The best diets fill you with delicious meals and keep you and your planet healthy and sustainable. This forms the crux of eco-friendly food. It’s kinder on the planet, and often, it’s kinder to your body too. However, green eco-friendly food isn’t just literal leafy greens. It can be colourful, creative, and exciting, and bursting with flavour.
The truth is, many Western diets are unsustainable. Meat three times a day, seven days a week gobbles up vast resources and inflicts catastrophic violence on the natural world. Food and forestry pump out a quarter of all greenhouse gasses every year, with animal livestock accounting for the majority. As global temperatures, sea levels, and populations rise, we need to be responsible with our food. Luckily, modern society has developed tools and tactics to choose eco-friendly foods while protecting our budgets and our taste buds.
Eco-friendly Food Tips
To be a bit kinder to the planet, it’s worth learning about different eco-friendly diets and disciplines. We’ll start with some simple tips on what to look out for, so you can find the eco-friendly food solution that suits you best.
Cut Down Your Household Food Waste
To follow this first tip, you don’t need to change your diet at all. A waste-free household is an eco-friendly household. UK households create over 7 million tonnes of food waste every year, spilling untold emissions and vital resources in the tip. Tighten up your household food management to treat the planet kindly and still enjoy your favourite dishes.
Whether you’re buying smarter, storing smarter, prepping smarter, or chilling smarter, this tip helps you save money and prevent household pests. Food past its best can still become delicious dishes, and a bruised banana is one man’s trash but another man’s banana bread. For a full run-down on household waste, we have another post dedicated to the topic.
Cutting household waste doesn’t have to start in the cupboards. You can stop waste at the source by buying less in the first place. There’s no point buying extra plastic that you don’t need, to go through the hassle of disposing of it and damaging the environment. Most high street shops offer loose veg, so you can cut back on plastic and eat eco-friendly.
Be Local, Buy Local
Even in typically healthy foods like cabbage or kale, airmiles wreak ecological havoc, making your friendly foods less friendly than you’d think. It’s easy to check the origins of your fruit and veg, as UK food standards demand that fresh food be labelled with its country of origin. Consider checking whether your food comes from near or far before you purchase. In caring about the environment, you can support your local growers and stop paying for food to be flown all around the world. If farmer’s markets are too expensive, another way to eat locally is to grow your own in a kitchen garden.
Cut Down on Meat
Experts say that the best thing individuals can do for the planet is to go vegan. For many, that jump is so drastic that it becomes daunting. Often, undecided eaters get put off by militant vegan puritanism or rabbit-food horror stories.
Eco-friendly food is a journey, not a destination. If you care about eco-friendly food but love eating animals, consider avoiding meat for one day a week. This is nothing radical: Catholics have been doing meat-free Fridays for centuries. In 2009 Paul, Mary and Stella McCartney started a ‘Meat Free Monday’ campaign to encourage people to commit to a plant-based diet one day a week. Small dietary tweaks like a meat-free day create huge eco-friendly consequences and health implications, on an individual and a global scale.
As the new year approaches, you could also opt for Veganuary, and see how far into 2021 you get without eating animal products. Health issues and climate patterns get less predictable every year, so it’s crucial we do our bit to protect ourselves and others.
Try Some New Eco-Friendly Food
Industrial agriculture damages the planet when it creates monoculture crops that decimate biodiversity. As agricultural firms destroy the rainforest to grow single crops like avocados, palm oil plants, or soybeans, they push countless endangered and undiscovered animals to the brink of extinction. One way we can combat this, apart from buying local, is to diversify our diets to diversify the market.
There are over 20,000 edible species of plant, but if everyone eats the same five, the world is in danger. Spice up your life and protect the planet.
If you’re feeling particularly adventurous, many scientists suggest edible insects and insect-protein as a future-proof food solution. Rearing and processing edible insects like grasshoppers, termites, and ants uses far less space and resources than cows or sheep.
While insect delicacies are only currently available to Westerners online or in specialists restaurants or shops, the insect revolution may be just over the horizon. We could see the introduction of unintrusive insect butters and insect/mammal protein mixes in processed meat in the future.
Eco-Friendly Food Diets
Recently, veganism saw a huge boom in the UK, quadrupling in the last five years. As global trends favour more eco-friendly diets and lifestyles, a broad knowledge of each one helps you decide which might suit you best.
Now this is where it can get confusing. Hardcore vegans argue that veganism, unlike plant-based diets, is a lifestyle, in which all purchases should be cruelty-free and animal product free, from clothes, to toiletries, to meal deals.
Plant-based, by contrast, simply means avoiding eating animal products. Things like animal-filtered alcohol and honey consumption fall into a grey area in between.
Raw vegans, arguably the most hardcore of all, only eat organic, unprocessed, raw foods. Their meals grow exclusively from plants, and cannot undergo any chemical processes, or even be cooked to any high heats. This eco-friendly option is not for everyone but does present some interesting options in flavour-filled crunchy fruit and veg creations. It also offers some outstanding health benefits worth looking into.
Flexitarian and Freegan
When the EAT-Lancet food science commission employed 37 scientists to determine a sustainable diet for the future, they landed on something akin to flexitarianism. Many eco-friendly eaters worldwide have already taken this option up as an easy yet ethical alternative to strict vegetarianism or veganism. As the name suggests, flexitarianism puts the ‘flex’ into meat-free diets. While flexitarians steer clear of meat in the main, they eat meat on occasion, or in social situations for special celebrations.
Similarly, freeganism involves flexible veganism but isn’t averse to animal products every now and then. Freegans accept non-vegan meals as gifts and will eat them to avoid food wastage.
Both options offer flexible ways to introduce eco-friendliness into your diet. While no diet works perfectly for everyone, it’s always worth appreciating different eco-friendly options and trying different styles out to see how they feel.
Will you Start to Eat More Eco-Friendly Food?
As a well-known retailer once said, every little helps. Do what you can to eat healthily, but don’t beat yourself up about it. Eating eco-friendly food can be confusing and difficult. Ultimately, governments could do more to promote eco-friendly foods for producers and consumers alike financially. As momentum builds for eco-friendly eating, we should see this happen on a global scale. Until then, try more eco-friendly foods for a sustainable future.