Food and diet guide

fresh vegetables

Did you know?

Food production accounts for one quarter of the world’s carbon emissions and, according to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation, meat and dairy specifically accounts for around 14.5% of global greenhouse gas emissions.  If you’d like to explore why this is, have a look at this article by Carbon Brief.

One third of all food produced is wasted. Every year wasted food in the UK represents 14 million tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions. In total, these greenhouse gas emissions are the same as those created by 7 million cars each year.

Buying local and seasonal food is more likely to have a lower environmental footprint, depending how it’s produced and packaged.  Not that buying from abroad is necessarily a bad thing. Food grown in a sustainable way and traded fairly can be vital for developing countries.

If you would like to find out more about how your food choices impact on the environment have a look at the climate change food calculator on the BBC’s Science and Environment pages.

So, some ideas for making changes…

The food you buy

Think about where the food you buy comes from and how it is produced.  Buy local and in season if you can; you can search for local produce outlets on the Big Barn Local Food Map. Buying local also supports the local economy. 

If you are buying imported food such as coffee, tea or chocolate look for labels such as Fairtrade or Rainforest Alliance.  These movements are not just about trade justice, they are about climate justice too.

If you’re buying fish and seafood look for the Marine Stewardship Council label. MSC certified fisheries are well managed and more prepared for environmental changes. These fisheries follow current scientific advice to ensure they catch fish sustainably.

Try to buy food with less packaging, such as loose fruit and veg and look out for ‘loose food’ and refill shops where you can take your own containers.

Find out what the companies supplying your favourite food brands are doing themselves to tackle climate change.  If you don’t think they’re doing enough, think about switching to a different brand.   

Grow your own  

Growing your own food can dramatically cut the food miles of your meals, and therefore your carbon footprint. Home-grown food is much tastier and nutritious than shop-bought food, too.  The Royal Horticultural Society has some good tips on where to start or you could check out Eat Seasonably for ideas about what to grow and to find out what is in season to buy.

Your diet

Diet is a matter of personal choice and preference, but making small changes can help reduce your carbon footprint.

A range of dairy-free alternatives are available such as oat, almond or rice milk if you’d like to reduce your intake of dairy products.  If you’d like to reduce the amount of meat in your diet you could try plant-based meat substitutes or replace meat with vegetables for a few meals a week. Meat Free Monday, a not-for-profit campaign launched by the McCartney family offers support, recipes and advice on eating at least one plant-based meal per week.  Vegetarian and vegan websites are also good places to find recipes and ideas for taking some meat and dairy out of your weekly diet.   

Food waste

First, and foremost, try to avoid buying more than you need – planning your meals ahead of time is a good tip – and make use of your leftovers rather than throwing them away. Check out the Love Food Hate Waste website for leftovers recipe ideas. 

If you do need to throw food away make sure you use your food caddy to dispose of it. You can order a food caddy from the council if you don’t already have one. Find out what happens to your food waste once it’s collected.

Alternatively, if you have a compost bin at home you can add the following items of food waste:

  • Fruit and vegetable peelings, seeds and cores
  • Tea bags
  • Coffee grounds and filter papers
  • Paper towels or tissues (not if they have touched meat)
  • Egg shells
  • You cannot compost: cooked food, fish, and meat or dairy products