It is well understood around the world that meat production (driven by our consumption) has a big carbon footprint. A study conducted by the USDA determined that the global agriculture industry, which is heavily driven by livestock production and the grain grown to support it, accounts for 30% of greenhouse gas emissions. Scarily, these figures are only set to grow, as increasing wealth in developing nations is leading to higher meat consumption. However, you can be a part of the change with little effort by making a few tweaks to your diet.
No. 1 on the list is of course eating less beef, pork and lamb, which will make your CO2 footprint around 31% higher than someone who avoids these meats. If you became vegetarian, this would be a 47% reduction, and a 67% reduction for vegans. Whilst this may be a difficult change for some to make, every little counts!
While a reduction in meat consumption to such an extent may be hard for some, there are other less impactful things that can be done to reduce your environmental impact and improve your dietâ€¦
Eat seasonal fruit and vegetables
Eating seasonally has several health benefits. The produce you buy will be fresher, itâ€™s guaranteed to taste better and will have a higher nutritional value. Environmentally, itâ€™s much sounder, too. With fewer miles travelled to reach your local shop to make up for the lack of produce in your area, the environmental footprint will be much lower.
Drink fewer soft drinks
Unlike water, which comes straight out of the tap, soft drinks need to be bottled and use up a lot more packaging. They also use a lot of sugar, which tends to be imported, driving up the food miles behind them. Moreover, sugary drinks are known to have significant health effects, particularly on younger individuals.
Buying food from local producers will avoid ensure you are not bringing in foreign contaminants, and you are supporting your local economy. This will also avoid hundreds or even thousands of food miles, especially through high-carbon transport by air to deliver fresh produce.
Reduce the packaging in your food
As is the case with soft drinks, packaging in food has significant environmental effects, especially when it is made of non-recyclable plastics. Instead, opt to shop at your local market and use re-usable bags to take your produce home. This will ensure you are also buying locally and supporting the economy in your area.
Reduce food waste
Often ignored when it comes to emissions, food waste is estimated to produce 3.3 billion tonnes of greenhouse gases each year â€“ ranked third in the world after the US and China. This can be avoided by being more conscious of your meals, and supporting local produce which is less likely to perish during transportation.
By following the above steps, you should be able to heavily reduce the environmental impact of your diet, reap the health benefits of doing so, and perhaps have an influence on your friends and family to do the same!