Sustainable Living

Mitigating Climate Change One Meal At A Time

Photo by Monika Grabowska on Unsplash

Climate change is by far the most serious challenge facing the human race, a fact made abundantly clear by the latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The report warns that the worst effects of global warming including extreme weather, drought, floods and poverty, can be avoided only if ‘unprecedented changes’ are made in all aspects of society. Although the challenges are vast, there are a number of changes we can make on a consumer level to help tackle climate change. In fact, one of the most powerful things we can do starts with what we put in our trolleys, on our plates and in our mouths: eating less meat and more plant-based meals.

When we pick up a pack of bacon from the local supermarket we seldom stop to think about how it got there. However, in reality, potent greenhouse gases are released at every stage of meat production, from the conversion of land for feed, through the digestive processes of livestock, to the transportation of packaged products to supermarket shelves. In fact, meat and dairy consumption is responsible for 14.5% of global greenhouse gas emissions, which is more than those emitted from the world’s road vehicles, trains, ships and aeroplanes combined. It might shock you to know that the dietary greenhouse gas emissions of meat-eaters are actually twice as high as vegans.

However, you don’t need to go vegan to make a difference. Many of us are currently eating more than the recommended amount of meat and reducing our meat intake just to meet nutritional guidelines would be a highly effective way of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. This would also be better for our health, given that diets high in meat and other animal products are associated with a number of health concerns, including an increased risk of heart disease, diabetes and several forms of cancer. On the other hand, plant-based diets are associated with health promotion and disease prevention. Scientific studies have estimated that eating less red and processed meat would decrease the risk of contracting heart disease, diabetes and cancer, whilst significantly reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Therefore, eating less meat and more plant-based meals can improve our health, whilst helping to tackle climate change.

If you’re interested in reducing your meat consumption but don’t know where to begin, here a few things you can try:

  • Ditch the meat at lunch. Instead of a ham sandwich, try having falafel, a vegetable wrap, veggie soup or sushi.
  • Have a meat-free day each week. Switch out meat for extra veggies, tofu, beans, or a meat-free alternative.
  • Try cooking something new. There are thousands of vegetarian and vegan recipes available online for free, just ask Google.
  • Try a vegetarian or vegan option the next time you eat out, you might be surprised!

So why not try something new and reap the rewards of a diet that is both healthier and more sustainable? You might surprise yourself!

About the author

Emily Wolstenholme

I’m a PhD researcher in the field of Environmental & Social Psychology. For those of you scratching your heads – I’m essentially interested in the psychological and social dimensions of environmental issues. My thesis focuses on ways of encouraging meat reduction and the uptake of plant-based meals as a climate change strategy, something I’m passionate about after following a plant-based diet myself for around 5 years. Ultimately I aim to educate and inspire others, so that collectively we can help to make a difference.

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