Surrey County Council has estimated that food-related emissions make up 26% of the carbon footprint for the average Surrey Resident (more on this can be found on the Surrey County Council Climate Change page).
It follows that increasing the sustainability of the produce we buy is one way we can all make a difference in the fight against climate change.
Food contributes to emissions in a number of ways, and considering these helps to identify our opportunities to reduce the environmental impact of what we eat.
Growing food and raising livestock often uses large quantities of water, energy and chemicals. Some food types are responsible for greater carbon emissions than others.
Reducing your meat and dairy consumption, even swapping one meal a week, will have a positive impact on your carbon footprint.
- Check out the climate change food calculator on the BBC website to estimate the climate impact of what you eat and drink.
- You can find some delicious meat and dairy-free recipes on the Vegan Society website.
Eat food which is produced in its natural season.
This reduces the emissions needed to produce it. For example, heating and lighting a glasshouse to grow strawberries in winter is much more energy-intensive than letting the sun do the work in spring and summer.
Below are some of our favourite British foods throughout the year and you can find many more on the Vegetarian Society website:
- Brussel sprouts
- Spring greens
- New potatoes
Over the last 50 years, the UK has witnessed a steep decline in wildlife, in part due to the impacts of agricultural chemicals on soil fertility and pollinating insects.
Because organic farming methods are less damaging to the environment than chemical usage, wildlife is more abundant on organic farms, with plant and pollinator species being found in far greater numbers.
Consuming organic produce is therefore the best choice when it comes to the biodiversity impacts of your diet.
- The Soil Association website provides a wealth of information on this topic, including where to find organic produce.
Food is often transported long distances from where it is produced to where it is consumed. So transportation can have a big impact of the carbon footprint of what you consume.
Try to buy locally produced food when possible, to reduce the impact of transportation.
- Look out for local farmers' markets or shops that sell locally-produced goods
- The Mole Valley Together website is packed with information about local businesses in the District
- The Surrey Hills Enterprises website provides details of businesses which supply locally and sustainably produced food and drink
- The Local Food Britain website is another good source of information
Some foods use large amounts of packaging. Even if it can be recycled, the amount of energy needed to produce and then re-process this material is significant.
Choose food which includes less packaging.
- Buy loose produce and use reusable fruit and veg bags
- Take advantage of Zero-waste shops, such as the Greenwise shops in Ashtead and Fetcham and Eco Be in Dorking
It is estimated that between a fifth and a quarter of all food purchased in the UK is wasted. The processing of food waste has a carbon impact and the carbon cost of making, packaging and transporting food is effectively wasted when food is not consumed.
Minimise your food waste by only buying what you need and making sure you use what you have.
- Check out the tips on planning and portions from Surrey Environment Partnership (SEP)
- The SEP site also includes tips on reducing food waste
- Further advice on reducing food waste, including recipes for leftovers or expired food products, can be found on the Love Food Hate Waste website
- Please see the relevant pages on the MVDC website for information on kerbside food waste collection in Mole Valley and what happens to the food waste collected from your home
Grow your Own
In addition to the measures above, growing some of you own produce is probably the most sustainable approach to food.
- You don't need a huge garden or an allotment - you can grow things in pots, baskets or even on your windowsill
- Check out the Royal Horticultural Society website for guidance on growing your own fruit, vegetables and herbs
- There are 10 allotment sites across Mole Valley comprising over 750 full plots - visit our Allotments page for further information
- For information about home composting, visit the Surrey Environment Partnership website. Discounted compost bins and food waste digesters can be purchased the the Surrey Environment Partnership's subsidy scheme from £17.70 including delivery