7 Ways to eat more sustainably

Our individual responsibility for the environment does not stop at recycling and driving a hybrid: the food we eat plays a huge part in our carbon footprint. Here are 7 ways we can eat more responsibly.

  1. Avoid beef

A 2014 study showed that the production of beef is around 10 times more damaging to the environment than any other form of livestock — including pork, poultry, eggs and dairy — because it requires so much land and water and its greenhouse gas emissions are so much higher. Being mindful of how much beef we consume is a crucial step in making our diet more environmentally friendly.

2. Prioritise plants

While beef is the number one concern when it comes to meat, animal products in general have a much higher environmental impact than plant-based foods such as fruit, vegetables, grains and pulses. In 2006, the UN calculated that the combined climate change emissions of animals bred for their meat were about 18% of the global total — more than cars, planes and all other forms of transport put together. Even going vegetarian one day a week can have a substantial impact on our carbon footprint, so it’s worth thinking about how to incorporate more plant-based meals into your diet.

3. Buy the right fish

The overfishing of certain species, as well as the dubious fishing methods sometimes employed, mean that buying sustainably-sourced fish is crucial in maintaining a good marine environment. The five most popular fish in the UK are cod, haddock, salmon, canned tuna and prawns, so these are the most important ones to focus on. Look at the labels and ensure they have been responsably sourced, or even better, choose to buy a less popular fish or seafood to relieve the pressure on the big five.

4. Consume local produce

If you have a garden or a terrace, or even a windowsill, you can plant herbs and vegetables fairly easily, particularly in the summer. Growing your own veg is one of the most sustainable ways of eating. But for those of us lacking a green thumb, a local farmers’ market will usually sell locally-sourced seasonal produce, which is beneficial to your local economy as well as keeping carbon footprint low given the limited transportation needed.

5. Eat seasonal

Eating seasonal ingredients is so important to the environment that we dedicated an entire blog post to breaking it down, but essentially seasonal produce requires less artificial stimulation to grow, keeping the use of lighting, heating, pesticides and fertilisers low. This is hugely beneficial to the environment as it limits the amount of dangerous gas emissions released into the atmosphere.

6. Buy Fairtrade

When you see a Fairtrade logo you may think of better working conditions for farmers, but in addition they also helps to promote more sustainable agricultural practices. While Fairtrade doesn’t necessarily mean organic, it does ban a huge list of pesticides, and the organisation encourages producers to leave buffer zones around conservation areas and minimize water use for irrigation. In addition, by buying Fairtrade you’ll likely be supporting smaller, independent producers who are more likely to use natural harvesting methods.

7. Start a compost bin

Composting is good for the environment for three reasons: it stops your food waste from going to landfill, it helps land retain moisture so that it doesn’t need as much water and it limits the need for commercial fertilisers. All you need to start a compost pile is a little bit of land, a container, some leaves and weeds, and patience. You can then use it for houseplants, grass or flowers, and even if you never use the compost, it’s still keeping waste out of landfill.

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