Now we all love a good meal but when it comes to living a more ethical and sustainable lifestyle, our diet is a key factor. Given the popularity of Veganuary a lot more people are trying healthy, low-impact ethically produced meal options now. However, a lot of people don’t still realise the impact of what we eat has on the environment. Making drastic changes isn’t for everyone, but if you start off by making small ones, you’ll be well on your way to making a big difference. Here are some tips on how to eat more ethically and sustainably.
1. Consider your meat consumption
Eliminating meat from our diet would be the most sustainable course of action but not everyone wants to, and you don’t have to. If you don’t want to give up meat but still want to be more ethical, consider reducing the amount of meat you consume and pay attention to where it comes from. It requires a lot more resources for meat production than to produce plant-based foods.
Did you know The water footprint of Quorn Mince is 10x lower than that of beef Mince
Our founder Roberta has been a vegetarian for almost 20 years – and is a fan of Quorn products, but the downside is the plastic waste. So you have to pick your battles. Although Quorn has recently announced that over 50% of their products have achieved the Carbon Trust Footprint, they have co-signed the WRAP Plastic Pact and the following items of packaging can be recycled, but they do say to check your local authority waste and recycling information:
- Foil trays
- Film bags
- Plastic trays
- Cardboard sleeves
2. Eat organic wherever possible
Organic foods contain less chemicals and other harmful products, which means they are better for both you and the environment. Organic food is produced without:
- Synthetic (human-made) pesticides, herbicides and fertilisers. Organic farmers may use natural pesticides approved for organic food production.
- Genetically modified organisms (GMOs)
- Antibiotics or growth hormones
- Irradiation or ionizing radiation (a way to preserve food with radiation energy)
“Choosing To Eat Seasonal, Organic Produce Can Play An Important Role In Protecting And Restoring Our Soils” – Soil Association
Types of food you can buy that are organic:
- Organic Eggs
- Organic Bread & Flour
- Organic Milk & Dairy
- Organic Wine
- Organic Chocolate
- Organic Mythbusters
Organic producers also tend to try and reduce their own environmental impact and pick fruit at the last minute to ensure it remains fresh. You can find organic sections in most supermarkets, but be wary of labels that suggest they are organic – ‘grown locally’ doesn’t mean it was grown without harmful chemicals.
3. Shop locally
Buying from farmers markets and local stores will reduce transport costs and ensure you’re getting the freshest produce available. When you buy things that are locally sourced check the packaging to make sure it’s local to where you are. It’s also important to buy things that are responsibly produced (e.g. animals are treated ethically) so always check the packaging.
4. Avoid foods containing palm oil
Palm oil is an edible vegetable oil that comes from the fruit of oil palm trees. Palm oil production is responsible for huge amounts of illegal logging, deforestation and habitat destruction in tropical countries throughout the world. The loss of trees also contributes to greenhouse gases. There are many issues within the palm oil industry so avoiding it as much as you can really help. Find out more about palm oil on the WWF website.
Which products contain palm oil?
The following product list has been borrowed from the ethical consumer and highlights some of the products likely to contain palm oil:
- Ice Cream
- Non-dairy substitutes
- Cooking Oil
- Cleaning Detergent
5. Plant a garden
Growing your own vegetables is one of the easiest and cheapest ways of eating ethically. You know exactly how they’re produced and that they’re free of any chemicals. During COVID-19 many more people opted to grow their own veggies and herbs, which we hope continues across 2021 and beyond. This is a trend we hope lasts.
Check out this guide on how to start your own vegetable garden.
6. Shop seasonally
Fruits and vegetables that aren’t in season are often transported from other countries. Buying seasonally would reduce demand. Buying produce according to what’s in season also reduces the number of treatments and pesticides used to preserve the food for transportation.
If you’re not sure what food grows seasonally, check out this BBC webpage that has a seasonal food calendar
7. Try not to waste food
Planning meals can help you buy according to what you’ll eat and avoid wastage. This will both help the environment and save you money. If you do have leftovers, rather than throwing them away, why not try freezing it?
The BBC Good Food website has a great article here on ways to avoid wasting food and some recipes, check it out.
“According to the latest figures from WRAP, by weight, household food waste makes up around 70% of the UK post-farm-gate total. They estimate that by cutting food waste each household could save up to £700 per year as well as making less waste.” – BBC Good Food
8. Support free-range
Free-range is a method of farming where the animals are able to roam freely rather than being caged 24 hours a day. Free-range can apply to meat, eggs or dairy farming. Buying free-range produced meat and poultry helps protect the welfare of the animals and the environment. When it comes to dairy many of us overlook the environmental impact of our milk, cheese and ice-cream, not to mention the welfare of the cows, which deserve a good quality of life. Find out what companies are using higher welfare systems for dairy cows and dairy calves on the Good Dairy Awards website.
A great resource for finding our more about Free-range is the Compassion In Farming website
9. Don’t buy plastic water bottles
Rather than buying plastic water bottles, use a refillable bottle and consider investing in a water filter. If you like sparkling water, consider investing in a soda stream so you can produce your own and other sweetened fizzy drinks. Try and find as many ways as you can to live plastic-free.
10. Choose smaller-scale producers
Ensure your purchases are better for the livelihoods of smaller scale, higher standard producers, such as farm shops, farmers markets and independent butchers. Also consider using your local milkman and seeing if any farms near you do local deliveries.
Eating ethically and sustainably doesn’t have to be overwhelming. The best way to get started is to pick one thing from our list of 10-tips, give it a go, and when it becomes second nature, pick another one. And remember, in the words of our Founder “it’s about the journey, not a final destination”.
Why not give some of these a try and let us know how you get on in the comments?
Sources of Information
1. Animal-based Foods are More Resource-Intensive than Plant-Based Foods
2. Quorn Footprint Comparison Report (2018)
*Note: This article was further edited by the EBD Team after a draft was created by Khadijat Opeloyeru in 2020. It has had more research undertaken, facts checked, examples given and information added. This article was first published on 12 January 2021.