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How to Eat More Ethically as a Student

16 Jul 2018
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Conscious consumerism, ethical eating, and sustainable produce – they’re all buzzwords right now, and they’re not going away. The Ethical Consumer Markets Report saw the value of ethical spending reach an all-time high in 2017. This is great news for you, because – aside from the environmental benefits – it means that it’s easier than it’s ever been to make more responsible food choices.


Make Environmentally Friendly Choices

You can make a huge difference to your carbon footprint and environmental impact by cutting back on certain dairy products, meats, and fish. From the extreme – going vegan – to getting a bit more educated on your weekly shopping choices, here are a few ways to reduce your contributions to unsustainable meat, dairy, and fishing industries.


Go Vegan

Veganism has had a bit of a makeover in recent years, with Veganuary being more popular than ever, and more and more people choosing veganism as a health choice as well as an ethical one.

The meat and dairy industries in particular come under fire regularly for the questionable conditions they keep their animals in, so, if you’re an animal lover, investigating the animal welfare behind your purchases is an important place to start if you want to be more ethical.

Below, we talk about the meat, fish, and dairy industries’ impact on the environment, so you can see the benefit of giving up all three, altogether. If that’s not an option for you though, simply cutting back on one or all of these for even a day a week can help you sleep a bit easier.

Reduce Meat Intake

The meat industry puts enormous strain on the environment, in the crops and water needed to sustain livestock, in the transport that’s necessary to get food from farm to fork, and in deforestation. #MeatFreeMonday has become popular with healthy-living enthusiasts and environmental activists who don’t want to go (or eat!) the whole hog. Here’s what Earth Day Network has to say about Meat Free Mondays.

• If you eat one less burger a week, it would be the equivalent of taking your car off the road for 320 miles.
• If you skipped meat and cheese for one day a week with your family, it would be the equivalent of taking your car off the road for five weeks
• If you skipped steak once a week with your family, it would be the equivalent of taking your car off the road for nearly three months.
• If the entire U.S. did not eat meat or cheese for just one day a week, it would be the equivalent of not driving 91 billion miles – or taking 7.6 million cars off the road.

Pretty impressive, right? Cutting out meat from your meals will give you the chance to get a bit more creative in the kitchen, and you’ll be surprised to learn how many delicious protein-rich meat substitutes are out there. You’ll also save money and reap countless health benefits. Seems like a winner to us.


Eat Less Dairy

There are approximately 270 million dairy cows in the world, and each one produces methane. Not only is this one of those “countryside smells” you might roll your windows up to escape from, but it’s also 84 times more potent as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide is.

While the cows are letting off a bit of a smell, the processes that keep our shelves stocked with milk, cheese, and butter are pumping out millions of tonnes of CO2 every year.

In 2012, 98% of people in the UK said they regularly ate or drank dairy products – so the demand is definitely there. Although dairy forms a huge staple to our diets, it’s becoming easier to cut back and to make greener choices. The obvious change you can make is to switch to dairy-free alternatives – soy milk, almond milk, coconut milk, and hemp milk are just a few of the dozens of alternative milks on offer at reasonable prices.

As with meat, if you’re not ready to give up dairy completely, cutting back is a great first step to make that shopping basket a bit more friendly.


Support Sustainable Fishing

Overfishing is a growing issue that’s detrimental to the health of our oceans, and it all stems from irresponsible fishing practices, which are depleting fish stocks, damaging other species’ habitats, and increasing pesticide levels.

Net-caught tuna, for example, is notoriously bad for high levels of by-catch, which is when other species of fish are caught with the tuna and then thrown back into the sea – often dead. Turtles, sharks, dolphins, sea birds, and other vulnerable species are all common by-catch in tuna fishing.

Don’t worry though: you don’t need to give up fish altogether, but there are certain species, labels, and practices you should look out for. If learning about tuna-fishing above has put you off, look out for pole-caught or line-caught varieties. Learn how to choose the healthiest, most environmentally friendly, most sustainable seafood here.


Be Mindful of Packaging

If you hadn’t heard, plastic is clogging up our oceans. It’s discovered in the stomachs of whales, choking up seabirds, and warping the shapes of turtles’ shells. David Attenborough’s Blue Planet II finale put plastic pollution at the front of the nation’s consciousness in a heartbreaking episode. If you don’t already recognise the problem, go and watch the episode – it’s available on Netflix and Amazon

The war against plastic is well and truly underway, with the government joining forces with business to minimise single-use plastic. Frozen-food supermarket Iceland is leading the way, believe it or not, promising to cut out all plastic packaging from its own-brand products within five years. Shoppers at a supermarket in Bath left all unnecessary packaging behind at checkouts in a protest against excessive plastic usage.

Unfortunately, it’s still almost impossible to avoid plastic completely. Check out Life Without Plastic on Instagram and the Going Zero Waste blog for inspiration. In the meantime, here are 7 simple ways to use less plastic:

• Say no to plastic straws
• Take reusable bags to the shops
• Buy local – greengrocers use far less plastic than supermarkets, and you can take your own containers to butchers rather than using their packaging
• Carry a reusable water bottle to refill
• Invest in a reusable coffee cup
• Buy refill packets instead of new containers – you can do this with an increasing number of products, like hand-soap, coffee, and herbs and spices
• Swap clingfilm for reusable alternatives – like BeesWax Wraps – or tinfoil

On top of that, reuse and recycle wherever possible to minimise the amount of plastic you are adding to the problem.


Embrace Nature

We’re so used to seeing picture-perfect fruit and veg, that bendy carrots and misshapen apples often get left on the shelf – or worse, they don’t even make it to the shelves at all. This means that we end up throwing away a load of edible food.


Love Imperfections

Supermarkets are slowly coming around to wonky veg, but you’re far more likely to find it at your local greengrocers, where they won’t be so picky about weird-looking food. “Wonky” food is also less likely to have been genetically modified, and more likely to be organic, so you – and the environment – will benefit from fewer nasty chemicals, from fresher-tasting produce, and from a happier conscience.


Grow Your Own

You don’t need an allotment to get a taste of the good stuff at home. A sunny windowsill is the perfect spot to grow herbs, chillies, peppers, and other small edibles. Growing your own veggies is really satisfying, and as an added bonus, you’ll completely avoid plastic packaging.


Spread the Word

Whether you’re motivated by animal rights, environmental impacts, or supporting local businesses, small changes can have huge positive results, especially when you’re not going it alone. There are numerous online communities to help you become a more conscious consumer. Share your tips and tricks with us on Facebook and Instagram, and check out our blog on sustainable fashion. For more student-life inspiration, return to our main blog page.