Shrink your footprint, TIP no. 1: Swap out the meat!

Hamburger showing a bun filled with a lentil patty, tomato, lettuce and mayonnaise. (Burger with the lot – find this sustainable recipe in Make the Future! for Years 7&8 Image: Nansi Kunze)
Burger with the lot – find this sustainable recipe in Make the Future! for Years 7&8 Image: Nansi Kunze

The simple act of reducing your meat consumption can reduce your personal ecological footprint by a HUGE amount. Meat products have a massive ecological footprint. Producing just 1kg of beef creates over 75kg CO2e*, uses over 17,000 litres of water and requires about 330 m2 of land on average. While beef is the worst culprit, other meats aren’t good news for the planet either – for example, 1kg of lamb is responsible for around 51kg of CO2e, over 8,700L water use and 370m2 of land use.

If we just look at Greenhouse Gas emissions, one person’s choices make this much difference:

Eating a beef steak twice a week for a year creates more emissions than if you flew from Melbourne to Brisbane and back 8 times.

Choosing a plant-based alternative (e.g. a bean burger) instead of each of those steaks would reduce those emissions to less than a third of a single one-way Melbourne to Brisbane flight.

Swapping to lower-impact foods is almost certainly easier than you think, and has a bunch of other benefits – including to your wallet! Try these suggestions to start off with:

  • Instead of mince, use TVP (or another dry plant-based mince) in your usual recipes for pasta sauces, lasagne, pies or stews. TVP is also called soy mince, and can be found in the health food aisle of many supermarkets. There are pea-protein and sunflower minces too. Just add hot water to it to reconstitute and make the rest of the recipe as normal – most people won’t even notice the difference!
  • Swap the meat in curries and soups for legumes, such as chickpeas or lentils. Tinned legumes are easy to throw into any recipe, and red lentils cook quickly from dried.
  • Take a look at the plant-based options when you order takeaway  (or if you’re lucky enough to not be in lockdown, when you eat out!). Whether it’s a mainstream chain like Domino’s or a fully plant-based fast food company like Lord of the Fries, meat-free options are everywhere these days, and they’re seriously tasty.

Finally, check back for no. 2 in my Shrink Your Footprint tips next week!

*Greenhouse Gas emissions are usually measured as CO2e – carbon dioxide equivalent. Because all the different Greenhouse Gases have different levels of effect on the atmosphere (for example, 1 tonne of methane has the effect of 25 tonnes of CO2), this is a way to show their impact without having to calculate each gas separately.


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