We are being made increasingly aware of the global need to reduce our carbon footprint and do our part for the environment: save electricity, recycle, reduce pollution and reuse. This requires us all to look at eating green – adopting a more sustainable diet and lifestyle. To work out your carbon footprint using the South African CO2 calculator, log on to the Food and Trees for Africa website.
Eating green or following a lower carbon diet is aimed at reducing landfills, pesticide use, overfishing and consumption of fossil fuels.
3 easy steps to eating green for a lower carbon diet:
1. Choose climate-friendly food
Food that is higher on the food chain, or is extensively processed, in general requires more energy and releases more pollution. Cattle are one of the largest producers of methane, a greenhouse gas that significantly contributes to global warming. Vegetables require less energy and water to grow, making them a more carbon-efficient food source than domesticated livestock. You don’t have to give up all meat though, knowing where the meat was reared and how it was packaged relates to the overall carbon footprint and can help you make informed decisions, like these:
- Choose local, organic, grass-fed meats and animal products.
- Try Meat Free Monday, or any day of the week for that matter.
- Choose fresh foods with minimal processing steps. Freezing, packaging, processing, cooking and refrigerating all increase energy use.
- Check the South African Sustainable Seafood Initiative (SASSI) website for sustainable seafood lists OR text the name of the fish to 079 499 8795 to immediately receive a message whether to tuck in, think twice, or avoid completely (normal network rates apply).
2. Buy seasonal, local produce
Choose fruit and vegetables that are in season and grown nearby. Where you can, it is even better to buy directly from the farmer. There are now many local farmers markets where the food may have travelled less and contain less packaging, and thereby produce substantial energy savings.
3. Reduce, reuse, recycle… use some of these simple alternatives
- Buy larger pack sizes – avoid single serving containers, buy the largest container you will use.
- Skip bottled water – rather buy a reusable water bottle and fill it up.
- Pack your own lunch to decrease your consumption of takeaway and processed foods.
- Skip the takeaway coffee – make your own.
- Buy only what you will use before it expires to cut down on waste.
- Fill up your freezer – a freezer full of foods uses less energy than an empty one.
- Don’t open the oven door while cooking and baking – every time you do, you lose heat, meaning more energy is needed to keep your oven at the desired temperature.
- Buy fresh and unprocessed – buy food in its natural state or minimally processed e.g. oats instead of refined breakfast cereals or fresh chicken instead of crumbed, processed chicken – less fossil fuels are used in processing and can lower your calories too…
- Start a veggie garden at home or, if you have limited space, grow herbs on your windowsill and vegetables in pots.
- Include foods that need less energy to cook e.g. salads.
- Cook several things at once in your oven or steamer.
- Make food in bulk to maximise the cooking time – then portion out and freeze for later.
- Only boil the needed amount of water in your kettle.
- Buy energy-efficient kitchen appliances.
- Let food cool before refrigerating or freezing it.
- Take you own shopping bags
- Wash and save food containers to use for storage.
- Arrange to recycle paper, glass, plastic, cans, tins, food waste and paper.
- Visit My Waste, to locate your nearest recycling centres.
- For paper recycling information and locations visit the Paper Recycling Association of South Africa (PRASA) website or Mpact Recycling.
- Collect-a-can have helped improve southern Africa’s used can recovery rate has improved from 18% to 72%.
- Visit the The Glass Recycling Company website to find the location of your nearest glass bank OR by sending a SMS with the word ‘GLASS’ and the name of your suburb to 32310 (SMS charged at R1).
- Put your vegetable scraps in a compost bin, instead of the rubbish bin – this turns your kitchen scraps into nutrient-rich compost for your garden (and eliminates the need for processed fertilisers).
Don’t forget that what we eat matters – the food choices we make everyday have a big effect on the environment. From farm to fork, food production, processing and transportation can consume enormous amounts of energy, water and chemicals. If everyone adopts a few small, consistent changes, these can add up to real environmental benefits!
Other Useful Eating Green Resources: