Can we save the planet through food? – By Laura Mayo

We’ve recently been told that we need to lower our carbon footprint by 2030 in order to save the planet. What can we do about it? How do we live in a more sustainable way?

We could drive less, take fewer plane journeys, reduce our shower time, leave the heating off until we really need it… and many, many more. I’m going to focus on changes we can make to our diet.

Here are my top three ways in which you, as an individual, can help.

Reduce the amount of animal products you’re consuming

It has been estimated that if the UK population reduced their intake of animal produce, the carbon footprint of the nation could be lowered by 32%, largely due to the decrease in methane that would occur. This gas is released in the digestive system of farm animals.

This doesn’t necessarily mean we all have to give up animal products. We just need to reduce the amount we’re consuming. This could be as simple as halving the amount of meat and dairy you’re currently eating or introducing a meat and dairy-free day every week.

If you’re interested in going further and trying vegetarianism or veganism, then go for it! Check this out to get some nutrition advice before changing your diet and this for ideas and help in reducing animal products.

Embrace a British diet

This has become a favourite of mine after completing a week of eating nothing but UK grown food last year. It really reduces your food miles, which in turn will lower your carbon footprint. I calculated my food miles for one day of eating my usual diet and it came to 62,210!

You can calculate your own here. I haven’t continued to only eat food from Britain, but I do try to buy as much as I can that’s been grow here.

During my “British diet” week I was pleasantly surprised to find lots of fresh produce at a local market that had all been grown in my region. If that isn’t an option for you, supermarkets offer a lot of produce that is UK grown.

I found my nearest supermarket (Tesco) clearly marked the country of origin on their fruit and veg and had a fair amount of UK grown food, which made it easier to choose these items.

If you’re buying meat, Morrisons and Aldi are great options as they only buy this from British farmers. For fish, look for the MSC label, which means you’ll be purchasing fish that has been sustainably caught and has harmed fewer marine animals.

What I really struggled with was pantry items, such as rice, lentils and beans, as the bulk of these come from outside the UK. However, Hodmedod’s is a farm in Essex selling items such as these that are all UK grown.

They’re more expensive than similar options in the supermarkets, so won’t be an option for everyone, but do use and support them if you can. You can bulk buy from the farm or if you’re lucky enough to live near Unicorn GroceryThe 8th Day or The Good Life in Manchester you can pick up Hodmedod products there.

The Good Life is also great for reducing your use of plastic packaging as it sells refills for lots of products. In the UK almost half of our plastic use is packaging so trying to reduce this is another step you can take to help save the planet. If you’d liked to look into reducing your use of plastic further a good place to start is the WWF’s ten tips to reduce your plastic footprint.

Reduce your food waste and buy in season

I know, I’m cheating here as this is two points but they’re both so important!

Buying in season will save you money as well as the planet. It’s usually cheaper as there’s an abundance of it and it hasn’t travelled as far. At the same time, less energy has been required to grow the food when compared to the effort necessary to grow food out of season.

All of this means a reduction in the carbon footprint of the food. On top of all that, it tends to be tastier and more nutritious than out of season food!

You might find this helpful to work out what’s in season before you go shopping. I found it a bit confusing at first but I just made lists of items to look out for in the shops. After a while you start to remember what to get at different times of the year.

Food waste has a huge impact on the environment and is something fairly easy to change as it only requires a slight shift in habits, rather than a drastic change to your diet.

The UN has published a goal to halve food loss and waste by 2030 and as 15% of the EU’s greenhouse gas emissions in the food chain are due to food waste only, it’s a problem that needs addressing. You can read more about this here.

Simple steps in reducing food waste can make a big impact when everyone starts doing them. Some habits I’ve been trying to get into are refrigerating left overs so I can have them the next day, choosing veg from the fridge that’s going to go off before others when I’m cooking and taking food home from a restaurant when I can’t finish it.

Have a look at the Love Food Hate Waste website for more ideas on how to reducing your food waste, including a portion planner to help you buy just what you need and recipes ideas for using up leftover food items!

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4 thoughts on “Can we save the planet through food? – By Laura Mayo

  1. Fabulicious!
    Didn’t make me feel as guilty as I thought it would. There are some things I can actually do. Xx f

    1. Hi Fran, thank you for reading! I’m glad I didn’t make you feel guilty and that there are some things you can do 🙂 x

  2. Hi Laura,
    Really well thought out and written blog.
    Just a few thoughts that occurred to me whilst I was reading it.
    Eating local and in season food is something we can all do relatively easily, wasting less food may be slightly harder.
    As chicken consumption is now second to beef, I believe, reducing the amount of chicken we eat will not do much to reduce methane emissions I fear.
    I also think most of the things you suggest could, and probably should, be easily be adopted by middle income households but not so for low income families.
    Look forward to reading your next.

    1. Hi Dave,

      Thank you for taking the time to read my blog and reply.

      I agree that wasting less food is harder. I find this hard myself and I don’t believe that any of us are going to do this perfectly. We just have to do what we can.

      I think you’re right about chicken. My advice to reduce meat consumption is very general but if I’d gone into more detail I would have suggested reducing or giving up red meat over other types for those looking to reduce, rather than stop, their consumption of meat. However, I have hope and believe anything we do, however small, can help. If everyone were to reduce their chicken consumption, for example, I believe this would reduce emissions. Of course, we would need a lot of people to play their part…

      You’re also right about income, although low income families in general do not contribute to emissions as heavily as middle and higher income families. I do think it’s important for everyone to play their part, if they are able to, but of course circumstances such as low income will determine what someone is able to achieve. However, we don’t need everyone to be doing everything they can to lower emissions. We just need everyone (or at least a majority) to be doing something, however small.

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