- Shop local
About half the food eaten in the UK each year is produced here. The other half has been imported – some, fairly sustainably (like bananas, which are brought in by boat and are usually grown outdoors without artificial lighting or pesticides), and others that are less environmentally friendly and have been air-freighted from the other side of the planet.
We are accustomed to being able to buy blueberries in January and asparagus in December, but meeting this demand has a huge impact on the environment. Where possible, look to buy seasonal, British-grown produce as it will have less food miles and will not have been flown to the supermarket.
Download a seasonal food calendar and plan meals around produce that occurs naturally at the time of year. If possible, support local fruit and veg suppliers or markets. They will often be able to tell you where the food has been grown and whether it has been treated with chemicals or grown organically.
Another consideration is to grow some of your own edibles. You don’t need an allotment to be able to grow a few vegetables or herbs. One of our colleagues here at Nicholsons aims to grow anything she can’t buy plastic-free at the supermarket, and spending a bit of time nurturing some Lollo rossa early in the season meant she didn’t have to buy salad leaves all summer!
We like to practise what we preach: the vegetables in our Yurt are supplied by North Aston Organics, who deliver in plastic-free packaging and give us a food miles rating of 300 metres from farm to fork. We also work with a local florist Greenery, who promotes herself as a ‘sustainable florist’, supporting a ‘Home grown, not flown’ approach.
- Books, cooks and eco-living
The most wonderful thing about eco-friendly living becoming more mainstream is the positive impact this will have on the environment. However, the snowball effect means that as more people look for sustainable products, they are becoming more prevalent. Simply put, the easier it is to make good choices, the more people will do it.
It has never been a better time to learn about the environment. Documentaries are plentiful on any subject – from over-fishing to fast fashion – for anyone who learns best through film. For the listeners, a multitude of podcasts are available on the subject. Or, for the readers, online articles and books galore are being released to help people live more sustainably. We are gathering quite a range in our shop: from making your own cleaning products (with none of the nasties), how to forage in your garden and books on how to live plastic-free, we have something for you, whatever your area of interest.
- Food and Fuel
We know that burning fossil fuels to power engines is releasing clouds of gases into the atmosphere at an alarming rate. However, it is less widely known that the transportation industry is not the worst contributor to our greenhouse gas levels. It is the largest contributor of carbon dioxide – but this is far less potent than the gas methane, which is initially far more devastating to the climate because of how effectively it absorbs heat. A given amount of methane in the atmosphere is estimated to be 84 times more potent than the same amount of carbon dioxide.
This means that although 82% of our greenhouse gas concentration is Carbon Dioxide (compared to 10% methane), the methane is doing far more damage. It is therefore worth noting that the environmentally-conscious should look to adjust their behaviour with both these gases in mind.
The most efficient way to reduce individual carbon emissions are still through transport choices. Taking time to plan the week ahead (considering events, meals and social outings) can lessen the likelihood that you will need to make a last-minute dash for the shops to pick up a vanilla pod for a baking session. Consider if longer journeys can be made by train or coach, or if driving is unavoidable, consider offering any space in your car on a car-sharing site such as BlaBlaCar. Taking fewer flights is also a great long-term aim – consider holiday destinations that can be reached by train in Europe, or swap a long-haul flight for a stay-cation – perhaps in a British coastal town or the Lake District.
As mentioned above, this is an incredibly potent gas, doing more harm to the atmosphere than the demonised Carbon Dioxide. The biggest contribution to methane release is from animal agriculture, particularly cattle, and this is exacerbated by the deforestation creating space to grow animal feed. It is estimated that 91% of deforestation of the Amazon has been to clear way for animal farming or growing animal feed.
The positive environmental impact of reducing one’s meat and dairy intake is becoming more recognised in the media, and with global demand for these products moving in a downwards trend, more people are adopting ‘Meat-free Mondays’ or generally reducing their consumption of these products. The environmental impact of dietary choices is so great that there is scientific support to indicate that walking a mile could actually be worse than driving the same mile (in terms of greenhouse gas production) if the calories used by the walker were provided by meat. Along the same lines, a family of four choosing to eat a plant-based diet for one week have the same environmental impact as if they were to stop driving their car for 35 weeks!
Buying high welfare, locally bred meat – and less of it – is a really good step to reducing personal contribution to methane release. With plant-based eating becoming so much more popular, there is a wealth of recipe ideas online too, so there has never been a better time to eat your vegetables!
Written by: Tami Battle - Sustainability Manager