give an unparalleled appreciation of how food production works and provides you with fresh, completely organic food at a low cost. Additionally, growing your own food prevents burning fossil fuels in long-distance transportation of imported foods. Despite common preconceptions, it can be easy, as well as fulfilling, to grow your own fruit and veg, with Herbs, Tomatoes and Potatoes being some of the easiest to keep and will even grow with limited space. If you’re interested in growing your own fruit and veg contact The Animal and Plant Science Green Impact lead Andy Krupa who will be running Homegrown Lunch events later in the year.
Even if you aren’t able to ‘grow your own’ buying seasonal and local products is an easy but effective way to minimise your environmental impact, whilst ensuring you buy only the tastiest produce. This month and next look for beetroot, apples, clementines, celery, kale and leeks to help maximise on flavour and reduce your carbon footprint.
2. Reduce Waste
According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation (of the UN)1 more than one-third of food produced for human consumption globally is lost or wasted. This year, France took important steps in reducing corporate waste, fining supermarkets who simply throw away excess food instead of donating it2. This move represents how more consumers will have to step up to the plate to take responsibility of their own waste. Here’s some FOOL-proof top tips to reduce food waste:
Freeze – Make use of your freezer by storing foods you know you won’t eat to preserve use-by dates (for example bread or batch prepared meals).
Olio – Investigate Olio, an app designed for reducing waste; it allows users to advertise food they don’t want, and others can collect it for free. The app is also partnered with companies including ‘Pret a Manger’, so it’s a great way to find a high-quality meal for free.
Organisation – Buy smartly; plan meals ahead and try to avoid excessive buying.
Leftovers – Try to be efficient and creative with leftovers- make soups and smoothies with going off fruit and veg, or banana bread always go down a treat!
3. Cut Down on Plastic
Globally, we recycle less than a fifth of all our plastics3. This means that in the time it takes the average person to read up to THIS point in the article, around 750,000 pounds of plastic will have been put into our oceans! (Proportionally, 1.5 million pounds of plastic is dumped into our oceans every hour)4. All this plastic in our oceans can be highly damaging to sea life.
Most people take their own bags to supermarkets, but additional action is also necessary. Aim to buy loose fruit and veg, and if necessary paper or compostable bags can be used for storage. It’s also worthwhile finding products with minimal plastic or in recyclable packaging. The zero-waste shop in the SU is great as you won’t even have to spend extra time searching for eco-friendly products – they all are!
4. Reduce meat intake
Whilst it is undeniably true that Veganism is not suitable for everyone, and sometimes labelling dietary choices can become complicated and lead to unnecessary pressure, reducing meat intake can only have positive effects on the environment. It’s great that more people than ever are supporting the ‘Veganuary’ challenge, however Vegan or Vegetarian diets should be taken up in a safe and informed way.
More consideration is required to incorporate specific nutrients into your diet, for example B12. This vitamin is responsible for making our red blood cells and is crucial for brain and nervous system function making it an essential part of our diet. However, Vitamin B12 is only found in animal products and so supplementation is necessary (and easily available) if you’re planning on a plant-based diet.
Calcium can sometimes provide a problem since the calcium in plant-based foods is not efficiently absorbed by the body. Vitamin C aids with calcium absorption so consuming these vitamins together will help maintain sufficient levels of this important nutrient. Some good plant-based sources of calcium are fortified plant milks and dark leafy greens.
When reducing animal products, most people are concerned about keeping up levels of protein- especially those who perform lots of exercise. However, the idea that it’s hard to be an athlete and follow a plant-based diet is simply a myth! Legendary tennis player Serena Williams, boxer David Hayes and footballer Jermaine Defoe all follow a largely or completely plant-based diet. If you’re looking for plant-based sources of protein, pulses, tofu, nuts and seeds all provide protein in high levels but try to get a combination for complete protein sources.
Carried out correctly, a plant-based diet is astonishingly positive for our bodies and the world. The meat industry is responsible for huge amounts of water use (a chicken uses 4,325 litres of water per kilogram compared to 322l/kg for vegetables)5. Additionally, the Food and Agricultural Organisation has said the largest usage of land is livestock. This has led to huge amounts of deforestation which has many environmental impacts such as allowing greater quantities of greenhouse gases to be released into the atmosphere.6
Since food is responsible for between 20-30% of greenhouse gas emissions globally7 it is essential to make conscious food choices. These tips demonstrate small changes you can make that will have a big impact on the planet and help to reduce your carbon footprint.
- Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. SAVE FOOD: Global Initiative on Food Loss and Waste Reduction
- (2016). Chrisafis, A. French law forbids food waste by supermarkets.
- National Geographic. Parker, L. We made plastic. We depend on it. Now we’re drowning in it.
- National Academy of Sciences.
- Institution of Mechanical Engineers. Promoting economic growth while mitigating and adapting to climate change and the depletion of natural resources is key to a flourishing economy.
- Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations. Livestock and the Environment
- Six tips to help you eat more sustainably