Eat sustainably and Improve your carbon footprint
Whilst a vegan diet is a really good way to reduce your carbon footprint and protect the planet, it’s not the only way. It’s a common misconception that to be sustainable you must be vegan. Near the end of last year, doctors at global nutrition app Lifesum, coined the term ‘climatarian diet’, which is all about considering where your food comes from rather than completely cutting things out. It involves factors such as seasonal eating, reduced meat intake, and being mindful about harmful additions such as pesticides. There are many other ways you can improve your carbon footprint through what you eat, keep reading to find out how!
Eliminate food waste
Use-by-dates are a safety guide and can only provide a vague guideline. The best way to judge whether food is in date is to smell it and look for discolouration. Use by dates allow the producers and sellers of the food you purchase to eliminate risk and so always err on the cautious side. Generally speaking, if food smells ok and isn’t too bruised / discoloured, then it’s OK to eat. If by the end of the week, you have some leftover veg that has seen better days, it would still make for a delicious stew or curry. For foods such as meat that are more dangerous once out of date, it is best to stick to supermarket guidelines. Plan your weekly meals ahead and only buy what you need, to avoid chucking out food that hasn’t been eaten in time.
Biodegrade your food waste
Food waste doesn’t biodegrade in modern landfills, so any food waste you do have, should be separated out of your normal rubbish into a compost bin. Modern landfills are huge underground storage vats where rubbish is compacted without oxygen. When organic materials break down in anaerobic environments, methane gas is produced. Methane contributes heavily to climate change, more than CO2! It is estimated that 40% of waste sent to landfill is organic waste, so we could save a lot of space, and a lot of emissions.
Be wary of foods containing high amounts of micro-plastic
Research into micro-plastic is still relatively new, however evidence suggests that consumption or excess exposure can be harmful. Foods with the highest level of micro-plastics in them are: fruits and vegetables, salt, teabags, bottled water, beer and shellfish.
Say no to palm oil
Palm oil can be found in nearly 50% of the packaged goods we eat: from cookies, peanut butter, cereal and vegetable. Palm oil itself isn’t a bad product but it’s cheap to produce and hence used as a ‘bulker’ in many ingredients. Because its cheap, demand for it is high and it’s causing mass deforestation across the globe. People are chopping down huge areas of rainforest to plant palms instead. Check the ingredients of your usual store cupboard ingredients to make sure it doesn’t contain palm oil, and if it does, check that it’s sustainable palm oil. Familiarise yourself with its different terms; it can often be hard to identify as its hidden under many name derivatives such as palm kernel, palmate, palmitoyl etc.
Support wonky fruit and veg
In the UK alone, we let 40% of everything we grow to rot, because it’s not pretty enough for the supermarket to sell. No matter what the size or shape, it’s the taste that counts. Some supermarkets are now packaging their wonky veg and branding it as such, so make sure to keep an eye out when you’re next shopping. There are also vegetable delivery services who supply imperfect veg.
Exploring farmers markets helps you find fresh produce, grown locally, and keeps local business running rather than putting money in the hands of the supermarket giants. What’s equally important, is that you can meet the people who produce your food. Such relationships are opportunities for education: you can learn how your food was grown, when it was harvested, and even how to prepare it.
Buy in season
Buying produce in season has many benefits. Seasonal produce usually travels shorter distances to grocery stores, and therefore uses less fuel and creates less pollution than out-of-season produce. Conversely, out-of-season produce may require special high-energy heating and lighting to grow in unnatural conditions. In addition to having a lower environmental impact, in-season produce is often tastier and more affordable too!
Be picky with seafood
Reliance on this small number of varieties places pressure on wild fish numbers or can lead to unsustainable farming practices. But there are more sustainable seafood choices out there. If you are prepared to broaden your culinary horizons, there are plenty of local seafood options you can choose to improve your eco-footprint while eating seafood. Generally, buying from a fishmonger, means you can ask for more information about where and how the fish was caught too. Try to find line-caught or wild fish. Online marketplaces such as Pesky Fish and SoleShare can be a good way to try different seafood that is sourced directly from small fisherman.
At eco-shaper, we drive action on climate change and streamline carbon footprinting. For example, we can help calculate emissions across the entire ecosystem that companies work across and produce automated reporting based on outcomes. It’s like Xero, for sustainability. Contact us to be part of our research group on