Food production is responsible for one-quarter of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. Those emissions are created at several stages across the production and supply chain, including: changes to the land such as deforestation and soil carbon; emissions created by animals, crops or fertilisers; and energy consumption during processing, freight, retailing or packaging production.
Ironically, the way we produce and consume food now is a significant contributor to climate change, and climate change itself poses a threat to our food supply.
While beef is by far the worst and best-known culprit for producing significant emissions, other carbon-heavy foods include: lamb, cheese/ dairy, chocolate, coffee and prawns! By eating less meat and other high-emissions foods, the average person can save 0.7 tonnes of CO2 per year. That's equivalent to 31 trees planted!
Review your diet
Everyone's diet is a little different so start by identifying the biggest emissions contributors you regularly consume.
1. Write down what you eat in a normal week and cross check with reputable sources (like this one) as to what the environmental impact is of your most common ingredients. Remember that you can’t always compare apples with apples - the location and method by which an ingredient is produced can have a significant impact.
Figure out the best alternatives to your most common and favourite high-carbon foods so you can start making simple switches.
1. Make a list and for every high-carbon food, write down at least one alternative you could switch to.
2. Think about the meals you love and look forward to the most, and Google plant-based versions - there are some amazing ideas out there!
Plan & practice until it becomes a habit
If this is the first time you’re reducing your meat and dairy consumption, you might find recipes don’t come as easily to mind when you’re thinking about what to cook as a quick mid-week meal. Planning in advance can help make sure you’re prepared, and that you have yummy dishes to look forward to!
1. Make a weekly meal plan.
2. Prepare what you can for the week ahead on the weekend. This will reduce your food waste too!
Make it fun!
If you feel like changing your diet is a chore, you won’t enjoy it and your motivation will wane.
1. Try new recipes and mix up ‘healthy’ meals with ‘treats’. Yes, plant-based foods can make for amazing cheat meals too...did somebody say cauliflower popcorn chicken?
2. Get in the garden! If you have any outdoor space, be it a balcony or full sized backyard, you can grow something you can eat. While the impact growing a small amount of your own food has on your carbon footprint might be small, this step will make you feel more connected to where your food comes from and the effort that goes into getting it on your plate. Plus, home-grown always tastes better, and it’s good for the wallet too!