ETHICAL INSTALMENT : How to start eating better

We all know that we are what we eat, but more and more evidence shows our food choices seriously affect our planet, too. If you've watched Cowspiracy, or heard about Veganuary you may already know that one report has even claimed that the meat industry could be responsible for 51% of global greenhouse gas emissions. 

But what are you supposed to do if you want to be good to the planet but can't face a life without cheeseburgers? The first and most important thing is to really consider where our food comes from. 

Every day, we make hundreds of small choices about what we eat and each one has a huge effect on the environment. 

Before it even reaches our plate, food is raised or grown somewhere in the world, then clipped, shipped, refrigerated, processed, packaged, trucked, stored, sold and cooked. It might feel like the environmental impact of the food industry is beyond our control, but we can all be more mindful of what we put in our mouths and make it better not just for ourselves, but for the entire planet.

Choose better ingredients 

Let's just agree that growing enough food for seven billion humans takes a lot out of our planet. We use over 70% of the world's water to grow our food. 

Meat and dairy are two of the most energy-inefficient food groups; for instance, it takes 255 litres of water to produce a glass of milk, compared to 27 litres of water for one cup of tea (black, of course). 

In general, fruit and vegetables require much less water – but even then, not all vegetables are water efficient.

This includes the popular Instagram fad - avocados (it can take more than 1,000 litres to grow two medium avocados). Greenpeace Mexico has warned that, due to our love of guacamole, Mexican drug cartels are taking over avocado production, terrorising local communities and forcing farmers to deforest land to grow avocados and use illegal chemicals on their fields.

So, cut down on the meat wherever possible (or all together) and avoid choosing ingredients that just look good on social media, cucumber and tomatoes use a lot less water and can be just as good in your salad.

Avoid processed food 

Processed food has a bad reputation for what it does to your insides but have you ever thought about what it does to our environment? 

Generally, the further your food has travelled, the more energy and water it's used. Also, processed food is hard to depict - theres no true way of knowing exactly every ingredient in that food. 

Raw ingredients are usually frozen and shipped from all over the world to various factories, cut and cooked down before being packaged and shipped again to a depot. From there, they'll be transported to your local supermarket for you to chuck in your basket, take home and cook all over again. Generally, you have no control over where those ingredients come from, how energy-efficient those factories are or how much waste or pollution was created along the way. 

When you're on the go, processed food can be a lifesaver – but if you have time to cook from scratch using fresh ingredients, you'll be so much greener. No matter how healthy processed food claims to be, fresh is usually better for you and better for the planet. Cutting out processed food could also drastically reduce your food packaging.

It is so so much easier to monitor your personal health when you cook totally for yourself too. 


We all know the drill: less packaging = better for the environment. 

You might already be using canvas bags instead of plastic, but there is always room to go the extra mile so to speak. Before you buy your food, check to see if the packaging is recyclable – not all of it will be, but these symbols will let you know what you can recycle, and what will have to go in the bin. Also, look to see how much packaging there is in total; buying things that aren't individually wrapped is better.

Think about buying bigger packs foods too. You can store most uncooked rice almost indefinitely and pasta, sauces as well as cereal can be kept for long periods of time too. Not only that, but it often works out cheaper to buy 2kg in one rather than four 500g bags. 

Where you can, though, avoid packaging full-stop. Look for fresh food sold loose rather than in packs – it uses less energy when being transported from field to factory.

Eat local 

If you're lucky enough to have a local greengrocer, fishmonger, baker or butcher,  try to shop there - they can be more expensive but they appreciate the support and the experience is much more personal. 

Studies have found that small businesses may be better for the economy, community and of course the environment. 

In any UK supermarket you'll find food imported from countries like Vietnam, Peru and the Netherlands, which requires huge resources. In 2007, the Natural Resources Defense Council found that importing food was responsible for over 250,000 tons of global warming gases. That's the equivalent of almost two power plants. 

If you have no choice but to shop at a supermarket, look out for the country of origin on the packaging and choose one close to home.

Stop wasting your food 

Food waste happens all the time, all over the world. The World Resources Institute found that, between being grown and getting to your plate, about 25% of the world's food is lost or wasted. 

Often this is because food goes off during transport, because factories process food poorly or because supermarkets throw it away. 

WRAP says that the UK alone wastes 10 million tonnes of food each year, 60% of which could be avoided. 

If Europe stopped wasting food today, we could feed 200 million people.

70% of UK food waste happens in our own homes. 

Over half of the food we waste hasn't been used 'in time', including 17 billion portions of fresh produce. 

We've all done it – thrown away that surplus pepper when the stir fry recipe only calls for two. The easiest way to avoid doing this is to stop buying packs in the first place: if you need two peppers, buy two peppers. 

Also, be organised about your food -  if you have food that's about to go off, cook it and freeze it. If you have leftovers from dinner use them for your lunch or dinner the next day - if you don't fancy that you can even box it up and give to someone homeless on your way to work. 

'Best before' dates, according to both the NHS and the Food Standards Agency, are simply an indication of when food will be at its freshest, not when you should throw it away. Both 'sell by' and 'display until' dates are added by the supermarket, not by an authority: store your food well and, even past these dates, if it's not mouldy or yeasty, it's probably fine to cook with or freeze. But pay attention to anything marked 'use by' – after this date, food may become contaminated with bugs like norovirus. 

Give up meat and all other animal products where you can

Here's what you don't want to hear: the meat industry is seriously damaging the planet. 

Factory farming has led to deforestation, vast greenhouse gas emissions, waste dumping and massive water consumption. 

A single cow used for milk can drink up to 50 gallons of water per day—or twice that amount in hot weather—and it takes 683 gallons of water to produce just 1 gallon of milk. It takes more than 2,400 gallons of water to produce 1 pound of beef, while producing 1 pound of tofu (meat substitute made from soya) only requires 244 gallons of water. 

By going totally vegan, one person can save approximately 219,000 gallons of water a year and around 300 animal lives.

Not only that, it takes almost 20 times less land to feed someone on a plant-based (vegan) diet than it does to feed a meat-eater since the crops are consumed directly instead of being used to feed animals.

What is even worse is that eating animal products is also bad for your health - no it isn't 'killing' you as such, but eating alternatives is actually better for you.

Meat, dairy products, and eggs all contain cholesterol and saturated fat and contribute to America's top killers: heart attacks, strokes, diabetes, and various types of cancer.

But if you just can't get enough of eating animals - try to buy from small, sustainable farms, which usually treat their animals more 'kindly'. 

If your meat is labelled 'pasture fed' or 'grass fed', the animals will eat naturally growing grass rather than grain, which has to be shipped to the farm. 

If you buy meat labelled 'organic', the farm won't have used chemical pesticides or fertilisers, which means less water pollution and chemical runoff. 

(Tofu curry)


If you're interested in learning more about cutting down on meat, dairy and other animal products watch Cowspiracy - if you don't have time for that google it  - the information is out there ready for you to find. 

A great speaker and influencer of the Vegan movement is James Aspey who recently did a 365 day silence for the voiceless animals:

Jess xx


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