Every January, many of us make new year’s resolutions around food – usually consisting of cutting out the bad stuff we all gorged on in December.
But rather than dieting for weight loss, have you thought about making longer-term tweaks to the food you eat to help ease the burden on the environment?
From ditching bottled water to keeping your avocado habit in check, here are five ways to do your bit.
1. Avoid Reaching For Cheap Meat And Dairy.
Meat and dairy have a heftier cost than other food types when it comes to harmful gas emissions and the energy required to produce them – this is because animals need a lot of feed and to be kept warm.
If you’re a meat eater, shopping more consciously can really make a difference. Instead of buying chicken breasts every time you go to the supermarket, opt for lesser-used cuts. And, if you can afford it, shopping at a local butcher or choosing higher-welfare and organic cuts can also bring an environmental benefit.
Studies claim that cutting back on meat and dairy, even for a couple of days a week, can make a difference. However, if you shop for alternatives, bear in mind plant-based foods also carry an environmental cost, so it’s best to do your research if this is a concern.
When it comes to dairy milk alternatives some are better than others, reports the BBC. Almond milk, for example, requires far less energy to produce than dairy but needs much more water to produce than soy or oat milk.
2. Cut Down On Those Avocado Brunches.
While plant-based foods have a lesser footprint than meat and dairy, some require more resources to grow than others. Avocados, for example, take a lot of water to grow and then need to be shipped overseas.
Whats more, reports suggest that as the tasty Instagrammable favourite has rocketed in popularity globally, so too has its price in the countries where it’s farmed, making the staple food pretty pricey for local populations.
It’s highly nutritious, but if you swap a portion of avocado out for more local pulses and vegetables now and again, you can help reduce those air miles. Nuts, peas, and beans are some of the best proteins when it comes to environmental impact or, if you’ve got a garden or some window space for a plant box, grow some of your own ingredients.
3. Don’t East Fish Species That Are Under Pressure.
Fish has less of an impact than meat and is a great protein source, but the Marine Conservation Society (MCS) says 90% of the fish stocks we eat are under threat thanks to a double whammy of climate change and overfishing.
The MCS has a free ‘good fish guide’ which is kept up to date and can be downloaded to your mobile or viewed here – it shows which species should be avoided.
There’s also disagreement on whether intensive fish farming – which in the case of salmon, tends to happen in huge nets in the ocean – is a good thing. Charities like Sustain are concerned that chemicals, antibiotics, and things like sea lice can spread into the natural environment.
4. Reuse Your Leftovers.
No list could be complete without mentioning food waste – 1.9 million tonnes of it is wasted by the food industry every year in the UK, according to the charity Fareshare. And several million more tonnes are thrown from cupboards and fridges in households around the country, according to WRAP.
Cutting back on food waste could make a huge difference to your personal environmental footprint. Love Food Hate Waste has a catalogue of different recipes for leftovers you can check out for inspiration – from beetroot hummus to leftover potato hash.
5. Ditch Bottled Water.
For the love of your wallet and the environment, ditch bottled water. Unless you’re caught short out and about, there’s really no need to buy bottled water because tap water in the UK is perfectly drinkable.
“Plastic bottles are the most common type of plastic pollution [and] there is no evidence that bottled water is better for you,” a spokesperson from Sustain told HuffPost UK. “If you are still buying bottled water, it’s time to stop.”
If you don’t have your own reusable water bottle, you can swat up on HuffPost UK’s review of high street bottles here.