Throughout 2021 we're encouraging everyone in Merton to join us in the effort to make the borough carbon neutral by taking steps in their day-to-day lives to reduce their carbon footprint. Each month we're focusing on a different theme where we can all play a part in tackling climate change.
The theme for January is: food
A sustainable diet is good for the planet and good for you.
It takes a lot of energy and water to produce, package and transport the food we buy. Making a change to our diets is one of the simplest and most effective ways to decrease our individual carbon footprints. It can also save us money and improve our health and wellbeing.
If you want to help us achieve net-zero carbon by changing how you buy food or what you eat, you can make one or more of the following pledges:
Why not pledge to reduce your food waste? You can do this by planning and shopping smart, and storing food properly. When you pack new food into the fridge, try putting the items that will go off last towards the back and ensuring that those that need eating first are easily seen at eye level at the front of the fridge. And if you do have excess food, consider donating to Merton's community fridge or your local food bank. You can find lots of other tips and fun recipes to use up your leftover food at Love Food Hate Waste and #FoodSavvy.
Avoid plastic packaging – We all know that plastic is terrible for our oceans and our wildlife, but it is also very energy intensive to make and therefore damaging to our climate. Can you make the switch to buying plastic-free products, or those with reduced plastic packaging? Check out Sustainable Merton's Plastic Free Merton page for more tips.
Eat locally grown and seasonal food – Seasonal food isn't only tasty and cheaper, it's also much better for the environment. The closer to home that food is grown, the less emissions it will take to transport it to your plate. Consider how far it's come and how it got here (foods like berries and salads will have to be flown from warmer places in the winter, but others like bananas and sweet potatoes are often shipped). Bear in mind that fruit and veg produced in a heated greenhouse in the UK over the winter may have a far higher footprint than products shipped from elsewhere, so eating seasonal food is just as important. Why not try something new and discover local food growers and seasonal ingredients to cook with. Eat Seasonably have a helpful guide to UK produce.
Know your food – By taking this pledge, you're promising to find out more about the food that you eat, so that you can make more sustainable choices. When you're doing your next food shop, look at the labels to find out where your food has come from and what it's made of. Tools like GIKI can help with this.
Grow your own – Eating locally sourced food means fewer emissions caused by transportation, and you can't get any more local than your garden, allotment, or community garden. So grab your trowel, some soil and some seeds and see which of your favourite fruits and veggies you can bring to life this year. As well as saving the planet, you'll probably see savings in your pocket as well. Check out #GiveItAGrow to get started and/ or get involved in local community gardening events near you.
Get to know veg – Meat has a big impact on the climate. It's estimated that animal products are responsible for about 13% of global greenhouse gases (that's half of all the emissions caused by the food we eat). This is primarily down to deforestation caused by meat production and animals producing a lot of methane, which has a much higher global warming potential than carbon dioxide. We're not asking everyone to turn fully veggie, but by taking this pledge, you'll be committing to cutting down the amount of meat you eat. This could be by one meal a week, two, three, or more. There are plenty of plant-based alternatives to discover. Consider adding pulses like beans, lentils or chickpeas to stews, curries and salads instead of meat – this is also a healthy, cheaper alternative. Check out WWF's Future Foods Report to learn about other plant-based alternatives.
Cut back on dairy – For the same reasons as meat, dairy impacts on our climate. Fortunately, there are now many alternatives to milk, cheese, butter and other dairy products. Why not take this pledge and consider the alternatives?
Other – Our pledges have been chosen because we think they're the easiest way to have a big impact, but you might have some great ideas of your own. If there's a change that you want to make that isn't listed above, let us know how you're going to do your bit.
You can find out more about Merton's Climate Strategy and Action Plan, and how you can get involved in Merton's Climate Action Group.