As a homage to #EarthDay this Sunday, we want to play our part and make it easy for you to be able to contribute to helping the planet. Take a look at how your diet can help you achieve that:
1. Sustainable Fish Restaurants
If you want to help marine life but you don’t want to give up eating fish, you can familiarise yourself with what’s sustainable and what’s not. Unfortunately not all seafood on offer is sustainably caught. Luckily there are organisations helping you to make the right seafood choices:
Fish2Fork: Working with the Marine Conservation Society, Fish2Fork rates UK restaurants according to the impact their seafood has on the seas and marine life. Check their restaurant ratings, and help rate your own local restaurants!
The Marine Conservation Society: For a regularly updated list of which fish are sustainably sourced see their Good Fish Guide.
2. Meat Consumption and N2O
The high carbon footprint and environmental impact of meat production is one reason many people are dropping it from their diets. However, cutting meat entirely from your diet is a tough choice for many, so let’s approach it from a different angle. Nitrous Oxide is one of the most damaging emissions from agriculture. It is is 25 times more potent over 100 years than carbon dioxide, has a damaging effect on stratospheric ozone and 80% of it is produced from fertiliser used on livestock fodder. Stabilising N2O emissions by 2050 requires each person in the developed world to merely halve their meat consumption. This is a very feasible ask, requiring a simple drop in portion sizes or the frequency of meat meals. Try eating meat every other day at most, and stay on top of your nitrous oxide emissions.
3. Seasonal Food in the UK
Eating locally-produced food makes a huge difference and it’s much easier than you think! The best way to cut down on those air miles is to plan your meals around what you can buy locally. If you live in the UK, and want to check what is grown naturally there at any given time of the year, Eat the Seasons list will help you do this. BBC Good Food also provide an exhaustive list. There are many compelling non-environmental arguments for eating locally. These include the reduced cost of produce when it is in abundance; the fact that overseas reguations on growing (e.g. pesticides) may be more lax; seasonal food is likely to be fresher and more nutritious; buying locally supports local farmers; better flavours due to natural ripening; and finally the fact that our bodies require and adapt to different nutritional needs during different seasons. A great example is Winter citrus fruits providing vitamin C to help fight off colds. We may even find seasonal foods more attractive because of our body clock.
4. Avoid Processed Foods
The more processed a food is, the more energy and resources have gone into making it. Avoiding highly-processed food can also be very beneficial for your health. This is particularly true where processed meats are concerned, with their carcinogenic potential. High sugar and salt levels present in overly-processed foods highlight the fact that it’s better to make meals yourself – that way you know exactly what has gone into them and the amount of energy required to make them. Not only does processing consume energy, it also produces significant waste. This waste can include pollutants, but also valuable biomass or nutrients if processes (particularly those handling waste) are inefficient. Processed foods also tend to come with more packaging – we will be posting a blog with advice on reducing your waste footprint soon so watch this space!
5. Know What You Eat
Finally, the best way to keep your diet sustainability on track is to know about the foods you eat. A little research goes a long way. Here are some foods to watch and how to tell if what you’re eating is sustainable:
The Unexpected. Avocado is becoming incredibly popular, however few are aware that it carries a hefty environmental footprint: it takes 72 gallons of water to grow a pound of them. This is especially important since over 80% of US avocados are grown in California, where there is currently significant water stress. The same goes for almonds, which are also very thirsty crops grown in dessicated places like California. Cashews and quinoa also make the list of foods with questionable production impacts, though this is more for their negative influence on the communities who grow them. You can read more here.
Packaging. How do you tell if your food is sustainable from the label? There are certified logos which assure production standards. If you want to be sure your food comes from sources which are organic, free range, sustainable, quality assured and so on, there are a list of labels which certify these conditions. Love british food has provided a breakdown of many such logos. Finally, the internet is becoming more and more useful on this subject as people become increasingly invested in checking the supply chain footprints of their lifestyle choices. If in doubt you can always search for individual products and their alternatives and can usually find information quickly in an easily digestible (pardon the pun) format.
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By James Gresty
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