Eating Sustainably for Students

There are plenty of ways you can have a more sustainable and healthy diet without breaking the bank, and we’ve put some of the best options for people on a budget below.

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As students, we aren’t always willing or able to spend a ton of money on food, but that doesn’t change the impact our food choices (good or bad) can have on the environment. There are plenty of ways you can have a more sustainable and healthy diet without breaking the bank, and we’ve put some of the best options for people on a budget below.  

Cutting down on meat  

Unfortunately, the meat industry produces more greenhouse gas emissions than the rest of the food industry combined! For example, deforestation for cattle grazing, meat transport emissions, methane from cows.. While sourcing local meat from the butchers is a fantastic way to reduce most of these emissions, we’re aware this is pretty expensive.  

A sustainable and cheaper alternative is to eat more veggie based meals. Even just cutting out meat once a week can have a big impact!  

If you’re a good cook, maybe experiment with some of these yummy vegetarian recipes from Veggioke - people are sometimes surprised a vegetable-based meal can taste so good! If not, we are lucky enough to be able to buy plenty of meat alternatives like Quorn, tofu, and ready-made products like veggie sausages that taste good and contain a lot of protein. Personally, I actually prefer Quorn mince to beef mince! And speaking of protein, adding things like lentils, chickpeas, and beans are a great option; I definitely started making a lot more curries when I cut down on meat.   

We should also note that eating fish is far more sustainable than most other types of meat on an industry level, but overfishing is having a big environmental impact, especially for certain endangered (but commonly eaten) fish like haddock and Atlantic salmon. Still, this can be a great high-protein option when locally fished and bought if you’re struggling to get enough protein otherwise.  

Local Shopping  

Check out your local farm shops and farmer’s markets! One of peoples’ main concerns tends to be that produce will cost a lot more than if they buy from a supermarket, but this really depends on what you are buying and when. There isn’t likely to be a major difference in price for any of the fruit or vegetables you buy, though they may be a bit more expensive bought out of season - it costs a lot less to transport strawberries from Somerset than from Spain! The major price difference according to cost comparisons tends to be meat, fish, and homemade produce - bakery goods, homemade jams, local honey, etc.   

However, at that point you just have to consider if the superior quality is worth the cost to you. If not, you can always try cutting down on meat as suggested before, and keep in mind that other products can be an awful lot cheaper than supermarkets.   

Top tip: Check out Yeates Fruit and Veg on Queen Street (next to 200 Degrees Coffee). They often have a 2 for £1 offer on fruit punnets.  

Eating Seasonally  

Seasonal produce is not only cheaper - it’s also more sustainable! This one’s a no-brainer once you think about it; according to 52climateactions 12% of food industry greenhouse gas emissions are caused by transporting food, most of which are due to fuel emissions from airplanes. Eating local, seasonal produce is by far the best way to cut down the distance and the emissions.   

Plus, it’s not like you need to completely live without your favourite fruit for most of the year - buying frozen fruit and vegetables is a fantastic option all year round, and just as nutritious as buying it fresh.  

Milk  

This will come as no surprise, but all plant-based milks are far more sustainable than dairy milk - regardless of which you choose, plant-based is always the more environmentally-friendly option by a mile. Still, which one is the best option?  

To summarise the research put forward in this article: soy and oat crops are very land-intensive which causes deforestation, but in the United Kingdom we can get locally-sourced oat milk, which helps with greenhouse gas emissions. Both almond and rice crops are very water-intensive, which is especially unsustainable for almonds - 80% of which are grown in California, which is prone to droughts.   

A lot of research has found that hemp milk and coconut milk are the most sustainable plant-milk options. Coconut trees absorb high amounts of carbon dioxide and need very little water, and hemp plants are naturally resistant to most pests and create milk with a lot of health benefits. Unfortunately, these milks are an awful lot less common in the United Kingdom, so we hope some of this information will help you make informed decisions on what the best option is for your diet and the environment!  

Hannah Anstee  | School of Journalism, Media, and Culture | Third Year

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