It may not come as a surprise to you that some foods have a higher carbon footprint than others. Being carbon mindful of your food means that you’re considering multiple aspects of an item’s journey before it reaches your plate. The stages include land use, farming, animal feed, processing, transport, retail and packaging. The first two stages tend to have a higher carbon price, which is why many types of meat have some of the highest carbon footprints per kilo.
The carbon mindful story surrounding meat
Red meat, for example, has a high carbon footprint as well as other dairy items such as cheese. 1kg of beef can emit up to 36.4kg of CO2 emissions, that’s the same as driving a car for 11 miles! So, a natural step to take when reducing your carbon footprint is to consider the food pyramid when shopping.
You don’t have cut your favourite steak from your diet, but perhaps have it less often. Fill your diet with vegetables and fruits, then pad it out with whole grains and healthy oils. Choose your meat sparingly, but also consider which meat you buy. Try more chicken and tuna recipes to replace your beef and lamb options; which per kilo, can produce up to six times more carbon!
Surprising non-meat carbon emissions
Meat cannot be the only culprit. As we know from our blogs earlier in the month, everything has a carbon footprint, which is why it’s important to not place all the blame on beef and lamb. Chocolate has a hefty carbon footprint, more than some meats. This is because the cocoa bean requires a lot of land to grow, and in turn, this creates a lot of deforestation.
Similar situations occur with avocados, almonds, kale, and asparagus. All are incredibly thirsty crops that not only use a lot of water, but they’re grown in drought-prone areas creating a harmful impact on the environment and those that live nearby.
The importance of sourcing local food
Being carbon mindful of your food means looking at the entire process, including transport and retail. Bananas are a great example. Most people will have a banana or two in their home right now, but few will know their produce spent days being shipped across the world and has a higher carbon footprint than fruits which are grown locally.
We’re big fans of shopping local, it helps small businesses and the economy, but it is also a great way to reduce the carbon footprint of your food. If you can buy all of your food in a 30 miles radius from your home, you’ll make an enormous reduction to your footprint.
A great way to purchase items that are grown close to your home is by visiting your local farmers market. Most markets will be able to provide all the fruit and vegetables you regularly use, as well as some meat products that are from the surrounding areas. You might even be able to visit your local baker for some additional local products!
Better yet, grow your veggies at home! Check out our blogs on how you can do this.
The importance of seasonality
There’s a reason you struggle to buy swimsuits in shops in the winter months because it simply isn’t the right weather to go out in a swimsuit. The same goes for these foods. If it’s not the right weather, fruits and vegetables won’t come out or grow for our consumption. Fair enough. However, our greed for the same foods all year round has led huge greenhouses to simulate climates that fruits and vegetables like to grow in.
While they’re a great addition at your local allotment, some greenhouses are so large that they’re producing high levels of damaging gases and using a lot of energy to sustain the right temperatures. Be mindful of your food by shopping the items that are in season. Right now our favourites are blackberries, blueberries and raspberries.
How to be carbon mindful of your food
Ultimately, it’s about understanding four different areas. The impact of meat, non-meats, a food’s locality and seasonality. When you know how your carbon footprint grows in these four areas, you start to paint a picture of what a low carbon diet looks like. The best place to start? The farmers market.
As you slowly grow your knowledge of what is in your area, you can get creative with recipes too. You don’t need to become a vegan or stop eating bananas, but making small changes throughout your diet can lead to a significant impact.