Did you know that eating vegetarian or vegan meals is one of the best things that you can do to positively impact the environment? The current global food system is damaging our planet and is subsequently one of the leading causes of climate change, land use, freshwater usage, and pollution. On average, vegetarian meals contribute 2.5 times less carbon emissions compared to a meat dish. Additionally, research has shown that if an individual follows a vegan diet for one year, it reduces the same level of global emissions as a family taking a small car off the road for 6 months.
Despite these astounding facts, it is understandable that changing to a vegetarian diet overnight is a daunting prospect. Taking small steps is a much more achievable way to slowly begin your personal contribution to reducing climate change. According to a study carried out from April-May 2021, 13% of the British population identify as flexitarians. A flexitarian is a person who is primarily vegetarian but chooses to include some meat or fish into their diet. This is potentially an easier way to contribute to the reduction of harmful emissions without having to give up all your favourite foods and recipes.
Introducing ‘meat-free Monday’s’ into your weekly diet is a great way to try new foods and recipes, whilst coincidingly saving the planet and avoiding feeling overwhelmed by your new dietary restrictions. Once ‘meat-free Monday’s’ become your norm, you can challenge yourself further by turning your normal meal plan on its head. Having meat as the side dish, is an interesting and achievable way to reduce your meat consumption without cutting it out of your diet all together. After all, the less meat you eat, the less you will find yourself missing it from your plate.
Another great way to help the environment is by shopping locally. When you shop at large supermarkets, many of the food items you buy have travelled over 1,500 miles to get onto the shelves. Local food, however, has a lower carbon footprint as it does not have to be shipped overseas via plane or truck, consequently reducing fuel consumption, packing facilities/products and reduces refrigeration time.
It is also argued that buying locally is better for your health. Many local food producers focus on keeping their produce organic, hormone free and pesticide free. This benefits both our health and the environment around us; reducing the amount of harmful toxins in the air, ensures that we are breathing in better quality air as well as growing crops in higher quality conditions.
Furthermore, shopping locally also helps retain communities, by ensuring local stores can stay open and your Highstreet doesn’t become derelict. Additionally, local shops are renowned for valuing their customers highly and being more generous when giving back to local charities and their community.
To conclude, supporting local businesses is a key approach to tackle the current environmental issues that we are facing; whilst additionally reaping a plethora of other benefits including providing more jobs for locals. When paired with a reduction in meat consumption, the positive difference one individual can make in the fight against climate change is astounding.