There has been a surge in the number of people becoming vegetarian or vegan in recent years, with many of them citing a desire to reduce their carbon footprint as a principal motivator. In fact, the two concepts of meat-reduction and environmental sustainability have become so intertwined that you would be hard-pressed to find a vegetarian or vegan who isn’t conscious of their impact on the natural environment. Similarly, it would be odd to meet an environmental campaigner who doesn’t limit the amount of meat in their diet.
While it is true that vegetarians and vegans have much lower carbon footprints than meat-eaters, an over-emphasis on cutting meat and dairy out completely, risks promoting the assumption that only a fully vegan or veggie diet is environmentally beneficial, when there are other more manageable initial routes to a more sustainable diet. If you want to reduce your impact on the environment but don’t feel ready to commit fully to a meat-free diet, here are some smaller changes that you could consider making instead
Shop small, buy local
While supermarkets may be the epitome of convenience, they are not the most sustainable way to purchase your food. A much better option is to shop locally in grocer’s, bakeries, and farmer’s markets, where the produce travels considerably fewer miles to get to your shopping basket. Furthermore, you should find that these smaller shops and businesses generally use less plastic packaging that the large retailers that they compete against, making them more sustainable from yet another perspective. With increasing numbers of people taking daily walks to keep healthy during the lockdown, it is more convenient than ever before to stop by a local grocery or bakery to pick up some fresh produce. Why not give it a go for just one week?
Get your meals delivered straight to your door
You might have heard about delivery services such as Hello Fresh that deliver meal kits to your door. These kits contain all the ingredients needed for your weekly meals, measured to the exact gram, and thereby help to combat food waste. Gone are the days where you have to throw away a whole bag of onions because your recipe only called for one! Also, these services ensure that your food travels as efficiently as possible, as there is no need to waste additional fuel in transporting the ingredients to and from a supermarket. While these services usually work on fairly pricey subscriptions, you can cut the cost by banding together with a few housemates, using one of the many discount codes available, or simply pausing the subscription for a few weeks at a time.
Make one meat-free swap per week
The offering of meat-free substitutes has increased exponentially over the past few years, and so it’s now easier than ever to make your favourite dishes vegetarian. These swaps could be as simple as making a chilli with vegetarian mince, trying out the ‘Beyond Burger’ one time, or choosing to add tofu or Quorn pieces to your fajitas. There is a wealth of information on the Internet about how to turn meat-based dishes into vegetarian ones, and a wide variety of products that will help you do so with ease. Furthermore, you will often find that the meat-free equivalent of a traditionally meat-based product is considerably healthier, with fewer calories and less saturated fat. So, there is all the more reason to make one meat-free swap per week. After all, if everyone in the world made an effort to reduce their meat consumption, it would make a huge positive impact on the environment. While vegetarians and vegans play an important and admirable role in the fight against climate change, it is important to remember that these are not the only routes to a more sustainable diet.
– Alice Walters
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