Eating and Shopping: Daily Habits and Climate Change

7 minute read

Updated on Thu Jan 28 2021

As the world gets richer, we are buying and eating a lot more stuff. This has not been good for the planet. Let’s take a look at some of the easiest ways we can reduce this as individuals.

Food and diet

26% of global man-made greenhouse gas emissions come from the production and consumption of food. But not all foods are equal:

Different foods can have varied impacts

To reduce our diet’s carbon footprint the best thing we can do is to adopt a largely plant-based diet. The graph below shows the impact that different diets could have.

Changing your diet can have a big impact!

What about processing and transport emissions?

People often worry about how far the food they eat has traveled. But transport of food only makes up a small amount of the industry’s overall emissions (5.1% in the US).

Looking only at how far our food has travelled can end up increasing our emissions. For example, which of the following would typically lead to the least carbon emissions?

It turns out that transport distance is a fairly poor indicator of how bad for the environment our food actually is, because other sources of emissions like storage and production are far more important. For example, transportation only accounts for 1% of emissions from beef!

How does fashion affect the environment?

What percentage of global greenhouse gas emissions come from the fashion industry?

And yet demand for clothes continues to increase:

Demand for clothes

What can you do to make your clothing choices more sustainable?

The best thing individuals can do is to buy clothes less often, but for real change we need changes in practice within the whole industry.

How can we make our housing more green?

Ensuring our homes have double glazing and loft insulation makes them more energy efficient - this could save the average gas-heated home in the UK 0.6 tonnes CO₂ and £184 every year.

There are many ways to reduce the impact of housing

Another high-impact action you can choose is switching to a clean electricity supplier. On average, this can save 1.5 tons of greenhouse gas emissions per person.

Next Chapter