Small steps to big change – can cutting down on meat make a difference to the planet?

cutting down on meat

This blog is dedicated to everything about making wherever you are currently living feel like home. But whichever country you move to, we are all still residents of the same planet.

And right now it feels like we are on the brink of destroying it all. Plastic pollution, air pollution, ocean pollution. But when everything is on such a big scale, it can also feel like our actions are so tiny that they don’t make an impact – that in the face of such massive issues, we can’t make a difference.

Now, before I go any further I need to point out that I am as big a consumer the next person. Kudos to the people who can fit their yearly waste into a mason jar. I am nowhere near that…

However, my intentions for this year (I don’t say resolution because something about that word makes me immediately want to rebel) are simple:

Consume less

Move more

Love more

When I say ‘love more’ I mean loving kindness…to myself, to others, to the planet. Yes I know that makes me sound like a hippy…but I’m not talking 1960s style free love. Just typing that made me nearly choke on my coffee. No! Just no….

Changing our diets to save the planet?

So what sparked this blog today is an article I read about changing our diets to change the impact we are having on the planet. Now surely this is a win/win situation?

The full article is here, but the gist is that a new science-based and plant-focused diet would ‘transform’ the future of the planet. It would allow fast-growing populations nutritious food whilst also addressing the major role intensive farming plays in driving climate change. It is also better for our health.

However, for those of us living in the EU or US, it would require big changes – North American’s would need to eat 84% less red meat, but increase beans and lentils by six times.

But let’s just think about that. We could all, individually, make an enormous impact on the planet by changing what we eat. This is not about becoming a strict vegetarian or vegan, but about looking at the evidence, looking at what we eat and making conscious change.

Cutting down on meat

Change is hard though, right? And our eating habits are engrained from a young age. In the west we have become so far removed from food production that we sometimes forget that meat is from an animal.

Two and a half years ago I stopped eating meat, and I did it because it seemed like the best way of reducing my environmental impact. I am not super strict and I therefore don’t call myself a vegetarian. I simply choose not to eat meat _ I never have meat at a restaurant and don’t cook any meat based meals for myself.

My kids still eat meat a couple of times a week and, if they have leftovers, I eat them – because I figure that I may as well get the protein rather than throw it in the bin. Yes, I know that ‘real’ vegetarians will probably be fuming at this. But I am not a strict vegetarian, I am just trying to eat more consciously. I hate waste, but the worst waste for me is animal product…knowing how much goes into producing meat and, you know, an animal has died…well it really bothers me to bin it.

But this year I am going to move our family to plant based meals for the majority of the time at home.  Less meat, more nuts and seeds, more pulses and whole grains. Hopefully no leftovers…

The health impact of cutting down on meat

I am not sure whether stopping eating meat has positively affected my health – I don’t feel different and my weight is around the same. Actually, thinking about it, I have gained a few pounds, which I put down to getting older. But perhaps it’s the fact that I have replaced lean protein like chicken with, erm, cheese. So I am going to cut down on cheese too this year…which shouldn’t be hard as I have practically been a greedy cheese-scoffing mouse since we arrived in Paris. But of course dairy production also has a big impact on the environment…

I was worried about my protein intake, but a quick google search will show you that there are loads of fantastic plant based protein sources. The last time I stopped eating meat, back in 6th form, I was anaemic. Full disclosure – it was the anaemia and the smell of a bacon sandwich which got me back onto eating meat. But this time, because I have been more careful about my diet, my blood levels are fine. In fact, better than when I did eat meat.

Looking to the facts though, a diet lower in red meat, is clearly beneficial. And the big thing to avoid is meat that has been overly processed. Did you know that bacon and ham contain nitrates which are carcinogenic? Now I know that it seems like every week there is another ‘this is going to kill you’ news story, but it seems bonkers to me that nitrates are still added to these products, when it is CLEAR that they are so bad for us – scientists have said the risks associated with this can be likened to the tobacco industry.

What do you mean, vegetarian?

I have to add at this point, that the countries I have lived in have not been especially vegetarian friendly. I thought it was tough in Germany, but actually France is possibly worse! Clearly this will depend where you live, but I always found the UK to be vegetarian friendly. If we go out, I like to go to Lebanese restaurants where there is always a great choice of delicious veggie food. In French restaurants, it usually comes down to eating goats’ cheese salads. Not great if you are also trying to cut down on cheese.

Changing habits can be hard

We know that changing habits isn’t easy, but I think it always helps to see things as a challenge, to focus on the positive, and to plan. Even moving to two meat-based meals a week from seven would make an impact.

The positive thing for me is that, instead of feeling overwhelmed and helpless in the face of all the news items on how the world is being destroyed, I know that I am doing one small thing to help. Yes, I could do more. And I am going to try to do more. But every change makes a difference.

What do you think? Are you eating less meat? Have you gone veggie or vegan? I’d love to hear from you!

And here are some books that I have found really helpful when planning our family meals:



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