Tips for sustainable eating
The food we eat has a huge impact on the environment. Food accounts for 30% of global greenhouse gas emissions and is one of the largest contributors to the climate crisis we are currently facing.
The world is facing a current food crisis which has produced widespread hunger across the world. Globally, there is 1 billion people who do not have enough to eat. This is expected to rise to and 3 billion within the next 50 years. However, in developed countries food waste is increasing on a monumental scale. It is estimated that UK households throw away 4.3 million tonnes of food waste each year.
With an ever-increasing human population and consumption green house gas emissions and hunger is expected to grow. We must take action now to meet climate targets and rethink the way we eat, to waste less and take sustainable steps moving forward.
Reduce Meat Intake
Livestock farming is one of the largest sources of climate-changing emissions and contributors to the degradation of the environment. The human population consumes around 230 million tonnes of animals each year, double that of 30 years ago.
Agricultural animals including chickens, cows, sheep, and pigs require vast amounts of water, food, and land. They also emit potent greenhouse gases such as methane and produce vast quantities of physical waste. Gases from animal agriculture arise from different sources.
Initially, gases are released when farmers plough the fields and plant the crops, and animals require large amounts of water to grow which in turn requires energy to transport. Animals and their manure release large amounts of the greenhouse gases. Electricity is required to transport animals, keep the meat cool and then cook meat. As we can see greenhouse gases are produced at every stage of the animal agricultural process.
Eat Local Produce
If you do not want to fully cut meat meat try from your diet you could try cutting back meat from your diet one day at a time like the millions who follow the #MeatlessMonday initiative.
Another way to reduce your environmental from meat consumption is to buy from local farmers.
Local farms often stock butchers, markets and farm shops nearby. This is compared to large supermarkets that stock meat from across Europe and the world which increases the carbon footprint of the meat.
By eating local produce know where your food is coming from and smaller scale farms have less impact on the environment when compared to larger industrial sized farms.
In the UK farming and dairies are currently being taken over by larger corporations that ship produce to opposite ends of the country and other parts of the world. Supporting local farmers is not only better for the environment but the farmers livelihoods themselves.
Eating local produce can reduce your foods carbon footprint massively. Think about trying to reduce the distance of food from the source to your plate. Though eating meat has a significant impact on the environment, so does meat replacements. Many vegetarians/vegans eat food that has been imported from other continents. Popular favorites include avocados and soy products. Carbon emissions are released from shipping and transport to the shops themselves.
Try to buy food that has been produced in the UK. Head down to your local greengrocers or market, where you can get freshly grown fruits, vegetables and local meat.
In addition to traditional dairy milk there are many milk drinks on the market catering to vegetarians/vegans. But which one has the least impact on the environment?
Dairy milk has three times the impact on the environment than any plant based milk.
A study found that one glass of dairy milk produces three times more greenhouse gas emissions when compared to each plant-based milk. Additionally, it requires nine times more land than any plant based alternatives. Land is required for cows feed to grow and their pastures. Subsequently methane is released, a potent greenhouse gas.
There are many plant based milk to choose from but they are not all environmentally sound.
Almond milk has huge negative impacts on the environment.
It is not produced in the UK, and instead it is shipped from other countries like the U.S.A.
It requires extensive water consumption where 1 glass of almond milk requires 130 pints of water.
The demand for increased crops is putting unsustainable pressures on bee keepers and the bee population. The increase in demand for almond milk has been linked to over 50 billion bee deaths in California.
Rice milk is inexpensive and widely available, however it has little nutritional benefits, and has profound negative environmental impacts.
Similarly to almond milk, rice requires large amounts of water to grow. Rice paddies are also home to bacteria which add large amounts of methane into the atmosphere.
Large amounts of fertilisers pollute water ways during the production process.
Hazelnut milk is less heard of compared to other, more popular milks, however it provides the nutrition and taste of nut milk without the environmental impacts.
Hazelnuts grow on trees which soak up carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, reducing greenhouse emissions instead of increasing them.
Additionally, hazelnuts are pollinated instead of honeybees (like almonds) and grow in moist climates where water supplies are not limited.
In short, if you are looking for a nut milk, hazelnut is your winner.
Flax and hemp
Flax and hemp are another alternative that provide a sustainable option.
Niche crops like flax and hemp are grown on a small scale in the Northern hemisphere. This makes them more environmentally friendly compared to a large scale mono culture operation. The seeds produced by flax and hemp make the milk rich in healthy fats and protein.
Soy milk is another sustainable option depending on where you get it from.
It is a popular alternative because it is high in protein similar to dairy milk.
However, a large environmnetal drawback is that soybeans are grown in huge quantities all over the world to feed livestock for dairy and meat production. This has resulted in large areas of rainforest being burned and cleared for soy farms to develop.
When buying soy milk, make sure it is made from organic soybeans grown in Canada or the US.
Still not the best milk alternative out there but still better than almond and dairy milk!
Finally we come to the winner, Oat Milk! Oat milk popularity is increasing every year.
Oat milk is plant-based that is vegan and naturally lactose, dairy, nut and soy free. It is suitable for people with gluten intolerance if it is made from certified gluten-free oats. You can buy fortified oat milk with vitamins and minerals which has benefits for your bones and heart.
Another positive take away from the growing oat demand is that little environmental consequences are expected to develop when oat milk production scales up. 50 to 90% of global oat production is for animal feed so there is already a large supply of oats available and infrastructure to support the demand.
Oat production is not associated with rain forest destruction as it is grown in cooler climates. One negative associated with oat milk is that some oat production uses the roundup pesticide right which contains glyphosate. The popular Oatly brand is certified glyphosate free.
If you live in the Lake District National Park there is a new business OATO. This oat milk is made locally and you can get it delivered right to your door. It is delivered in glass bottles tat you can return, reducing packaging waste. Supporting local businesses is also great for the community. Sign up for a free one time delivery right to your front door here.
Remember you can make your own milk from hazelnuts, almonds and oats. So why not give it a try?
Zero Waste Refill sections are increasing in local and large scale shops. This eliminates packaging waste if you reuse your own container. Buying by weight also reduces the amount you are spending on food you would usually buy packaged up in stores.
If you are living in or visiting the Lake District here are a few places you can find zero waste sections.The Rattle Gyll Deli:
Eat Seasonal Foods
Eating locally can be sustainable if you choose foods tat are in season were you live. There are huge economic and environmental costs associated with producing and storing food beyond their natural growing season. Different months of the year support different food growth which gives you a good incentive to vary your diet throughout the year. Find out which vegetables are being grown at this time of the year in the UK here.
Composting can reduce a family’s landfill waste by up to 30 percent. Remember you can put the compost onto your garden after a while. This will add nutrients to the soil and help it prosper. More importantly it will reduce the amount of organic waste arriving at landfill and therefore reduce the amount of methane (a potent greenhouse gas) being released into the atmosphere.
Whilst compost bins are great for yard clippings and vegetable peels, not all food waste can be put into a compost bin. For a beginners guide to composting which includes what you should and should not add to your compost click here.
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