Adopting a sustainable relationship towards food during your first encounter with independence makes eco-friendly cooking more likely to become a lifelong habit. University is the perfect time to familiarise yourself with a few core principles that will help make environmentally conscious cooking second nature.
Lowering your consumption of high carbon footprint foods is one way we as individuals can help to tackle the environmental crisis. However, following a healthy, yet sustainable diet can actually be quite tough! The constant stream of new information makes sustainable cooking a minefield – something that was thought to be great last week might not be so great now!
After being jolted into action by environmental expose documentaries such as Cowspiracy and The Game Changers, I decided to radically reduce my intake of animal products. One of the first things I did was a switch from cows’ milk to almond milk. Despite my original perception of this move as ethically sound, I was struck to realise that almond milk has its own monstrously destructive environmental impact. It takes 1,611 US gallons (6,098 litres) of water to produce 1 litre of almond milk. The Californian industry’s heavy-handed use of insecticides also kills off over a million honey bees each year. My original perception of environmental do-gooding was shattered and I was left confused.
Despite my intention of pursuing a sustainable lifestyle, I was paradoxically fuelling an industry that perpetuated the ecological crisis. My perception of a simple binary argument where all animal products were bad and all plant-based products were good had been problematic. So, I started again and researched sustainable cooking practices to make sure I didn’t make subsequent blunders. I settled on an approach that did incorporate animal products – albeit greatly reduced and made sure I was always aware that plant-based doesn’t necessarily equate with eco-conscious. And so, here I have for you my a list of sustainable food-related recommendations:
Oat milk is the crown jewel of alternatives to dairy milk. It has a lower carbon footprint than traditional dairy milk and uses considerably less water. In addition to its status as a more sustainable option, it tastes pretty good but may take a slight adjustment. In my experience, it took about three weeks for me to start loving the stuff.
Opting for cod with this label ensures it stems from fishing practices that are in harmony with nature. The old cry from campaign lobbying groups was that cod was endangered. However, now stocks have replenished it can be enjoyed in moderation.
Eggs are close to the most climate-friendly source of animal protein. Although a little pricier, grass-fed eggs contain a higher ratio of vital omega 3 to omega 6 fatty acids, important in preventing a range of diseases including cancer. In addition to a plethora of health benefits, grass-fed eggs rely less on chemical fertilisers and have less damaging environmental implications.
Source protein from vegetables, nuts, and seeds
Plant protein options that are easy to incorporate into your diet include lentils, quinoa, peanuts, and tofu. Foods like this can easily be chucked into dishes, such as curries and salads, to bulk them up. Since boosting my intake of plant-based proteins I’ve felt more energised and still manage to recover from runs and the gym.
Eat less conventionally raised meat or dairy products
Over consumption of meat contributes to poor health and the current intake in a typical western diet will push food systems well beyond environmental limits. The EAT-Lancet Commission on Food, Planet, Health recommends one portion of red meat per month. I’ve found that limiting meat consumption to an occasional meal at a restaurant is effective and makes the transition smoother.
Eating ethically, healthily, and economically simultaneously is a tricky process. Yet global food production is the crucial driver of climate instability. The transition of the climate crisis from a looming catastrophe to immediate emergency demands that action is taken. Diet adjustment is a tangible way to enact change. So why not try making a few changes now and ensure sustainable cooking becomes part of your daily life?