At Lifestyle, we have started a series exploring the issue of sustainability and how small changes can result in us leading more sustainable lives. Each article will cover a different area of everyday life and what changes can be made to limit your individual impact on the environment. We aim to make these changes as simple as they can be and at least the same cost or cheaper than the normal alternative.
We’ve all heard about the impacts a high-sugar, high-fat diet can have on our health, yet the impact of our dietary choices on the environment should not be underestimated. From growing crops to packaging and transporting goods, up to a third of all greenhouse gas emissions come from the agriculture sector. As the UK becomes more environmentally conscious, veganism has surged, with seven per cent of the population adhering to this strict plant-based diet. However, to make sustainable and consistent dietary changes, they must be achievable in small, everyday changes that anyone can adopt into their eating habits.
Eat less, and eat better meat
Not all foods contribute equally to global emissions and livestock is consistently called out as one of the biggest culprits, contributing to a massive 15 per cent of the UN’s total emissions. Red meat and dairy production are among the most energy-intensive manufacturing processes releasing masses of carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide into the atmosphere. Meat-free Mondays, Veganuary, and flexitarianism are three of the most prominent campaigns with the common goal of reducing personal meat consumption. Switching out a beef-burger for a veg-burger, mincemeat for beans in your chilli, or chicken for tofu in your stir-fry could make a huge impact on your personal carbon footprint.
Reduce food waste
Over 10 million tonnes of food is wasted in the UK each year. Scotland is leading in the UK, offering food waste collections each week, naturally reducing overall household rubbish levels and landfill waste. Make use of this excellent initiative. Edinburgh residents can purchase compostable liners for food waste caddies at all Edinburgh libraries for just one pound. Food waste can further be reduced by using everything we buy. Bulk-cooking and freezing meals, turning leftovers into a tasty snack and keeping a close eye on use-by dates are all ways we can reduce our food waste and energy consumption.
To meet consumer demand, commercial farming methods are turning more and more to the use of antibiotics and fertilisers to maximise their food production and profits. Not only are these chemicals potentially harmful to our health but they can also run-off into water systems upsetting the marine eco-balance. Organic farming promotes healthy soils and uses fewer fossil fuels by eliminating synthetic fertiliser use.
Purchase locally sourced food
Imported foods release tonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere through air-freighting and truck transportation, also known as ‘food miles’. Purchasing local produce largely eliminates this. Locally-sourcing also provides an assurance that what you’re eating has likely not contributed to land conversion and deforestation. Taking it one step further, you could try growing your own fruit and veg at home. All you need it some plant pots, which can easily be picked up from a second-hand shop for under £10, some seeds and a window-sill. Growing your own fresh food can give a real sense of achievement and connection with the environment.
Experiment in the kitchen
Cutting down on environmentally-costly foods opens a new opportunity to discover the chef from within you. Try out new recipes that use plant-based alternatives and buy ingredients you’ve never used before – even better if they’re locally sourced.
Avoid plastic packaging
Take a minute to think about how many bottles of water you’ve bought this year. Or how many plastic bags you’ve used when buying fruit and veg. We can all go one step further when it comes to reducing our plastic waste; from tote bags to eco-refills for your coffee or washing products. Source local milk delivery services who will often use glass refill bottles saving on recycling plastics or check out Edinburgh’s new zero-waste store, the Eco Larder, to join the ultimate plastic-free movement.
Remember, it’s all about balance. The globe going vegan isn’t necessarily the answer and boycotting imported foods could have devastating effects on developing countries. Instead, making one small dietary change at a time could lead to a lifetime of healthy habits that drastically reduce your impact on the environment.
Image: circulating via Flickr