IN THE HOME
Here are suggestions of ways to change simple things to make food and drink in the home more eco-friendly. Click here to find out more about how food contributes to climate change, deforestation and threatens populations of wild animals
MEAT & DAIRY
Cutting down on meat, especially beef, and dairy is one of the best ways to reduce your environmental impact when it comes to food. If you're considering trying to reduce your meat and dairy consumption but need some inspiration, we've put together a collection of plant-based recipes.
If you’re set on staple meals revolved around meat then there are plenty of plant-based alternatives available, from chorizo sausages to crispy duck. Options are now available in most supermarkets across the UK. Although these still have an environmental impact, it is considerably less than eating meat.
Switching from animal to vegan milk is another great way to reduce your footprint. There are many alternatives available in most UK supermarkets, all of which have a lower environmental impact than animal milk overall. Coconut, hemp, oat and pea-protein are the most environmentally friendly milks to choose. After these, almond, rice and soy milks have more of an environmental impact however they are still much more eco-friendly than animal milk overall.
If you’re set on cow’s milk did you know there are lots of places that still have milkman delivery services? It’s a great way of cutting down on plastic waste. Go to Find Me A Milkman to find your nearest milk delivery service.
There are ways to eat seafood in a more eco-friendly way; opting for sustainably sourced fish is a great step in the right direction. This means ensuring enough fish are left in the ocean for a healthy balance of wildlife and minimising the environmental impact. You can look for the Marine Stewardship Council logo on products shown below for sustainably sourced seafood.
The Good Fish Guide webpage and app by the Marine Conservation Society are great tools as they show how sustainable different types of seafood are. There’s even a list dedicated to the most sustainable fish fingers. The MCS have also put together a collection of recipes for types of fish and the months they are best to eat.
Packaging is another big issue when it comes to food and finding produce that doesn’t come stored in plastic can be very difficult. Other types of packaging also have their environmental impact. Using zero waste shops is one of the best ways to drastically cut down on packaging waste and they are growing in numbers around the UK. You can find your nearest shop here.
The same goes for using your local green grocers, bakery, butchers or farmer’s market. Whilst all these places may not be encouraging less packaging, it's certainly much easier to purchase packaging-free food from them. Take lunch boxes or produce bags to put your goods into, request no packaging where possible and you’ll create much less packaging waste. You’ll have the added bonus of fresher, tastier food too.
If you haven’t got a convenient zero waste shop or farmer’s market then there are still ways to reduce packaging waste in supermarkets. Some supermarkets will now let you take lunch boxes for deli counter items. You could also take your own produce bags for loose fruit, veg and baked goods instead of using the plastic or paper bags provided.
If this isn't at all practical for you then there are still ways to be more eco-friendly in a standard supermarket shop. Opting for items in glass and metal packaging is a good way to do this as these materials are much more recyclable than others. For example, opting for peas in a tin instead of frozen peas in a plastic bag is a much more sustainable choice. Just make sure the tin goes in the recycling bin when you're finished with it.
When shopping for food it's also much better for the Earth to take your own bag instead of buying plastic bags in the shop. Plastic bags-for-life may be better than single-use plastic bags however they are still not a sustainable choice compared with other options.
Over half the food we buy from supermarkets contains palm oil. The best solution to this is opting for foods with sustainable palm oil, find out more why here.
The difficult part of this is knowing which items contain sustainable palm oil and which items contain palm oil which has caused deforestation. The RSPO (Roundtable of Sustainable Palm Oil) has a production standard for companies to comply with in order to produce sustainable palm oil. If you see their logo, shown below, on products then you know they contain sustainable palm oil.
Chester Zoo have put together a list of brands currently using sustainable palm oil to make it easier for us to buy products with sustainable palm oil. We have power as consumers simply by the choices we make. Shifting to products that use sustainable palm oil sends out a clear message to companies. Click here to find out what products we buy contain palm oil to know when to look out for sustainable palm oil options.
Getting a take-away can be a lovely treat. It may not be a particularly eco-friendly thing to do but there are simple ways to make it a little greener:
If you’re getting a chippy, you could ask for items to only be wrapped in paper instead of unrecyclable polystyrene. Even if places are using biodegradable packaging, the least packaging used the better for the Earth!
You could take your own tote bag and refuse the plastic bag provided.
If you’re ordering a set meal from your local and you know there are some things you never eat, e.g. sauces for poppadums, then why not ask to not have them? Cutting down on unnecessary packaging and food waste is a great way of lowering your footprint.
If you’ve got food leftover then why not use it up the next day? Curry often tastes better a day later!
Food waste is one of the biggest problems with food, 10 million tonnes of it is thrown away each year. Only buying what you know you are going to eat is a good place to start in avoiding this. For example, if you know you only need six carrots, opt for the loose ones when available instead of the packaged bag of ten. Not only does this cut down on food waste but it also means you can avoid plastic packaging.
Getting creative and putting left overs to use is also a great way to help the planet. Freezers are a big help for this; using them not only helps to reduce food waste but can also save some time if bigger meals are cooked and saved for another day.
When choosing food we generally select the best-looking goods. We can probably afford to be a bit more relaxed with this. Opting for the ‘ugly’ fruit and veg from time to time is a great way to be greener; often this food ends up going to waste despite being perfectly edible!
The same goes for sell by dates. We often have a habit of choosing the item on the shelf with the longest sell by date. If you know that you're definitely going to use the food on that particular day or the next day then you could go for the option with the shortest sell by date. Shops can no longer sell products past there sell by date and for this reason masses of food goes to waste.
Too Good To Go is an app to help eliminate food waste. Maybe you know you'll be home later from work one night and can't be bothered to cook. Too Good To Go connects you to local bakeries, cafes and restaurants that have to throw out food at the end of the night. A lot of this food is still perfectly edible and that's where the app comes in. Pick up discounted, local food and help put a stop to food waste.
Ditching cling film, plastic food bags and foil and switching to food containers and reusable food wraps is one of the best things to do to cut down on unrecyclable waste. Go to our sustainable food storage page to find where you can get them from.
Paper kitchen towels are often used when we eat. Not only are these wasted paper but also the plastic wrap they are packaged in is often unrecyclable. Why not switch to reusable options instead?
If reusable kitchen roll isn't practical for you then there are also more sustainable options for single-use kitchen roll. These are packaged in recyclable paper and the kitchen roll is made from either recycled paper or bamboo which is much more sustainable.
Drinking tap water is one of the best ways to be more eco-friendly. We are lucky to live in a country where we are able to drink tap water. Avoiding bottled water is one of the easiest actions we can take to avoid plastic in the UK.
If you prefer your water chilled in the fridge, you could get yourself a glass bottle, jug or carafe to fill up from the tap instead of buying bottled water.
Did you know the majority of teabags are made up of plastic? Switching to plastic-free tea, using loose tea with a teapot, tea infuser or reusable tea bags is the greenest solution to avoid plastic waste. Not only that but your tea will taste better too!