6 STEPS TO A MORE SUSTAINABLE DIET
Our diet makes up 25% of our total carbon footprint, so if you’re keen to lighten your impact on the planet, looking at what you eat is a great place to start.
As well as carbon emissions, which lead to climate change, there are also broader environmental impacts of food production and consumption, such as water use, chemicals and land use. All these issues can be hard to get a handle on, so here are a few key areas to think about if you decide you want to update your food choices, to make them more sustainable.
There is lots of information now about the high carbon footprint of red meat, like beef and lamb, and the benefits of eating a diet that is higher in fresh fruit and vegetables, pulses. If you decide to swap away from very high carbon food, you cut your food footprint by 20%
But less attention is focused on foods like cheese, pork and chicken, which although not as high as red meat, still have a significant carbon impact. This is due to the fact that for all animals, food needs to be grown and a lot of land is required for this. Growing animal feed and grazing are two of the biggest drivers of deforestation globally.
Pasta, grains, legumes, fruit and vegetables all tend to be low carbon footprint. A diet which is predominantly made up of these types of food can reduce the food carbon footprint by a total of 40%.
[1 and 2] Giki analysis
Palm Oil is one of the most extensively used vegetable oils in the world. It is cheap and highly versatile and used for a huge range of purposes.
It tends to be grown in tropical regions and the majority of palm oil we use in the UK comes from Indonesia and Malaysia. Its production raises major environmental issues, as it is frequently grown on land where virgin rain forests have been cleared. This has major impacts on animals living in these regions, such as orangutans, tigers, bears, elephants and thousands of smaller animals. It also impacts local communities and the forests play a key role in absorbing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
Palm oil is used in most supermarket aisles, but it is possible to ensure that you buy only sustainable palm oil, or palm free products, so you avoid palm oil linked to deforestation. You can check for sustainable palm oil on the Giki app (download links below).
Soy and deforestation
70% of deforestation across the globe is to clear trees for agriculture. Often this land is used to grow soy and most soy is used for animal feed. Forest 500 looks into this issue and it is incredibly difficult to be confident that meat, fish or dairy we eat has not been fed on soy grown on deforested land. One of the best ways to address this issue is to buy meat fed on non imported feed, or 100% grass fed.
Food produced organically uses far fewer fertilisers, chemicals and insecticides, and organic farms have 50% more biodiversity. There are also other benefits to eating organic. Recent evidence has suggested that soil quality is significantly improved with organic farming, which can increase the amount of carbon dioxide that soil can absorb.
Although organic food is generally more expensive, if you decide to reduce meat consumption, this can save a lot of money.
It’s not just what we eat, but also how it is packaged. 8 million pieces of plastic rubbish make their way into the sea every day and the problems around plastic pollution and excess packaging are widely known. Although it is pretty difficult to shop with zero packaging, it is easier to make sure that what we buy uses fully recyclable packaging.
Look for heroes
If you are looking for a quick and easy indication of products with a low environmental impact look out for hero products in the UK Giki app. If you buy a basket with a high number of hero products, this will make your food footprint significantly lighter.
You can check out the products you buy using Giki.
It is often easier to buy lower impact products if you buy locally from a market, or local shops and can ask the staff where the products come from, what’s in them and how they’ve been produced. In general, opting for low carbon footprint food, sustainable palm oil, or palm oil free, organic wherever possible, and recyclable packaging you will be heading a long way to a much lighter environmental footprint for what you eat.