In spite of a certain American President’s claims about global warming being an invention of the Chinese government, it is really important to try to minimise your own personal effect on the environment. I don’t intend to be too evangelical about this, given my own personal sins when it comes to a penchant for hot baths and multiple strings of fairy lights, but there are certainly a few easy ways to be more conscious and responsible towards the environment. I’m going to focus on food, but there are many different ways in which you can become more conscious of your ecological footprint.
Faced with the trauma of a Sainsbury’s shop, it can be very easy to view grocery shopping as some sort of survivalist competition in which the hardiest are the first to emerge. However, you can afford to spend a little more time thinking about two key elements behind buying food: packaging and production.
Where possible, try to avoid buying products with excessive packaging. This is especially true of loose items – you don’t need one of those small plastic bags for every item. In most cases, you can put them loose into your basket and just wash them when you get them home. However, where packaging is unavoidable, Cambridge actually recycles all types of plastics, even those which are labelled as “not currently recycled”. You can fact-check this with the council if you’re inclined to pedantry, but otherwise, you can recycle all plastics, excluding mixed materials like crisp packets, at your college. And if there isn’t a recycling bin, demand that your college provides one!
It’s also important to think about where your food has come from. Try to eat seasonally and locally – for example, avoid eating things like strawberries in the colder months, and check where vegetables were grown. If you’re particularly invested in this, you could try buying your vegetables at the market, which has the added bonus of supporting local business rather than large corporations. When you’ve moved past the fruit and vegetable section, consider reducing how much meat and other animal products you’re eating. I won’t bore you with the numbers, but suffice to say that even having two meat-free days a week is good for your wallet, your body, and the planet. There are hundreds of thousands of incredible vegetarian and vegan recipes online, so you can expand your culinary horizons while reducing your impact on the planet and ‘eating green’ in both senses of the word.
Another major issue is that of food waste. Instead of throwing away items which are beginning to look past their best, try whizzing up a stir-fry or making a pot of soup to avoid wasting money and resources. If you physically cannot eat all of your food before it goes off, why not follow Newnham’s example and set up a food-sharing Facebook group? If that doesn’t work, try pressuring your college for compost bins so that food waste can be composted instead of thrown into the landfill.
Small changes can make a world of difference. Try to implement at least one element of conscious consumption into your food shop to demonstrate a more responsible attitude towards your future. The future of the environment is intrinsically linked with your own happiness and wellbeing in the years to come – you wouldn’t neglect them now, so why not preserve them for your future self?