This week is the National Week Without Meat here in the Netherlands! From March 8th to March 14th more than twenty thousand Dutch people commit to eating a week without any meat. Why? Because it is a small effort with an enormously positive impact on people, animals and the environment. By not consuming meat during the National Week Without Meat, the environmental impact of your diet is lower. For example, you save on greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change and water use. Any eater of meat who can manage not to eat meat for one week saves a whopping 101 liters of water, 79 kilometers by car and 770 grams of animal meat.

Eating sustainably and fairly is a more pressing issue than ever. Personally, I find it a challenge to commit myself to a cause whose consequences are partly out of sight: I don’t see ice caps melting or the polluting of the earth. Also, I don’t get a thank you in the supermarket when I take out my reusable bag at the checkout to reduce plastic waste. When I walk through stores and throw things into my basket, I usually don’t think about whether my food is fairly traded and whether all employees have been paid. In short: I find it a challenge to really apply and put into practice what I know and want to do.

How do we make it easier to live sustainably? Perhaps by starting to increase knowledge about which choices we can make to live sustainably. For this reason, this blog is about practical tips for an environmentally conscious life. Together we can try to make better choices when it comes to fair and sustainable consumption. These are 7 easy food related tips I’d like to share with you!

Tip 1: Become a vegetarian or flexitarian

Participate in things like the National Week Without Meat. It would be very good for the environment to reduce meat consumption. Meat production causes considerable environmental pollution: emission of greenhouse gases, fertilizers and antibiotics that end up in nature. In addition, many trees are felled and water is used in meat production. Maybe you’re the biggest fan of meat and can’t get enough of it. Start small, not eating meat for some days already has a big effect.

Tip 2: Eat with the season

Eat what the earth gives! Fruit and vegetables flown in are the most harmful to the environment. At the same time, this is a budget tip: eating with the season is cheaper. It’s a win-win!

Do you want to know which food suits which month? Click here for an overview (this overview applies to the Netherlands, you can google seasonal foods for your country). There are also apps you can download to find out how environmentally harmful each fruit and vegetable are at the moment.

Tip 3: Pay attention to packaging

Many products contain unnecessary plastic. If you have the choice, you can choose to reduce this. For example, bring your own bag to the supermarket, so you don’t have to buy extra plastic bags there. Bring your own coffee cup (or skip the plastic lid) and buy a water bottle made of sustainable material (eg Dopper) or bring your own cutlery set when you are at work, you’re studying or doing something else! Also, don’t use straws, buy sustainable straws u can re-use.

Tip 4: Look at quality marks

Quality marks can help you choose more sustainable products. Always look for quality marks from reliable sources. Therefore, make sure that it is a quality mark from an independent party and not a brands own quality mark. A number of good, independent quality marks are: UTZ, fair trade or an European quality mark.

More information about available quality marks per product? Use the quality mark indicator.

Tip 5: Do your shopping at health food stores

Occasionally (or always) go to a organic food store or Ekoplaza (here in Holland) and do your shopping there. Search the internet for an organic store near you!

Tip 6: Choose organic products

Would you still like to go to the “regular” supermarket? Many supermarkets have their own organic brand, which you can also buy products from! Products must meet strict requirements to be called organic. Organic products have always been grown without artificial fertilizers and artificial pesticides and produced without the addition of synthetic preservatives, fragrances, colors and flavors. Well, that doesn’t sound wrong, does it?

Tip 7: Don’t throw too much away: eat what you buy

There is a lot to be gained by preventing food waste. According to the Netherlands Nutrition Center, by handling your food better, you can save an average of € 145 per person annually! That is about 41 kilos of good food. In 2015, combating food waste was included in the Sustainable Development Goal 12.3 of the United Nations. So think carefully about the amount you buy, because when you throw away food, you automatically throw away the raw materials and energy that have been used in the trash. Try to make a good estimate of what you need and try to make up what you buy so that you don’t waste a lot of food!

You can also use an app called Too Good To Go. Via this app you can order leftover food from various restaurants. I have used it and I loved it. I got so much food for little money.

Bonus tip:

Save this article to your bookmarks on your phone or write the tips on a piece of paper and put it in your wallet. This way you can still pick up the list when you go shopping!

We are very curious what you think of these tips! Do you have any additions such as good tips or ideas about a sustainable lifestyle? Leave a comment below.

This blog was originally written by Eveline for Young & Fair.