Sustainability tip: Making simple switches in your diet is a great place to start
Walking Mountains Science Center
Lots of people nowadays are eager to do their part to help the environment, and there are so many ways to make a difference. In our community, actions like switching to the PuRE renewable energy program, making your next car an electric one or recycling at home and at work can all make big differences. Making small changes can add up to reduce your carbon footprint, and making simple switches in your diet is a great place to start.
Plant-based meals typically have a lower carbon footprint than meat and dairy based meals, according to the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and the diversification of your diet can lead to other benefits like weight loss, improved digestion, better sleep, clearer skin, increased overall happiness.
Eating more plant-based meals is not an all-or-nothing decision. A “flexitarian diet” has picked up steam in the scientific community as “the planetary diet” that will help us feed billions of people for years to come, according to the BBC. This diet doesn’t eliminate meat and dairy, but recommends getting a majority of protein from nuts and legumes. While going fully vegetarian or vegan would have the greatest effect on the health the environment, even switching out beans instead of beef or tofu instead of chicken every once in a while makes a difference, and small choices like those add up over time.
Tips for trying plant-based eating
- Find some plant-based alternatives to the foods you love. Going for plant-based doesn’t mean you have to give up on everything you love. Try soy milk or oat milk as opposed to cow’s milk (cutting out half the carbon footprint and significant water usage) or plant-based meat crumbles for taco night (same great flavor and consistency, but made from plants).
- Start out with just one meal a week or one meal a day. Taking a comfortable pace to diet changes can lead to a lasting change. Jumping on movements like Meatless Mondays are a great way to hold yourself accountable while eliminating meat for an entire day. Or, start out with making plant-based breakfasts, like fruit smoothies with oats or a chickpea omelet, then go for a plant-based lunch or dinner the next day.
- Be mindful of your waste: Food waste is a significant contributor to climate change, a misuse of resources and source of inequality in our community, according to ReFED. While thinking about your diet, think about your waste as well. Shop realistically for what you will eat, get creative with leftovers and look for donation opportunities for still-usable foods.
- Create a team: Eating more plant-based meals is much more fun when you’ve got a group, such as your family, friends or coworkers. Different members of the family can be in charge of certain plant-based meals each day to lessen the stress of finding new recipes, or you can start a friendly competition at work and see who can eat the most plant-based meals in a week, month or even year. Start a recipe club to swap and share your favorite meals.
Lily Pegg was a summer sustainability intern at Walking Mountains Science Center.
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