Easy ways to reduce your plates (or foods) carbon footprint

Written by: Charlie Jordan

A picture of Charlie Jordan on Brighton Beach

As we should all hopefully know, greenhouse gas emissions are a key driver behind the climate crisis we find ourselves in today. I think it’s fair to say that the focus tends to be on ‘clean energy’ and the roll-out of renewable energy sources. However, food production accounts for roughly one-quarter of these emissions, globally! So for me, although renewables play a crucial role in tackling climate change; finding ways to bring down the emissions that come from the food we eat is something we need to talk about more.

However, there are things we can all be doing to help reduce the carbon footprint of the food we consume, each and every day. Eating local produce can help reduce the footprint, but certainly not as much as you would think. Whether you chose to buy beef from the farmer down the road or from somewhere far away - it’s not the location that makes the emissions large; it’s simply down to the fact that it is beef you are having for dinner. I certainly found this difficult to understand, but for foods that have a large footprint - transport only accounts for a miniscule amount of its total emissions.

To make a bigger difference, we should be thinking about what it actually is that we’re eating. Try and move away from foods that carry a large footprint such as meat and dairy and towards plant-based alternatives; that are becoming more and more available. Another way to reduce the carbon footprint is to avoid or at least reduce your consumption of foods that are air-freighted. As a rule of thumb, these tend to be those that have a very short shelf life and have travelled a long distance. However, it can be difficult to work out what foods these are. So, a top tip is to look at the label and use the origin country to guide your judgement when doing your weekly shop.

There we have it, a few simple ways to reduce the carbon footprint of our diets. I’m not saying we all have to stop eating large footprint foods immediately. It’s all about each and every one of us making small, incremental changes. However, we should focus more on what we are eating, and less on where we get it; avoiding air-freighted foods where possible.

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