Seven simple ways to eat more sustainably on your travels

Even travellers with a big appetite can leave a small footprint. Here’s how you can eat green.

Published 9 Jan 2017, 08:00 GMT, Updated 8 Jul 2021, 11:00 BST
Go Veggie?

Go Veggie?

Photograph by Istock Photo

1. Meat matters

Industrially intensive farmed meat has a devastating impact on the environment and is more detrimental to greenhouse emissions than all modes of transport put together. The solution is simple: eat less meat, or consider switching from high to low-impact varieties — i.e. eat less beef and more chicken as the latter doesn't produce heaps of manure.  

2. Cheese off

Sampling a creamy burrata or a soft brie may be an integral part of a trip but did you know consuming one pound of cheese can produce more than 11lbs of carbon dioxide, making a huge contribution to climate change? If you must indulge in dairy, buying local is better (as it usually reduces the distance food has to travel), and buying directly from the source is better for local economies.

3. Fish around

Sourcing sustainable seafood is a minefield at home, let alone once you're out in the world. Certain labels and websites help those willing to wade through murky waters, and the Marine Stewardship Council is a good place to start (seafood.edf.org/about-guide) with clear markets for recognised standards in different countries. Also be aware in parts of Asia cyanide fishing is used to stun and capture fish that often appear in live seafood markets. Not only will you be consuming toxins but contributing to the demise of coral, fish and, ultimately, the local community.

4. Go veggie

Not only is it less likely to give you traveller's tummy, eating veggie is better for the planet. If you can go raw veggie, better still. As cooking causes the production of carbon dioxide, eating raw food reduces the environmental impact… and means your body absorbs more nutrients.

5. Don't be a waster

An estimated 8-12 million tonnes of plastic flows into our oceans each year and studies have found plastics in the guts of fish, seabirds and bivalves. Cut waste: pack a picnic rather than buy food as you transit. Carry a reusable water bottle with a built-in filter, and refill from the tap.

6. Drink mindfully

It takes a fair bit of energy to get booze into bottles, so cask or tap beers are usually a more ecologically sound bet.

7. Farm to fork: facts

Farm-to-table restaurants are becoming the norm in North America, while in Europe, zero kilometre kitchens are cropping up everywhere. Check out restaurants recommended by The Sustainable Restaurant Association.

Published in the Jan/Feb 2017 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK)

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