What we eat typically represents about one quarter of our personal carbon footprint. Luckily, a low-carbon diet high in locally grown, seasonal produce and low in meat is both good for the environment and our health.
In my home we consume very little milk and meat, and the money we save as a result means we can afford to spend a bit more on organic fruit and veg. We buy most of our vegetables through a veg-box scheme, and our next step will be to get an allotment so we can grow our own.
For the NHS, food contributes about 390,000 tonnes to the carbon footprint in England. With some concerted effort this can be significantly reduced. Some of the issues to consider are local procurement, seasonal menus, reduced meat content, packaging and waste disposal.
The NHS has some excellent examples of good practice in hospital catering here:
The Cornwall Food Programme
The Royal Brompton Hospital Food Project
2degrees hosted a web-based seminar (webinar) on local procurement, local contracts and in-house catering that featured both the Cornwall and Brompton examples. You can listen to a recording of the webinar here. If you haven’t yet joined 2degrees you can do so here.
Nottingham University Hospital Catering Project, click here.
Trevor Payne, at University College London Hospital, is running a competition for Eating month, challenging his four catering companies to provide low carbon menus for their staff and public cafeteria. You can read Trevor’s blog here.
The benefits of a diet low in meat and dairy to reducing cardiovascular disease are described in The Lancet series on climate change and health (see the executive summary for a quick overview). A gentle introduction to eating less meat is offered by adopting Meat Free Mondays and the Part Time Carnivore site has some fun ideas.
If you are trying to reduce the carbon footprint related to food, it is worthwhile to also look at best practice in the private sector. For example, Marks & Spencer has made some good progress on reducing the packaging of its food products as part of the ‘Plan A’ sustainability programme. You can listen to the recording of a presentation about how M&S has approached this issue here.
Regarding food waste, interest in composting and anaerobic digestion (AD) is growing within the NHS. Both these approaches avoid food waste going to landfill where it will generate methane - AD has the added bonus that the methane is captured and can be used to generate electricity. AD is very popular on the continent and the last government provided some funding for its development in the UK. If you are aware of any NHS Trust or other health organisations using AD I would love to hear from you.
If you wish to see more read more about sustainable food the following sites are worth a look:
I hope you have found these ideas and resources useful - please let me know if you have any comments or suggestions.