Updated: Feb 10, 2022
Knowing what to do about climate change can often feel overwhelming. Not knowing where to start or what to do can lead to inaction. It’s important therefore to begin by looking at the things you have control over, that are important to you, and for me food comes pretty high up that list.
Our diet contributes, on average, 24% of our personal carbon footprint and we need to change the way we eat to help reduce this. It’s become clear that there are certain foods we need to eat less of, such as meat and dairy and those we need to eat more of, which are produced more sustainably, such as plant-based sources of protein, like tofu, beans, peas, and nuts, and have a very low carbon footprint.
There’s also an awareness that buying seasonally grown, locally sourced food is better for environment. A good rule of thumb is to avoid out of season, short shelf-life fresh fruits and vegetables like berries, green beans, and asparagus which have probably been air freighted. If you’re not ready to abandon meat, simply switching beef for pork reduces a meal’s impact by six times!
Earlier in the year I attended an event looking at how we can reduce our carbon ‘forkprint’, where James Bagshaw, co-founder of E.Mission, clearly illustrated that focussing on the food we eat as a way to fight climate change is an incredibly empowering idea. It was an extremely informative session that reaffirmed my determination to pursue inventive, delicious and low carbon recipes, and simultaneously gave me valuable information on how I could actually do that.
There are some great recipe ideas on the E.Mission website (also on other sites such as ‘LiveEatLearn’ and ‘Lowly Food’). So, I decided to create one of their low carbon dishes. As a vegan I opted for Tom’s Vegan Bolognese, which equates to 250gm of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) emissions per portion, as opposed to a traditional home cooked, beef Spaghetti Bolognese - which according to a recent study, has the second highest carbon footprint of Britain’s favourite dishes, at a whopping 3,948gm CO2e per serving. The dish was easy to prepare - no difficult ingredients, with soya mince replacing the beef…really delicious. But if you want, you can still include meat in the meal; and by replacing beef with turkey or pork, you can still create a big reduction in CO2e emissions.
A logical progression on this journey of empowerment is the addition of carbon footprint guidance to the packaging of the food we buy, allowing us to make informed choices. A new traffic light labelling system will run this autumn as a pilot study, which will see some products, such as Bisto gravy, Mr Kipling cakes and KitKats, together with other well-known brands, use front-of-packaging “eco scores”. These will rank the environmental impact of each item and allow shoppers to assess whether they are buying goods that have a low-carbon footprint. Elizabeth’s Kitchen Diary blog has also become one of the first food blogs in the world to add carbon footprint labels to its recipe cards.
Information on food miles and ways to calculate your food carbon footprint is now widely available, allowing you to look at the carbon impact of individual foods. So, take control of the thing you have the most influence over – what you eat - and help to focus your response to the climate crisis.