I had a scintillating conversation on the topic of sustainable eating habits with a vegetarian friend. “I am torn”, she said. “I have just found out that almond milk may just be worse for the environment than eating Cumberland sausages. I became vegetarian to make a difference to the planet, and now this!”
Looking for simple answers to complex problems seems to be the flavor of our times. Well-meant activism manifesting everywhere — often without the necessary fact base. Common sense helps you get off to a good start to reducing your environmental footprint. Strawberries for Christmas? Probably not locally grown in London. Argentinian prime beef covered in Zanzibari spices? Not great for the environment. After the obvious ones it gets trickier, however. Salmon or avocado? Sausage or cheese? Or indeed, almond milk or your regular, dairy based swill?
As a society we are only at the very beginning of assessing the true environmental impact of our daily habits. The only way to be sure is by creating a fact base in the form of carbon footprint calculations that allow facts-based comparisons.
In the meantime there are some simple ways to look out for our planet in our day-to-day
- Stop smoking — cigarette butts are the single greatest polluter of oceans according to an NBC (https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/plastic-straw-ban-cigarette-butts-are-single-greatest-source-ocean-n903661) report.
- Avoid food waste. The environmental impact of a slice of salami is over 5 times that of its package. Around 50% of all food is wasted for various reasons. Adequate packaging helps reduce it. And so does our attitude. Leftover Mondays, empty-the-fridge Fridays are now a thing in our household — and they make a nice addition to pancake Tuesdays, which have been a “thing” for much longer
- Holiday like your parents did. In my childhood we’d book the one holiday per year. Mostly we’d go in a full car, taking toys, pets and what-have-you with us. All other travel throughout the year would be domestic. Nowadays cheap flights make week-ends in Dubai or 4-day getaways in Morocco much more affordable. Let’s be honest with ourselves: these trips are not great for the environment.
- Take public transport. Gustavo Petro’s famous quote rings truer than ever in this age of global warming: “A developed country is not a place where the poor have cars. It’s where the rich use public transportation”. A lot of our car use is down to habit. The use of public transport may take a bit of extra time but it does free your hands up for something productive like reading.
Since I began writing this post the COVID-19 situation has changed the public discussion around sustainability. Protecting food and extending shelf life while reducing food waste has become a daily topic, while pollution and waste are secondary to public health during a pandemic. At the same time mother earth’s lungs breathe a sigh of relief as industrial production especially of non-essential goods has plummeted and the world travels more carefully. While public transport is a great idea in normal times, Londoners are well advised to walk these days.
With best wishes for the health of you and your family,
Hery Henry | www.heryhenry.com