There’s no escaping the reality of climate change. The icecaps are melting, sea levels are rising, and our planet is getting hotter. We hear solutions being debated every day, from carbon taxes to alternative energy sources. Many of us want to do something and help the world become a better place, but don’t know where to begin.
It can be difficult to figure out the easiest ways to reduce your own carbon footprint. But the good news is there are plenty of simple lifestyle changes that can help you be a little “greener” – and you can start making these changes at breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
Did you know that the typical Western diet – including lots of meat, dairy, and processed foods – actually contributes to rising CO2 levels and is one cause of climate change? Martin Shay, an endangered species field technician, explains why and what you can do to eat a more sustainable diet.
1. Eat less meat.
Especially red meat and pork! “Animal agriculture produces lots of greenhouse gasses, which contribute to rising global temperatures and elevated sea levels,” says Shay. “By eating less meat, we can lessen the demand for these products and show food companies that they need to turn towards vegetarian and vegan options.”
2. Eat less dairy.
“You may think that as long as you’re not eating the actual animal, your diet is sustainable, but that isn’t necessarily true,” says Shay. “The dairy industry is still animal agriculture, and it is inextricably connected with the meat industry. Cows take up resources, such as grain and water, that could directly benefit people.” Raising animals for food on a mass scale, even for milk instead of meat, uses huge quantities of water and grain and contributes to soil erosion.
3. Choose fruits and veggies that are in season.
“In developed countries, we have so many options at the grocery store. This might seem like a good thing, but being able to purchase strawberries in the middle of December, for example, actually has some negative implications,” explains Shay. “If you’re eating produce that can’t grown locally at that time of year, it had to be shipped in from somewhere else, which means there were fossil fuels used in the transport process.” Eating locally grown produce from farmers markets can be a fun way to try something new – and it doesn’t have to be more expensive than the grocery store!
4. Choose foods without packaging.
“It’s not just what you eat – it’s what you’re eating it out of,” says Shay. “Think of how many foods, especially processed foods, come in individually wrapped packaging that often can’t be recycled.” Trying to create less waste can seem like a massive challenge, but with a little research, you can go practically waste-free. “Start small, like buying a reusable water bottle, reusing things like plastic take-out containers, and bringing your own bags to the grocery store,” says Shay.
Eating a more sustainable diet doesn’t have to be challenging. Making changes might take a bit of getting used to, but by cutting down on meat and dairy, eating foods that are in season, and creating less waste, you’ll be making a positive impact on our planet!
Written by Jane Harkness