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  • Writer's pictureSarah Anelay - Clear Public Space

10 Food Habits to try in January for an Eco-Friendly 2021!

Updated: Apr 8

The theory goes that it takes 21 days to form a new habit.

At Clear Public Space, we're all about habitual, behavioural change to create positive environmental impact that is sustainable and long-term.

So, whilst the 21-day theory might not be entirely true, I do think that trying to start a new habit in January is a great way to really entrench new, positive behaviours into your routine.

Throughout January this year, I adopted a vegetarian diet. I couldn't quite bring myself to doing the Veganuary thing because I love cheese and chocolate too much- but all power to those who can!

I think the good thing for me about adopting a vegetarian diet throughout January was it didn't seem like too much of a drastic lifestyle change. Even though I have returned to my omnivorous diet, I did discover so many vegetarian recipes I love and regularly make and vegetarianism is firmly entrenched into my eating habits.

That's what we look to do at Clear Public Space in our Environmental Impact Reviews (EIR). That is, suggest behaviour changes that are easily adopted, achievable and economical so they become habitual.

When behavioural, habitual change doesn't happen, is when you set goals that are too huge, that are unachievable, or you just don't like doing and make you unhappy (see: every time I have tried to undertake a running challenge and failed after 1 week).

Instead, here are some food and diet habits you can try out for January and hopefully start the habitual, behavioural change to make these sustainable features of your lifestyle! (some easy changes like using a reusable coffee cup aren't included here because of Covid reasons).

Our connection with nature holds the answer, and if we can eat in a way that works for our planet as well as our bodies, the natural balance of the planet’s resources will be restored,”

-Richard Horton, editor-in-chief at The Lancet

1. Only eat in-season food. If your food took a long-haul shipping journey or 20-hour flight to reach the shop, see if you can grab a locally sourced alternative. For the UK and Ireland, in-season food for January includes: Apples, Beetroot, Brussels Sprouts, Carrots, Celeriac, Celery, Chicory, Jerusalem Artichokes, Kale, Leeks, Mushrooms, Onions, Parsnips, Pears, Red Cabbage, Salsify, Savoy Cabbage, Spring Greens, Spring Onions, Squash, Swedes, Turnips, White Cabbage. A quick google is all it takes to find out what food is in-season where you are.

2. Go vegetarian or vegan. The Climate Change Committee's (CCC) recent Sixth Carbon Budget report suggests introducing policies to encourage a 20% shift away from all meat by 2030 rising to 35% by 2050 to achieve net-zero targets.

3. Cut down on animal-produced dairy. The same CCC report also suggests the UK needs to make a 20% shift from dairy products by 2030 to achieve net-zero by 2050.

4. Prep your meals. Meal-prepping isn't just for die-hard bodybuilders! Just planning what meals you're going to have before heading to the shops stops unnecessary food buying and therefore food waste!

5. Don't buy any fresh produce in packaging. Skip out on the plastic wrap and choose loose items. You can buy mesh, reusable fruit and veg bags instead of opting for the flimsy plastic bags provided in the supermarket veg section, or just go naked! Nothing bad will happen if your potatoes and apples touch.

6. Choose food and drink brands that have a positive environmental ethos. As consumers, when we choose to buy from a brand with a strong sustainability policy and transparent approach to their environmental footprint and impact, we make a statement with our custom. By giving our patronage to brands with great environmental policy, we invest in improving corporate environmentalism and encourage others to follow suit.

Divine- Fairtrade, ethically sourced chocolate.

Toast Ale- Beer made from unsold bread and crusts.

Meatless Farm- Plant-based meat alternative

Innocent Drinks- Drinks made from sustainably sourced ingredients

Pip & Nut- Nut butters from a certified B-corp with NO PALM OIL!

The Collective- Delicious yoghurts with a great commitment to recycling.

7. Switch to a great rapeseed oil for the bees! Oilseed rape is a crop that’s particularly attractive to bees due to its rich source of pollen and nectar. But until recently, bee-harming neonicotinoid pesticides were used on up to 80% of oilseed rape crop. According to Friends of the Earth, the following are good brands for bee-friendly rapeseed oil:

Hillfarm Oils

Sainsbury’s "Taste the Difference"

Bath Harvest

Duchess Oil

Pure Kent

Yare Valley

Farrington’s Mellow Yellow

8. Incorporate more 'eco-friendly' food and cut down on serial polluters! A few environmentally friendly foods include:

Figs- one of the most resilient plants on Earth. There are more than 750 figs across the planet and many of them act as lynchpins in ecosystems.

Mussels- While growing along the ropes, they eat food that naturally occurs in the water. In the process, they filter and clean the water and extract carbon to make their shells. Cumulatively, they have little environmental impact.

Beans- Beans have a remarkably low carbon and water footprint and are filled with fibre, protein, and nutrients.

Lentils- Lentils have a very low carbon footprint — 43 times less than beef, for example — and require little water to grow. They also clean and fortify soil to make it easier to grow other crops.

Serial polluting foods include:

Beef- Generating 27 kg of carbon dioxide equivalents for each kilogram eaten, it takes roughly 2,500 gallons of water to produce a pound of beef. Deforestation and high quantities of feed required to raise cattle are also factors that contribute to the negative environmental impacts of beef.

Cheese- Cheese produces 13.5 kb of carbon dioxide equivalents for each kilogram eaten, roughly 13 times than that of foods such as lentils and tomatoes.

Palm Oil- Causes large-scale deforestation, especially in the primary forests of Indonesia and Malaysia and the destruction of the natural habitat of several endangered species including orangutans.

Soybeans- The production of soybeans requires the use of heavy industrial processes with large quantities of chemical solvents like hexane, which produces greenhouse gases and various forms of local pollution.

9. Buy foods with environmental certification. Logos to look out for include Fairtrade, Dolphin Safe/ Dolphin friendly, Equitrade, Friend of the Sea, MSC (Marine Stewardship Council), RSPO (Palm Oil), Terracycle, Wholetrade, Animal Welfare Approved, Global Animal Partnership, Rainforest Alliance,

10. Cut down on alcohol. Dry January is a popular challenge to kick off the year, but it is also great for the environment.

Because alcohol is such a big industry, the ingredients require mass farming and production, such as barley for beer, grapes for wine, sugarcane for rum, apples for cider, agave for tequila. Such farming on a huge scale requires massive amounts of fertiliser and water.

Climate change is also making wine more alcoholic! This is because increased sunshine is causing grape vines to photosynthesize more sugars. For example, Bordeauxs are traditionally about 12.5 percent alcohol, but some modern measures come in at 16 percent.

So hopefully, you can commit to incorporating some of these within your lifestyle for January to kick start them as mainstay habits. This is what Clear Public Space is all about, small changes that make a big difference.

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