7 easy ways to lower your carbon impact - by Stem & Glory founder Louise Palmer-Masterton
By Louise Palmer-Masterton, Stem & Glory
A recent YouGov poll found that 56 per cent of people back the total decarbonisation of the UK economy by 2030, and not 2050. It seems we are all in the mood for urgent and radical change.
But where do we start? And what does it mean in real life? What are the meaningful steps we can all take in our daily lives that will help accelerate our journey to net zero?
Here are seven easy wins that make a big difference, and a tasty low carbon recipe to get you going.
Move to a 100 per cent renewable energy tariff
The most significant step anyone can take, both in their home or business is to move your energy supply to a 100 per cent renewable tariff. If you combine this move with energy saving actions, such as LED lights, and energy saving devices, the increased cost of these tariffs can be offset by behaviour change.
Don’t underestimate the power of many small actions combining together to make a significant difference. For example, if the oven is on, utilise it to cook more food than just one meal on one shelf. You can retrain your mind to question if every single energy use is necessary. I was gifted an air fryer last Xmas, and it’s amazing how little we use our main oven now. The air fryer cuts cooking times too, and you can cook many different things in it.
Reduce consumption, and reduce waste
When you are shopping, ask yourself these three questions every time you pick something up to buy:
- Do I really need this?
- Where was this made?
- What happens to this when I no longer need it/want it (or what happens to the packaging in the case of food)
Base your purchasing decisions on your answers to these questions. It’s not about being 100 per cent perfect, but in this way, you can train yourself into better buying habits, and it’s amazing how fast this process can change your mindset.
Reduce your own use of single use
Get yourself a lunch box and a reusable cup and take it everywhere with you instead of using single use items. Use the lunchbox to take your own lunch, but also carry an empty lunchbox - restaurants and cafes are often very happy to fill your box rather than a take-away box, and it’s very handy to take restaurant leftovers. It’s surprising how quickly you can wean yourself off single use, so it becomes a very occasional, rather than daily, habit.
Avoid anything wrapped in plastic
The fastest way to bring about collective change is via our demands as a consumer. If we buy products in paper, card, glass and aluminium and shun products in plastic, this will drive the market.
Avoid grab and go for your working lunch
The nature of grab-and-go means it will always involve single use.
Consider the sheer volume of single use in just one lunchtime up and down the UK. Doesn’t matter if it’s ‘biodegradeable’ - biodegradable packaging doesn’t solve the huge issue of mass disposability and the huge amount of energy that is wasted when something is used once and then thrown away. Recycling is not the answer. Eliminating single use is the answer. Consider supporting cafes and restaurants by eating in rather than at your desk. Food eaten off a plate tastes better too!
Eat more plants, and eat seasonally
The sheer variety of produce we can get year-round is amazing, but as we are starting to realise, very unsustainable. Market forces have driven these unsustainable import and export practices. Whilst it is true that simply by being vegan you will lower your emissions, not all vegetables are equal. It’s important to understand the cycle of the seasons and eat veg in harmony with that. Imported food isn’t always bad, but the mode of transport is important. Slow is good, fast is bad. So, if something is not in season here, and it has a short shelf life, 100 per cent it will have been air flown – so best avoided.
Support British-grown produce
Remarkably, we import 70 per cent of the apples we eat, when the UK is the most perfect climate for growing apples.
We have fallen out of synch with our own climate and lost a great deal of produce in the process. In medieval times we grew a wide variety of pulses, grains and peas. Luckily for us, these are now coming back.
Champions of this produce - Hodmedods - has an ever-growing array of beautiful British grown produce for sale. With greater demand for UK grown produce, more farmers will grow it, and less food will be grown to feed to animals (a highly inefficient way to feed people) - a win-win for everyone! Hodmedods also believes in working in harmony with farmers so they are paid fairly and not constantly squeezed on price.
There are of course big changes that need to happen on a global scale, and the science is very much at the start of its journey towards cleantech and carbon capture. But as individuals, we exert huge influence as consumers and by questioning all our own personal habits. A green future has to be driven by individual responsibility, and commitment by all. It’s not going to win over everyone, but we can make it our personal mission.
If your neighbour isn't doing it, don’t let that be a reason why you don’t. Change your own life and stand as an example to others who DO want to help bring about change.
Here is a delicious, plant-based, low carbon, recipe using UK grown produce:
Yellow Pea Houmous
Houmous is one of the nation’s best-loved dips, but chickpeas do not grow very well in our climate, so they are nearly all imported.
The good news is British yellow peas grow amazingly well here, they make a fantastic houmous, and they are even more nutritious than chickpeas. They also blend a lot better, which is one of the main reasons I never made chickpea houmous at home - I just couldn’t get that whipped consistency with chickpeas. The yellow peas do it perfectly though.
Making a pot of this every week instead of buying plastic and cardboard wrapped deli pots from the supermarket, will instantly improve your sustainable credentials.
- 250g cooked whole British yellow peas (buy from Hodmedods, soak for five hours, drain and cover with fresh water and boil for 45 minutes, drain and retain the drained water)
- 60ml lemon juice
- 60ml tahini
- 1 small garlic clove
- 30ml British oil
- ½tsp ground cumin
- Salt to taste (start with ½tsp)
- 50 to 90ml pea cooking water
Add the first seven ingredients to a blender and blend for two minutes. Then with the blender still turning, add 50ml of the pea water slowly. Blend until very smooth.
Louise Palmer-Masterton is founder of multiple award-winning, plant-based restaurants Stem & Glory. With established sites in Cambridge and London, and a third site planned for London’s Broadgate in 2022, Stem & Glory offers eat-in, click-and-collect and local delivery, as well as a well-stocked vegan bar.
Stem & Glory is also the first UK restaurant to pledge to be carbon negative by end of 2021 and was recently celebrated as one of the UK government’s ‘Heroes of Net Zero’ at a COP26 awards ceremony. Stem & Glory also won Best Enterprising Business of the Year at the SME National Business Awards 2021 earlier this month. Visit stemandglory.uk and follow @stemandglory on social media.