What I Eat

Food consumption is a major topic when addressing climate change. The food we eat really matters when it comes to addressing climate change. The IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) special report tells us that the type and quantity of food we eat as well as how we produce, grow, transport, store and sell it accounts for 21-37% of total greenhouse gases. Agriculture takes up to 40% of global land use, affecting water use, biodiversity, deforestation and soil degradation. Not only does producing food contribute to climate change but climate change in itself could threaten our ability to produce the food needed to sustain the global human population.

Animal-based food sources generally have a much higher environmental footprint. Cattle and sheep in particular release methane as they digest their food, which is a potent greenhouse gas. Studies show that a diet that includes more plant-based foods and less animal products can be kinder to both human and planetary health as well as animal welfare.

Below are some recommendations on how to make this transition.

Aim for a Plant-Based Diet

It is well-known that we need to eat our fruit and veg. A largely whole food and plant-based diet has been proven to prevent, halt, or even reverse chronic diseases, including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, certain types of cancer and other major illnesses. Many people report bigger fitness payoffs, more energy, reduced inflammation and better health outcomes after making the switch.

The Blue Zones study looked at the healthiest and longest living communities on the planet. Some of the things that these communities have in common include: daily exercising, being social, practicing mindfulness and eating a mainly wholefoods plant-based diet, which includes lots of legumes.

Disclaimer: Always inform your doctor of your diet swap if you are on medication as they might need some adjustments. Check with a qualified nutritionist to make sure all your dietary needs are being met.

Buy Local

Supporting local suppliers will reduce transport emissions and air miles. Local food is often seasonal which leads to a varied, interesting diet with a stronger connection to nature. Find your local farmers market and ask them for Irish and/or seasonal produce.

Alternatively you can try veggie box deliveries or even start to grow your own. You can invest in some herb-growing kits, do some sprouting or get a tower garden.

Choose Organic

Overall, published literature lacks strong evidence that organic foods are more nutritious than conventional ones. However, consumption of organic foods may reduce exposure to pesticide residues and antibiotic-resistant bacteria. In addition, using less-pesticide results in better biodiversity in the soil. There is no denying that organic food is more delicious! Consider opting for the Clean Fifteen over the Dirty Dozen unless they are organically grown.

Minimise Waste

According to the IPCC, between 25% to 30% of all the food that is produced is lost or wasted worldwide. This is a massive waste of our resources such as land use and water that results in needless emissions. Up to 10% of global emissions come from food waste. In fact the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the UN states that if food waste was a country it would be the third biggest emitter of greenhouse gases. Here are some tips on how to minimize waste and look here to make sure you’re aware of what can and can’t be recycled.

Budget-Friendly Options

Excluding certain meat alternatives and processed foods, plant-based foods are more budget friendly, especially if you buy loose bulk, cook at home, stick to mainly whole-foods and shop locally and seasonally.

Get Inspired and Informed

To learn more about the science of plant-based diets check out websites such as www.nutritionstudies.org and www.nutritionfacts.org Look at documentaries on Netflix such as What the Health, Forks Over Knives and Seaspiracy. Get inspired with some easy and delicious recipes by The Happy Pear and download the Daily Dozen app to help you keep track of your nutrition.

Take Practical Steps

Below are some tips on how to ACT NOW. You can choose your own pace depending on what is most suitable.

Week/Month 1 Try a meat and fish free weekend and actively look for plastic free alternatives in your local shop. Start to keep your empty jars to use as future containers. Start composting!

Week/Month 2 Swap diary milk for a plant-based alternative. Oat is the most sustainable plant drink. Join a relevant Facebook group or local communities to ask questions and help each other. Find your local market, bring a few reusable bags and do your shopping for the week. Try a new fruit and vegetable and add them to your next week’s meal prep plan.

Week/Month 3 Go and explore low-waste shops near you. Bring a few empty containers and have fun with your shopping! You can also start to invest in lower waste kitchen utensils such as coconut washing up brushes, soap bars, silicon mats for your oven, fabric sandwich wraps, etc.

Week or Month 4 Try to eat plant-based on your week-days. Go and explore health shops near you and ask for advice about different food and recipes. Look up what produce is in season and what recipes you can with it.

Following Weeks/Months Keep learning, trying new recipes and looking for new zero waste swaps. Look out for organic, Irish produce in your local markets and shops. When eating out, the check Happy Cow app for veggie options. Host a dinner party to share your new skills!

Furthermore, you can discuss food sustainability in the workplace/canteen and ask for more plant based options. Request planet friendly foods in your local restaurants when dining out. Don’t forget to share your new plant-based recipes and ideas with friends.

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