5 Principles of low carbon food

Autumn is traditionally harvest time and there’s more seasonal, local food in the shops now than at any other time of year.  So it’s a great time for the most tasty produce that also saves CO2. 
Here are the 5 main ways to reduce the carbon footprint of our food, which often make the most delicious, nutritious and healthy dishes too. 

Seasonal food can be the most fresh, which usually also means most nutritious and delicious - it’s often the least expensive as well.  Spring is when it’s hardest to eat seasonally in the UK. 
TIP:  Ask your local greengrocer what’s in season and locally produced. This time of year is brilliant for everything from potatoes, carrots, beetroot and greens to apples and pears.

Not only does eating locally reduce transport miles, it also pays more local wages, giving work to people in our area.  For every pound spent in a local shop 45p stays in the area, but in large chains only 10p stays local.
TIP:  When it comes to meat, British meat has on average ¼ of the carbon emissions of average international meat, thanks to being largely grass fed.

Fertilisers produce a lot of greenhouse gasses and pesticides harm insects, bees and birds, and can leave toxin residues in the food.  Organic food solves these three problems, so as well as saving CO2 it helps British birds and wildlife.  Biological processes in farming emit more CO2 than transportation, so imported organic food usually has a lower carbon footprint than local non-organic food.  
TIP: If you can’t afford organic food you could just buy organic milk, which will hardly change your food bill but makes a big difference.
Grass fed 

Grass fed animals have lower methane emissions (a powerful greenhouse gas) and grass sequesters CO2, absorbing it into the soil.  Some meats and cheeses are labeled grass fed. 
TIP:  Look out for food labelled ‘grass fed’ or find out if the farms where your produce comes from feed their animals mainly cereals or mainly grass.

Avoid importing water.  While 1kg of cereal can feed a family for a few days, 1kg of bananas is only dessert for one meal, and 1kg of wine (a bottle) merely accompanies a meal.  Transporting dried foods has a very low carbon footprint, so shipping it across the world will be part of the low carbon future.
TIP:  Feel fine about imported dried food and focus on buying food with a high water content as close to home as possible.
Next steps

A great way to reduce the carbon footprint of your food is to choose one or more of these 5 principles and try to stick to it for the coming year.  See if you agree it leads to more tasty and varied food too!
TIP: Take 5 minutes to do your carbon footprint first so you get the feelgood factor of seeing it reduce over time.
Bon appetit,

Mukti Mitchell and the Carbon Savvy team

» Click here to do your carbon footprint

Upcoming event: Ethical Consumer Week, 16-22nd October

An exciting series of talks on low carbon and eco themes, free or by donation.
Mukti Mitchell will be speaking at:
Food and Farming - a panel discussion with Growing Real Food for Nutrition
Saving CO2 and Raising Wellbeing  - hosted by Carbon Savvy

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