There are lots of buzzwords and ideas about how we can live more environmentally-friendly today: eco living, zero waste, eco-friendly living, organic, renewable energy, sustainable. But what does it all mean for our everyday lives? I know for me it can feel overwhelming – I’m trying so hard to not eat any palm oil, but sometimes, just sometimes, when I need to grab a loaf of bread while running a million other errands, I give in. I feel guilty, but have to tell myself that everything I DO do thats better for the environment is positive, and adjustments take time to research and adopt.
The idea isn’t that going eco should be negative – you’re not giving up everything you know to live in a den in the woods with no electricity and foraging for all your food (although this sounds pretty good). The idea is that making small adjustments can have a real positive affect on your footprint on the planet, and the nice side affect is that it usually makes you healthier and happier too, plus you support small communities rather than huge greedy corporations.
There are three general areas (well there’s more really but for the sake of me writing this blog!) within our lives that we can try make more eco friendly – what we eat, what we buy and what we do. This post is all about what we eat – what we eat directly affects the state of our natural environment but it also affects us too – our mental and physical health, our enjoyment of life and our understanding of where our food comes from.
Fresh fruit and veg
Eating organic, seasonal and local food is the best way to live more in tune with the natural world. Your carbon footprint will be smaller, your food won’t be full of horrible chemicals (bad for you and the environment) and you’re supporting a farmer (whether big or small) who lives local to you. Its also much more exciting eating seasonally – the few weeks when you get to eat strawberries makes them taste so much better than if you know you can eat them all year round. Its sometimes hard to know whats in season as supermarkets stock everything all year round. Growing your own veg makes you more aware of seasons, or try Eat the Seasons for some helpful advice. And of course, growing your own veg is a great way to eat seasonal, local and organic (assuming you haven’t use pesticides or anything) – whether you’ve got an allotments or a windowsill pot with some herbs in, it all helps us feel more connected to where our food comes from. Obviously not everything we like to eat can be grown locally, so its up to you whether you stop eating bananas or focus on the things you can get locally. This is where you can decide how far to take it – starting small is better than nothing.
Going vegetarian (or even better, vegan)
This hugely helps the environment. A recent report suggests that if a large proportion of us reduce our meat intake, it would cut greenhouse emissions by nearly two-thirds. This is because today’s intensive livestock-rearing produces huge levels of methane from the animals and slurry pits, as well as requiring 1,799 gallons of water per ounce of beef produced (whaaaat?!) and taking up valuable land and energy growing grain to feed the livestock, rather than us humans. I’m not vegetarian (yet) but have radically cut down my meat intake, especially beef – apparently Cowspiricy will make me never want to eat meat again, I should probably watch it. Here’s the trailer…
Trying to avoid processed food
This another goal for living more eco friendly. I’m not great at this, I’m a sucker for crisps and many other processed foods, plus the time pressures of having a full time job mean that while I make most dinners from scratch, I haven’t yet figured out how to fit in making all my bread and pasta using fresh, raw ingredients.
All our food todays comes packaged, usually in plastic. Ironically the organic veg at the supermarket comes wrapped in even more plastic than the regular veg, how un-eco is that?? So thats another argument for shopping at your local market, you can buy everything unwrapped and put it straight into your canvas tote bag. Things like plastic bags of lentils and rice really bug me – all I do as soon as I get home from the supermarket is empty them into glass jars to store in my cupboard. Some towns have ‘scoop and weigh’ shops, almost like pick n mix at the cinema you can scoop however much you want from the large containers into your own jar or bag. Unfortunately the nearest one to me is over an hours drive (HiSbe in Brighton)so I haven’t managed to make it work, but they’re slowly becoming (slightly) more popular so check out if theres somewhere near you. Another option is to buy in bulk so at least you’re using less plastic. Here’s a small part of ScoopAway in Bristol:
This is one of our top global problems today. I quoted Dave Goulson in a previous post on bees, who argues that if we didn’t waste food then all the farms in the world could be organic and we would have plenty to go round, no need for chemicals to increase yield. Try and avoid food waste – use everything up in your fridge, I personally ignore sell by dates unless I can see actual mould on the food, eat leftovers the next day or freeze it when you make too much. Some supermarkets and organisations are trying to get ‘out of date’ food (which is of course still absolutely edible) to those that need it, to avoid food waste. The Empty Plate Cafe has just opened near me in Worthing, using food otherwise destined for landfill – I’m sure there’s a similar project near you too.