By Carrie Sear
You may be wondering what personal changes you could make to reduce your carbon footprint in the wake of the controversial results of COP26. 26% of global greenhouse gases emissions are caused by food and agriculture[i]So food is obviously a matter of concern. However, dietGroceries habits can be difficult to change. After all, food is not something we can avoid. How can we make climate-friendly food more possible?
The easiest way to lower your environmental ‘foodprint’ is to reduce wastage. In 2018, the UK produced 9.5 million tonnes of food wastage. About 70% of this was generated by households (a.k.a. Individual behavior[ii]. Shopping mindfully helps reduce waste. You can create a shopping checklist to keep you on track or avoid buying perishable goods in bulk. I do a weekly shop at Lidl or Aldi and buy a collection of ‘reliable’ items I know I will finish; what these items are will depend on your diet. I make sure that I can freeze or make leftovers of any ingredients I buy for a particular meal. This is cheaper, too, because you spend less on the food you won’t eat, and you don’t have to buy everything at the overpriced Tesco in the centre of town. In Durham the cheaper supermarkets are further out, so are understandably hard to get to, but for those who are willing, your campus card will get you there for £1 on the bus.
Cooking can also make your meals more economical and more sustainable. It doesn’t have to be difficult. You might just need to learn how to cook a few basic carbohydrates, along with some freezable sauces or sides. These aren’t too difficult and can carry you very far in terms of meals. It can also help you avoid take-out, as they require single-use packaging, which generates around 11 billion pieces of waste each year in Britain.[iii].
Changes to your dietEven though people are often hesitant, they can also help the environment. While livestock makes up 18% of our daily calories, it takes up 83% farmland and emits more that 14% of all man-made global greenhouse gases.[iv]. Your diet is an incredibly personal choice, but if you are willing to reduce or renounce meat, it would be a sustainable option; even cutting down your consumption by having one less meat-based meal a day or having ‘meat-free days’ can have a sizeable impact.
It can be more challenging, but it is definitely worth it. If possible, purchase items packaged in recyclable materials such as metal and cardboard. Use re-usable bags whenever possible when shopping for fresh fruits and vegetables. These bags could be produce bags (I bought mine at Lidl for 45p per bag), or they could be lightweight cloth bags or paper bags that you have lying around. If you forget your bag, ask for a reusable bag.
Finally, shop locally whenever you can. This reduces your carbon footprint and makes it easier to shop locally if you shop at greengrocers, bakeries, or zero waste shops. I recommend Robinson’s on North Road (they offer a 10% student discount and bargain bins) as well as the old marketplace grocers. Scoop, which is a zero-waste shop and non-profit that is student-run, is also a great option for eco-friendly staples like pasta and rice. They are open on Wednesdays, Saturdays, and Sundays and have a price that matches Tesco.
These tips all point out that any change to our eating habits can make a significant difference in the climate. It is not the goal to have only a handful of people living sustainably, but to have many people trying to do their best. It doesn’t matter if what you have is aesthetically pleasing, despite what the zero-waste social media presence suggests, but that you utilise what you have. Be kind to yourself because mistakes happen and there are times where cutting waste isn’t possible. The biggest change is in your mindset and small things.
[i] Poore, J., & Nemecek, T. (2018). Reducing food’s environmental impacts through producers and consumers. Science, 360(6392), 987-992.
[ii]WRAP, January 2020: Food surplus and waste in Britain: Key facts. https://wrap.org.uk/sites/default/files/2020-11/Food-surplus-and-waste-in-the-UK-key-facts-Jan-2020.pdf.
[iii]The Guardian, Rebecca Smithers 14Th May 2019, ‘Lunch on the go’ habit generates 11bn items of packaging waste a year. https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/may/14/lunch-on-go-habit-generates-11bn-items-packaging-waste-year-uk
Image credit: Gaelle Marcel (via Unsplash)