Moving to zero carbon diet explored during session

Lancaster Guardian columnist, Anna Clayton.
Lancaster Guardian columnist, Anna Clayton.

Last Saturday I attended the ‘Zero Carbon Lancaster’ conference at Cumbria University.

The conference was organised by Kevin Frea (a director of LESS), and aimed to discuss the often forgotten issue of climate change.

As part of the day I coordinated a break-out session that explored zero carbon diets and what this may involve. The workshop was based on the outcomes of the Centre for Alternative Technology’s ‘Zero Carbon Britain 2013’ report, and discussed what individuals and Lancaster could do to move towards a zero carbon diet and food system.

Moving towards a plant-based diet and reducing food waste are two good places to start when trying to reduce the carbon footprint of your diet. Many of my workshop participants had already converted to a vegetarian or vegan diet, or had tried to reduce the amount of dairy and meat they ate. In order to support this trend, and to learn how to reduce food waste, the need for cooking workshops was raised. Holding skill share events and vegetarian and vegan community meals was also suggested.

In terms of limitations, a number of people suggested that who you live and socialise with can affect how much meat and dairy you eat.

Another key element of a zero carbon diet involves sourcing local and seasonal food. Knowing where to access local food and having the time to access local food were two barriers highlighted during the workshop.

LESS’s Local Food Pledge can help in overcoming these barriers, but raising the visibility of local food was also suggested as another solution.

A local food logo for example could make local food more visible and easier to find in stores. LESS’s Growing Our Local Food Economy project hopes to explore this option further.

The conflict between local food and a more plant-based diet was raised when looking at Lancaster’s local food scene (which is predominantly made up of dairy and meat farms). Should we be investing more in local horticultural businesses? And if yes, how can we support new horticultural businesses to become financially sustainable?

How you cook food can also affect the carbon footprint of your diet. Raw food is best from an energy perspective. Microwaves are more efficient at cooking food than electric or gas ovens, but were criticised during my workshop for destroying the taste of food and taking the fun out of cooking.

Pressure cookers were raised as a good energy efficient cooking option.

Storing boiled water in a thermos was also recommended.