One of the most effective things you can do to make your lifestyle more eco-friendly is to eat sustainably. A quarter of global greenhouse gas emissions come from food, over half of that from animal products. There are lots of simple ways to reduce the impact of your food on the environment.
Reduce your intake of animal products
Meat and dairy products are energy-intensive and inefficient to produce. Raising and transporting livestock uses more food, water, land, and energy than producing plant foods. Avoiding meat and dairy products is the simplest way to reduce your impact on the planet.
If you don’t want to be vegan or vegetarian, then be a ‘flexitarian’ and reduce your consumption of meat and dairy by using plant foods such as nuts and lentils or soy products for some meals. The carbon footprint of meat varies hugely depending on where and how it’s produced, so try to buy local free range, grass fed and organic if possible. Beef, lamb and dairy products have a much higher carbon footprint than poultry, with pork somewhere between.
Or become a ‘piscatarian’ by replacing meat with sustainably caught fish – see the Good Fish Guide from the Marine Conservation Society.
If your family think a meal is not a meal without meat, take a look at Proper Healthy Food: Hearty vegan and vegetarian recipes for meat lovers by Nick Knowles, or The Flexible Vegetarian: Flexitarian recipes to cook with or without meat and fish by Jo Pratt. Vegetarian food for Meat Eaters by Robert Lindop has recipes for meat substitutes such as Quorn.
Eat more wholefoods
Wholegrains, nuts, beans and lentils are less processed than factory refined products and are better for you. They can often be bought loose or in bulk which reduces packaging. Avoid junk foods which are usually full of processed ingredients.
Buy local and seasonal
Farmers markets are a great place to buy organic foods and local produce. You are supporting the local economy and the food is fresher. In-season produce is almost always going to cost less and avoid the extra energy use and costs of long-distance transport or heated greenhouses.
Over one third of all the food produced globally goes to waste and in most developed countries over half of that food waste is in the home. This costs the average UK family about £700 per year.
Planning meals in advance and using up leftovers reduces wasted food. Avoiding junk foods and processed foods reduces packaging waste. Eating simply reduces the amount of food you need to buy. See Love Food Hate Waste for loads more ideas and recipes.
Join the food sharing revolution. Olio is a free app that connects people with each other and with local shops so that surplus groceries, food nearing its sell-by date in-store, home-grown vegetables etc can be shared instead of thrown away. It can be used for non-food household items too.
Or the app Too Good To Go links users with shops and restaurants selling surplus food at very low prices rather than throwing it away.
Grow your own
If possible, grow some or all of your own veg. If you don’t have a garden, you may be able to rent an allotment or join with a community garden group. At the very least, you can grow your own sprouted seeds and beans on a windowsill – see Start sprouting
Find out your food’s climate footprint at bbc.co.uk
See also our post on Composting food waste