It’s well-known that people, more than ever, are getting very real about their food.
Vegetarianism and veganism have been around for a long while, but it’s taken them a long time to take off. That’s partly because people are becoming more aware about the practices about get the animal and dairy products from the farms onto our plates.
Because we’re now more connected – and we’re more in the know – than ever, it’s having a real effect on the way we consider what we’re eating. Even if we’re not going full vegetarian or vegan, we’re still making changes to our diet that have positive benefits to us and to the world at large; all in the name of helping our planet. The food industry is one of the many ways we’re clogging up our planet and its atmosphere, so we’re taking steps to reduce that as much as possible.
Of course, it’s good to say you want to. It’s a great start! But if you don’t know how, then having an eco-friendly diet becomes impossible. Luckily, there are loads of way you can make your diet more eco-conscious – and here’s how.
1. Cut down on meat
If you didn’t know already, then it’s likely you’ve been living under a rock. Meat production and its associated impacts – for example greenhouse gases, for which meat and dairy make up a quarter of the world’s emissions, and transportation and packaging – make it one of the biggest contributors to human’s effect on climate change today.
Scientists have already started to encourage people in rich countries to cut back on the amount of meat in our diets. While this doesn’t mean becoming vegetarian or vegan if you don’t want to, it does mean limiting the amount of meat you consume on a weekly basis. Plus, it benefits your health too, significantly reducing your chance of heart disease.
Saving a meat day for Sunday to have a roast dinner, for example, is a way that this can work. Plant-based foods such as beans, nuts and pulses have a much less dramatic effect on climate change, and will replace the protein lost from your diet by cutting back on meat.
2. Less palm oil
Sometimes the worst effects on the environment are the ones that we don’t know as much about. While cutting down on meat is probably the most famous method we can employ, palm oil is also a significant factor that we can help reduce.
The problem with palm oil is its impact on forestation and wildlife. The deforestation palm oil production demands kills biodiversity, releases carbon into the atmosphere and endangers animals.
Palm oil is a significant ingredients for a huge array of products, so although it is currently impossible to get rid of palm oil from our diets entirely, it is possible to try and reduce the amount of unsustainably-farmed palm oil in your diet. Looking out specifically for food companies that help in the fight against unsustainable palm oil production can boost your eco-conscious credentials, without skimping on vital nutrition that you need.
(Palm oil is used in products such as laundry detergent too, so if it’s possible to buy your non-food products sustainably – do it!)
3. Look out for the packaging
Although this isn’t about the food itself, our diets aren’t just about what we eat. Accommodating for the process around eating might change our diets too.
Once again, it’s pretty much impossible to cut out plastic from our lives entirely, but keeping an eye on the amount of packaging your food and drink come in can be an instrumental change to your environmental practices.
The less plastic, the better. Choose recyclable plastics over wasteful plastics, but keep in mind that even though more and more plastic is becoming recyclable, it still seriously injures the Earth. Products like boxed water are becoming increasingly available, and cardboard is always preferable.
4. Pay attention to the source
There’s a reason why strawberries are usually much tastier during summer.
In a world of immediate, instant food from all over the world, the food industry constantly aims to meet the demand of customers requesting food that doesn’t usually grow all year, so more resources are piled into sustaining supply.
As these operations require energy as much as anything else, it’s an extra burden upon a world that hasn’t asked for it.
Keep in mind which foods are meant to be produced during certain seasons. In these times, the produce comes a little easier, so the strain on the world is less.
Also, check where the food is coming from. Transportation is a major source of carbon emissions, overseas flights the worst of all in this subset, so opting for food grown and produced locally or closer to home (Britain and Europe are always good shouts) will tell supermarkets and producers that they can take their foot off the pedal a bit more.
Not you – your food!
One of the ways to eat sustainably is also a way to eat cheaply – particularly helpful if you’re on a low income or a student. Freezing meals to reheat another time means your food shop lasts for much longer, which is great news if you need to make those pounds stretch.
However, it’s not just about that. Making fewer trips to the supermarket reduces the burden of your demand on their supply. Plus, if you’re making multiple meals, you’re using up more products that would otherwise go off if not used – the impact of your food waste will be reduced, as a bonus.
6. Use up
One of the ways we can lessen the strain on the environment is to reduce food waste as much as we can, individually and collectively. While companies are where the overwhelming majority of food waste comes from, we as individuals need to be better at not throwing things out too prematurely.
Obviously, if it smells off or has mould on it, then don’t eat it. Don’t sacrifice your health. But, by and large, labels on food products are a little too cautious about when you can eat them. Use-by dates are one of the main perpetrators of this.
If you’re prepared to take another step, then sign up to organisations that specifically fight against food waste – volunteering for companies such as Olio, and using apps like Neighbourly Food – to put food waste fighting at the core of your diet. You can save the environment and get great food while you’re at it!