Have you heard how your diet can help change the course of climate change? As we’ve previously discussed in our blogs, everything has a carbon footprint, including our food. It’s not something we can escape; to live a carbon-free life is extremely difficult and requires a lot of offsets. One thing we can do is be mindful of reducing it where possible. An easy way? Take a look at how your diet impacts the environment. Here are a few tips.
How a meat diet impacts the environment
If you’re a keen environmentalist, you’ve probably heard about this one before. Meat tends to pack a punch when it comes to carbon footprints. An 8oz steak from the UK has the same impact as 50 bananas – imagine how much more it is if your steak travels from overseas!
Now before all the meat lovers stop reading, we’re not suggesting you cut out meat. At the end of the day, we all enjoy eating different foods, and meat shouldn’t be given the title of the ‘carbon devil’. It’s a case of being mindful. Knowing that steak has a high carbon footprint, restrict yourself to having one occasionally instead of 3 times a week. That’s already a considerable offset in your diet’s carbon footprint.
Why does meat have a high carbon footprint? It’s because of the livestock. The process of getting meat to your plate is fairly low; it’s the raising, farming and caring for animals that create a high carbon footprint. The same way we do as humans. We expel carbon every time we breathe, not to mention the other gases we release from our bodies! Animals are the same, which is why often you’ll hear suggestions of a vegetarian or vegan diet to reduce your carbon footprint – because meat is possibly the biggest contributor.
Opting for one meat-free meal a week, whether that’s by introducing meat alternatives or having a fresh plant-based meal, it’s up to you, but it’s a great way to reduce your diets impact on the environment. Still there’s more…
Trendy foods are impacting the environment too
In our opinion, there is nothing worse than trendy food. Avocados and almonds are possibly the biggest and most impactful foods of recent years, so we’re going to focus on them. Let’s start with avocados.
Avocados and the environment
You’ve seen them everywhere. Phone cases, t-shirts, bags, even fancy-dress costumes – people are going crazy for avocados because they’re an incredible source of healthy fats. They’re a superfood. They’re one of the most nutrient-dense food items in the world. Naturally, anyone looking for a healthier lifestyle will flock to it – but what many don’t realise is how damaging this has been for the environment.
A large demand for one food means deforestation is ramped up to keep up with demand, creating an unsustainable food that makes a heavy impact. One hectare of deforestation is equivalent to a car driving 50-100 times around the world!
Avocados originate from central and South America, which means getting them to your plate includes a hefty carbon journey overseas. But what if they’re from the UK? Consider that for avocados to grow – the same climate needs to be replicated, which means greenhouses using vast amounts of energy to simulate the heat. Finding an environmentally friendly avocado is difficult.
Almonds and the environment
“Almonds aren’t that popular?” you might think. While they may not be plastered on phone cases and t-shirts, they’re just as popular and in some cases. Worse for the environment.
Almonds are needed for almond milk… did the penny just drop? Yes, millions of us have opted for almond milk in our cereals, smoothies, tea, and as a refreshing drink. It’s the most popular plant-based milk, it makes up 63% of the market. Sales for almond milk were worth just over $1.5 billion in 2020.
So, what’s wrong with almonds? Well, 82% of the world’s almonds come from California. That’s a lot of almonds growing in one small area. Demand is high; space is limited; something has to give, and sadly, it’s the environment.
It takes 15 gallons of water to produce 16 almonds. Making it one of the most water-intensive crops in an already drought-prone area. 23,000 acres of land have been transformed into almond farms, 16,000 of which were previously wetlands benefitting the local environment and its wildlife.
If depleting the local area of its resources wasn’t bad enough, the pesticides used in farming put another nail in the coffin. There’s evidence that the pesticides in use contaminate the already limited water supply that is used to grow other crops and the drinking water for local farming families in California.
If you want to reduce how your diet impacts the environment, skip the trendy foods. The demand for them is astronomical and creates an unhealthy and unsustainable scenario.
Which diet is the best diet for an eco-friendly lifestyle?
This one is entirely up for interpretation. Plenty of people will tell you that vegetarianism and veganism is the only eco-friendly diet. The argument for both is strong – after all, we know meat comes with a high carbon footprint. However, not one solution fits all.
The same way plastics are demonised. Plastic is a great and useful resource, which doesn’t need to be cut from your life completely, just used in a sustainable way and recycled carefully – where you can substitute out plastics, do so, where you cannot compromise, make sure you’re investing in high quality. Now replace the word plastic for meat.
Meat, almonds and avocados have a purpose the same way plastics do. But they must be carefully sourced, used wisely and swapped for greener alternatives where possible. It’s all about creating a sustainable habit and cutting one food group from your diet overnight isn’t something all of us will be able to adopt. We don’t need a small group of people with a perfect diet; we need millions trying to better their current one.