Greener food and drink
Producing and transporting food can impact on the environment. A few small changes to how you choose and prepare food can help protect the environment and support farmers and producers who look after the countryside.
Try not to waste food
The average UK household spends more than £480 a year on food that could have been eaten, but ends up being thrown away. Throwing food away wastes all of the energy needed to produce, package and transport it.. There are many ways you can cut back on wasting food, such as using tasty leftover recipes or planning your weekly meals.
What you eat
Some foods have a bigger impact on the environment than others because of the way they are produced, packaged, transported or cooked. For example, food grown in heated greenhouses uses a lot of energy.
Buy sustainable fish
The Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) logo shows that a seafood product comes from a sustainable source. Fish stocks are a valuable natural resource which need careful management to prevent over-exploitation or unsustainable harvesting. At the moment, 52 per cent are fully exploited with 24 per cent overexploited or depleted.
The MSC logo provides assurance that a seafood product has come from a well-managed fishery and has not contributed to the problem of over-fishing. However, if fisheries are not certified by the MSC, this does not automatically mean that they are unsustainable.
Buy fresh and locally in season
Buying food and drink when locally in season, and unprocessed or lightly processed food, is likely to mean that less energy has been used in its production. Where food has been produced and stored under similar conditions, buying food that has travelled less can also be a positive choice as it reduces transport emissions.
Buying direct from producers is a good way to source fresh, seasonal produce and reduce packaging. Buying directly from the producer also means you can ask them how their food was produced.
Healthy eating is also important and many people could benefit from eating a larger proportion of fruit and vegetables and less saturated fat in their diet.
Food produced with respect for wildlife and the environment
Some food is produced to particular standards that help reduce negative impacts on the environment and support wildlife. These approaches are often certified by labelling schemes and you can support them by:
- looking for green labels that tell you food has been produced in a more wildlife friendly way, including organic certification and the LEAF Marque
- buying from retailers that are trying to improve the way they treat the environment, for example with their own published environmental standards for food production
- buying directly from farmers who put a high priority on looking after the wildlife on their farm
Some kinds of farming also help conserve rural landscapes, such as upland sheep or cattle grazing.
Use energy efficient appliances for cooking and storing your food
When buying a fridge, freezer or electric cooker choose one with the highest energy efficiency rating, using the European Energy or Energy Saving Recommended labels. Gas is usually a more efficient choice for cooking than electricity.
Compost kitchen waste
Nearly a third of all the rubbish thrown away at home is kitchen or garden waste. Composting food waste makes good fertiliser for your garden. Many councils offer subsidised compost bins, or collect kitchen waste.
Drink tap water
In the UK, mains drinking water meets very high standards. Tap water requires around 300 times less energy than bottled water (for packaging and transport), and doesn’t leave bottles to be disposed of.
Packaging used for food can play an important part in helping preserve food and cut waste. However, it often has an environmental cost as resources and energy are used to make the packaging and transport the finished product. Things you can do include:
- avoiding unnecessary, or excessive, packaging
- buying products in packaging that can be recycled (and recycle it)
- choose food packaging that is labelled as biodegradable or compostable: it will break down quickly rather than remaining in landfill sites for many years
- Reducing waste, re-using and repairing
Ask your retailer
Choosing food from retailers who are trying to reduce the environmental impact of their products will give you greener choices and help encourage them to do more. Some things you could ask retailers include:
- do their food production standards include environmental criteria?
- what are they doing to reduce waste in their supply chain?
- are the premium prices often charged for greener food passed on to producers to encourage this type of production?
If you cannot find greener choices, like sustainably sourced fish or recycled products, then you could ask managers in your local shops to start stocking them.