It’s easy to feel that climate change is such a large problem that our actions won’t count. In fact, resolving this crisis depends on actions we can all take, as well as responses from governments.
Climate change is driven by human activity emitting carbon dioxide and other gases that pollute the atmosphere. The way our food is currently produced and consumed contributes about 30% of our overall carbon footprint: mainly the energy used for artificial fertilisers, food processing and transport, and rearing livestock. The biggest chunk comes from food wasted – thrown away at the farm, at the processing plant, in the shops, or from our kitchens.
Here are some ways we can start acting as individual households and together as a community:
- Reduce waste by learning ways to use all of your ingredients, to re-use leftovers, and take advantage of gluts and surpluses;
- Buy more local produce, so the food travels less miles to get to us, and local farmers have a more secure market, receiving fair prices;
- Use seasonal produce, rather than out of season fruit & veg that come from afar, sometimes by air, and/or grown in hothouses heated by fossil fuels;
- Getting more nutrition directly from plants rather than via first feeding them to animals, so eating less meat and dairy. Whether that means you choose to be vegetarian or vegan is up to you; the aim is to use the land to produce our food more efficiently.
- If you have a garden or allotment, grow more of your own produce, including climate-adaptive crops as described on our website;
- Using our power as consumers to support growers that use practices that nourish the soil, benefit the natural environment, and produce healthy food in a changing climate. This agro-ecology approach also includes key elements of organic, regenerative, or conservation agriculture.
When we act, it encourages others to do so too. Changes such as increased production and consumption of pulses and legumes, and more local fruit and vegetables, will have a positive effect on our health and nutrition, the environment, our soils, and food security for everyone. Both food producers and consumers need to adapt to the consequences of our changing climate. Together, consumers can send a strong message to companies, and the government, about what we want, and don’t want, from the system that produces and delivers our food.
Seeding our Future commissioned research which shows that climate change is an opportunity as well as a problem for our region. With adaptive cultivation methods and crops, local producers can increase production of fruit and veg, and reduce our high dependence on imports from regions where production will be cut by climate change.
The Bigger Picture
As well as modifying our own habits about food, we need to see more widespread change in our lifestyles as a society. Our local and national governments need to provide the policy framework to encourage major conventional food growers, manufacturers, retailers and consumers to change the ways they have got used to operating up to now. This might include: more access to land for small producers, regulations about better farm practices, clearer information and food labelling, and a variety of incentives or taxes to meet the costs of making all such necessary changes. The science is there already – the politics isn’t, yet.
Food production across the whole globe is being affected by climate change, and we should do all we can to reduce all our carbon emissions to limit the impact of climate change everywhere, especially the world’s poorest and most vulnerable societies and regions.
Non-food Carbon Emissions
So we must do all we can to limit our carbon emissions from how we heat our homes, how much we travel and by what means, and how much new stuff (clothes, objects, appliances) we keep acquiring, which are usually made somewhere far away and the carbon “cost” is out of our sight. You can easily estimate your carbon footprint (see www.footprint.wwf.org.uk, for example, or for more detailed analysis www.carbonfootprint.com), and see how to reduce it. Home insulation, eco-friendly heating systems, green electricity tariffs, less car and plane travel: these are all choices we can make, and it really adds up when millions of people make them.
We also need government action to make these changes more easily possible and accessible to most people. We must insist that our government takes real action to promote jobs, travel, energy (both generation and insulation) strategies as a coherent response to climate change. So let’s watch out for the passage of the Climate and Ecological Emergency Bill through Parliament in its 2021-22 session. As the nation emerges from the Covid-19 crisis, we need to make sure that the National Food Strategy process, currently on hold, gathers steam again.
The coverage in the media about climate change will continue to build up as the UK hosts the UN climate conference COP26 in Glasgow in November 2021. That makes it a big political platform, so there will be a lot of promotion about policies and targets and plans that look “green”. Beware of this greenwash! What matters most is how/if it is all implemented, for the benefit of whom, and accountable to whom.
On top of the actions that we can take as individuals, we can add our voice to groups that are supporting wider change, such as Bridport’s Transition Town, Dorset’s Climate Action Network, and the national Green New Deal movement (which has a national “paint the town green” action day on 19th June).
We hope that after reading all this you TALK ABOUT IT! If we talk more about food and climate issues with our families, friends and neighbours, the changes we need will become more commonplace. Together we can make a difference. Please sign up for our free e-newsletters for updates on food and other climate-related initiatives and events.
See more at www.bridportfoodmatters.net/news-and-events