Sustainable diets with SU-Eatable Life and One Planet Plates by Rosie Rayner-Law, Membership Projects Manager for the Sustainable Restaurants Association
The environment ranks just behind the economy and coronavirus in the top issues for the UK public in 2020. How we choose to behave as individuals and as a society will determine how much we can protect our Earth and our climate. Changing our individual habits can lead to cultural shifts which affect the behaviour of businesses and governments, leading to meaningful and impactful change – just look at the rise in plant-based milks. The SU-Eatable Life project that the University of Worcester is participating in helps individuals make educated, sustainable choices about what they eat.
Eating sustainably is a key way we can effect positive change as individuals.
The production of food has a variety of impacts on the world. All foods emit carbon in their production, which contributes to climate change, however not all foods have a similar impact on the world, with animal products often being far more intensive than fruit & veg.
With a range of impacts associated with different foods, it can be difficult to know exactly what a ‘good’ and ‘bad’ food for the environment is, and even harder to understand what we should be eating to be sustainable.
The SU-Eatable Life project, being run in the canteen on St. John’s campus, aims to simplify these confusions for students and staff. Dishes that are low in water and carbon footprint are labelled as ‘One Planet Plates’ to clearly and easily help canteen-goers determine what sustainable options they have each day. This is twinned with an app called greenApes where users can register their purchase and earn rewards such as cookbooks and fitbits with points. They can also earn more points by interacting with the content on the app, ranging from cooking sustainable recipes, sharing their insights about sustainable living and connecting the app to their existing fitness technology. The scientific aim is to investigate how best to help people shift their diets to sustainable options and tracking these shifts on a personal and collective level though monitoring data.
Currently the project is halfway through implementation, delivered in the UK by the Sustainable Restaurant Association. The Covid pandemic put a stop to the project in early 2020, but it relaunched in February 2021 with a renewed focus on activities that can take place from home. This includes recipes of One Planet Plates you can cook at home and prizes that help to live a sustainable life like seeds and kitchen tools. Initial results from the first phase of the project looked promising, and the pause to proceedings allowed the project team to get further feedback to ensure the project would be enjoyable and educational.
So, if you want to eat sustainably, what should you do? The project has outlined the below 8 points as key for sustainable eating:
- Champion plant-based food in your diet – make vegetables, legumes, nuts and fruit the basis of our daily diet
- Enjoy meat in moderate amounts – enjoy meat in small amounts, especially red and processed meat
- Enjoy dairy products in moderation – consume dairy products, including milk and cheese, in moderation
- Avoid too much – avoid too much food on your tables and in your daily diet to avoid too many calories and food waste
- Celebrate variety – vary your diet with the seasons and enjoy regional products and local varieties
- Fresh is best (for you, and the environment) – favour fresh and naturally prepared food in your diet
- Drink tap water – drink plenty of water, choosing tap over bottled whenever it’s possible and safe
- Reduce single-use – reduce, reuse and recycle food packaging by bringing your own bags, cups and cutlery whenever possible. Choose food with minimal packaging
Keep an eye out for further information about the SU-Eatable Life project and One Planet Plates across university social media, and download the greenApes app to take part by registering through the university specific link that will be available.
The SU-Eatable Life project is run by the Barilla Centre for Food and Nutrition, greenApes, Wageningen University and the Sustainable Restaurant Association, with thanks to the EU Life Fund.