Did you know that our food choices make a big impact on the environment? It's hard to believe, but around a quarter of the world's greenhouse gases are generated by food production. In Switzerland, food is responsible for almost 30 percent of the country's environmental impact. Of course we all need to eat, but our food choices can make a real difference.
The five principles of climate-friendly eating
If you eat consciously, consume certain foods in moderation and focus on seasonal produce, you are already well on the way to climate-friendly eating. We’ve put together 5 principles for you to follow:
Eat a mainly plant-based diet
Eat less meat
Consume milk, dairy products and eggs in moderation
Eat seasonal, regional food
Avoid food waste
Eat a mainly plant-based diet
Plant-based foods have two advantages: they have a positive impact on our health and produce significantly lower amounts of greenhouse gases than animal-based foods. Native pulses are particularly good. They fix atmospheric nitrogen and make the soil they grow in more fertile – so less fertilizer is needed!
Less meat is better for the environment
A meal containing meat produces around three times the amount of greenhouse gases a vegetarian meal produces. The amount of water used in meat production is also much higher. It isn't essential to eat meat to get the protein we need, as many plant-based foods contain protein (e.g. lentils). For all those who can't bear to give up steaks and escalopes but really want to follow a vegetarian diet, there are lots of delicious meat-free alternatives. Find out more about these in our guide to vegan and vegetarian eating.
Try plant-based milk alternatives
Plant-based milk alternatives not only taste good, but are also good for the environment. Producing soya milk creates a third of the amount of greenhouse gases that the production of cow's milk creates. From an ecological perspective, oat milk is best, as oats grow here in Switzerland and need relatively little water and space to grow.
The nutritional values of plant-based milks are very different to those of cow's milk – the protein content in particular is often much lower. However there is also a big difference between the individual plant-based milks. Cereal-based milks (e.g. rice milk) contain little to no protein, while the protein content of milks made from pulses (e.g. soya milk) is comparable to that of cow's milk.
Unlike cow's milk, plant-based milks do not naturally contain calcium. So if you are avoiding animal milk and dairy products completely, you should choose milk alternatives that are fortified with calcium.
Climate-friendly eating starts with your food shop
Choose regional products when you shop. These create fewer food miles, which reduces their eco-footprint. Organic products have less impact on the environment than conventional products. This is because organic cultivation creates fewer greenhouse gases, promotes biodiversity, shuns chemical fertilizers and maintains soil fertility.
Seasonal fruit and vegetables not only taste great, they also protect our climate. Would you like to know what varieties are currently in season? Then take a look at our seasonal calendar – it makes seasonal eating child's play!
Around 1/6 of the food produced in Switzerland ends up in dustbins in private households. Here are some simple tips to avoid food waste:
Make a weekly meal plan. Before you go shopping, check what you actually need and write a shopping list. Stick to your list and don't go shopping when you're hungry.
Buy fresh products like bread, fruit and vegetables more often, in smaller quantities.
Store food according to the instructions on the packaging. Read our guide for more information on how to store food correctly. In general, put "new behind old" when putting your shopping away: put the things you've just bought at the back.
Don't throw away leftovers, as there are creative recipes you can follow to use these up.
Differentiate between the use-by date and the best-before date. Products which are past their best-before date can often still be eaten.
Eat it or bin it?
Start by carefully reading the information on the product packaging. This is because food that has recently passed its best-before date (important: not its use-by date!) can often still be eaten if it has been stored correctly. The following questions will help you decide if a product is still good to eat:
Look carefully at the product and smell it.
Does it look the way it's supposed to?
Can you see any mould, unusual marks or pests (like weevils)?
Has the colour changed significantly?
Has a slimy layer developed on the surface of the product?
Does it smell strange, unusual, acidic, fermented or musty?
For drinks: is a drink that started off clear now cloudy?
If you can answer No to all these questions, then carefully taste a small amount of the product.
Does it taste different to usual?
Does it taste strange (e.g. unusually acidic or bitter)?
Does it taste rancid?
If you can answer No to all these questions, then as a rule the product is still edible and you've taken another step toward climate-friendly eating.