rethink sustainability

    10 tips for eating more sustainably this summer

    10 tips for eating more sustainably this summer

    Summer is here – the season of barbecues and picnics, of crisp salads and freshly-picked fruit. The biggest growing season of the year, summer means more seasonal fruit and vegetables on our shelves than at any other time. So, if sustainable eating is on your mind, this is the ideal moment to take the leap.

    The food we eat matters. According to Prof. Johan Röckstrøm, co-chair of the EAT-Lancet Commission, “We’ve transformed 50% of all natural ecosystems on land into different forms of agriculture.1 We’re now in a geological epoch where we, as humanity, constitute the largest force of change on planet Earth – and food is the single largest contributor.2

    Major forces are now combining to change this narrative. More than 100 countries have pledged to return 1 billion hectares of agricultural land to nature, and some of the biggest names in food production have committed to sustainable sourcing and regenerative farming practices that restore damaged ecosystems.

    Consumers have an important role to play too, with dietary choices both driving and being driven by this transformation. Crucially, according to the EAT Lancet’s groundbreaking Planetary Health Diet3, there is no downside to sustainable eating – the most sustainable foods are also best for human health. So as we enter the third month of a summer that has already set record temperature highs4, here are ten tips for eating more sustainably.


    1. Making it Mediterranean

    While the Planetary Health Diet is revolutionary in its aim to seek out the best diet for both human and planetary health, in some ways it is not new. According to Commission co-chair Professor Walter Willett, it follows a long-established blueprint: “[The Planetary Health Diet] is very consistent with the traditional Mediterranean diet. Which is important because that’s been very well studied. When people eat the traditional Mediterranean diet in Greece they are very healthy, they have the longest life expectancy in the world.”

    Ideal for light lunches on warm summer days, the traditional Mediterranean diet is high in fresh fruit and vegetables, with olive oil in place of butter, whole grains instead of processed foods, and fish – mostly oily fish such as mackerel and sardines – providing the most prominent source of animal protein, with moderate consumption of dairy and poultry and only limited consumption of red meat.

    Currently, over 80% of all agricultural land is used to produce meat and dairy, despite animal products providing just 18% of global calories

    2. Cutting back on meat

    Currently, over 80% of all agricultural land is used to produce meat and dairy, despite animal products providing just 18% of global calories5. The meat and dairy industry is also responsible for 60% of all of agriculture’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and many meat products are more water intensive than their plant-based alternatives6.

    To address this, the Planetary Health Diet focusses on reducing meat consumption, rather than eliminating it altogether. According to Professor Willett: “[The Planetary Health Diet] is a largely plant-based diet where we have low amounts of meat and dairy. It emphasises plant sources of protein…over red meat and dairy. A diet rich in plant-based foods and with fewer animal sourced foods confers both improved health and environmental benefits.”

    Read also: Five reasons why you should consider going plant-based

    Farming pulses (such as chickpeas and lentils) requires as little as one tenth of the water needed to produce meat

    3. Trying nuts and pulses instead

    While our supermarket shelves are full of plant-based alternatives to help us cut back on meat, one simple option is to use chickpeas instead of meat in curries and stews, or to sprinkle nuts on salads in place of adding chicken or other meat.

    Farming pulses (such as chickpeas and lentils) requires as little as one tenth of the water needed to produce meat7 – pulses also have the added advantage of requiring minimal chemical inputs, with root nodules that self-fertilise the soil8. While nuts are comparatively thirsty to grow, they are responsible for just a fraction of the GHGs of meat products9, and as Professor Willett explains, “Nuts come out on almost every study at the top of the list of lowest rates of heart disease, diabetes and other non-communicable diseases. It turns out that almost all the fat in nuts is unsaturated fat which actually lowers blood cholesterol levels, and reduces risk of heart disease and other conditions.”


    4. Processing less

    Another central feature of the EAT-Lancet Planetary Health Diet is a big reduction in the consumption of highly processed foods and added sugar. In recent years a wealth of research has shown a strong correlation between processed foods and poor health, including a link with obesity, cancer, heart disease, stroke and dementia10.

    Some processed foods are similarly harmful to the environment. Analysis by Dr. Michael Clark from the University of Oxford found that the healthiest foods – such as unprocessed fruit, vegetables and whole grains – are also best for the environment, while processed meat scores worst for both human and planetary health11.

    The key is to buy in-season produce that is grown naturally where you are

    5. Buying local – it’s complicated

    The question of “how much CO2 is in your lunch” is not straightforward. Studies show that transportation is responsible for no more than 10% of a food’s environmental impact (for some foodstuffs it’s as little as 1%), and that what we choose to eat is more important than where our food is from12. Buying local is not, in itself, a sustainability silver bullet.

    However, in the right circumstances, buying local can bring environmental benefits. The key is to buy in-season produce that is grown naturally where you are. For instance, tomatoes grown in fields locally will likely have a lower carbon footprint than imported tomatoes, whereas local tomatoes cultivated in heated greenhouses will have a significantly higher footprint than naturally-grown imports13.

    Food is never more nutritious than at the moment of harvest – from a health perspective, eating fresh is best. So this summer, why not seek out local farmers markets for naturally grown in-season produce, and minimise the miles travelled from farm to fork.

    Read also: The CLIC® Chronicles: How much CO₂ is in your lunch? Meet Klimato, the start-up labelling food to tackle emissions

    6. Adding seaweed

    Most commonly eaten in East Asia, seaweed has been heralded as the next ‘superfood’. High in dietary fibre, and with up to 100 times more mineral content (such as calcium, iron and zinc) than vegetables14, seaweed has been linked with improved gut and heart health, and with boosting the immune system15. It also offers environmental benefits – in addition to carbon absorption, seaweed can reduce ocean acidification and help to regenerate damaged ocean ecosystems16.

    With no chemical inputs or freshwater withdrawals needed during production, eating mussels is a good option for reducing the environmental impact of your lunch

    7. Putting mussels on the menu

    Mussels are high in protein and, like fish, are a good source of the essential fatty acid Omega-3, making them an ideal alternative to meat. Mussels also play a crucial role in regenerating marine ecosystems, cleaning water, absorbing carbon, and creating reef-like habitats for other sea-life17. With no chemical inputs or freshwater withdrawals needed during production, eating mussels is a good option for reducing the environmental impact of your lunch.

    Read also: Shellfish: the kidneys of the sea


    8. Going for game

    In many Western nations, deer are routinely culled in order to protect crops, wild vegetation and sapling trees. The same is often true of rabbits and even squirrels. The resulting meat is lean, rich in protein and nutrient-dense and, with no resources having been dedicated to its production, has a significantly lower environmental footprint than that of industrially-reared meat.

    Consumers should be aware that not all game is wild – some game meats, rabbits and game birds in particular, are now farmed in the traditional way. However, demand for meat that has a lower environmental impact is creating a market for wild game. So if meat is on your barbecue menu this summer, consider replacing sausages and burgers with wild game.

    If available, look instead for locally-produced charcoal certified as coming from well-maintained forests

    9. Lowering your barbecue’s impact

    And when it comes to barbecues, if you’re still grilling in the traditional way, consider cutting emissions by going electric. Research shows that grilling with gas emits just one third as much CO2e (carbon dioxide equivalent gases) as using charcoal18, while electric barbecues, which have reached the mass market in just the last few years, can cut emissions to zero when paired with renewable electricity.

    If moving to a lower-impact barbecue is not an option, look out for charcoal that comes from sustainable sources instead of from regions at risk of deforestation. Much of the charcoal used in Europe is imported from South America and Africa, and often contributes to tropical deforestation19. If available, look instead for locally-produced charcoal certified as coming from well-maintained forests.

    Read also: Jackfruit leads the cash in on hunger for vegan alternatives


    10. Cutting down on waste

    Nearly one third of all food produced each year goes to waste20, accounting for an eye-watering 8% of all man-made GHG emissions. This lost food comes at significant cost to the consumer – in the US, each household spends an average USD 1,866 per year on food that ends in the bin21.

    These simple tips can help reduce waste, emissions, and your food bill:

    • Try apps such as Phenix and TooGoodToGo so you can buy near-to-expiry produce at a discount.
    • Sign up to peer-to-peer food waste apps – such as Olio in the UK – that let you share unneeded food with neighbours.
    • Look out for so-called ‘ugly’ fruit and vegetables, which are available at lower prices in many supermarkets.
    • Ensure your fridge is set to the right temperature – even just a couple of degrees too warm and produce will expire faster. (In the UK, the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP) estimates that most home fridges are set at least 2 degrees too warm22.)
    • Try this portion calculator to ensure you cook the right amount of food for each meal.
    • Eat as much of each item as possible – for instance, cauliflower leaves and stems can be roasted and eaten as an alternative to kale23, banana skins can be curried24, and vegetable peel can be turned into soup or even home-made crisps25.

    Read also: The CLIC® Chronicles: tackling food waste with Too Good To Go

    Across the entire value chain, we estimate that New Food Systems will represent a USD 1.5 trillion annual profit pool by 2030

    Investing for change

    The food systems transformation is one of several key systems transformations that will enable the transition from a linear ‘take-make-waste’ economy, where resources are extracted, used, and then discarded, to a sustainable economy that works in harmony with nature.

    This shift is already well underway, driven by a powerful combination of forces, including government policy and regulation, technological innovation, and shifting consumer preferences. In our food systems this is being seen in a drive to redirect farming subsidies towards sustainable production, the rise of new precision and regenerative farming techniques that reduce fertiliser and water use, new storage and distribution technologies that cut waste and food miles, and a growing awareness among consumers that it matters what we eat.

    Investors have a central role to play in bringing sustainability solutions to scale, with opportunities abounding in ‘green’ fertilisers, precision farming technologies, aquaculture, and in the ‘early adopters’ – those food manufacturers and retailers getting ahead of potentially punitive regulations by embracing sustainable production now. New profit pools are also arising in food packaging and logistics, as innovations in software and data sharing enable more efficient storage and delivery. Across the entire value chain, we estimate that New Food Systems will represent a USD 1.5 trillion annual profit pool by 2030.

    According to the EAT-Lancet Commission, “Food is the single strongest lever to optimise human health and environmental sustainability on Earth.” The incentive for consumers is two-fold – by adopting the Planetary Health Diet we can improve both our own health outcomes and play our part in creating sustainable food production.


    E1: The Planetary Health Diet - EAT (
    EAT-Lancet Explained - EAT (
    EAT-Lancet_Commission_Summary_Report.pdf (
    Latest summer heat record, a taste of things to come warns top UN meteorologist | | UN News
    We Need to Talk About Meat | UNFCCC
    Which foods need the most water to produce? | World Economic Forum (
    Water Footprint of Food Guide - Water Footprint Calculator (
    Pulses and Soils – promoting symbiosis through crop rotation | FAO
    The carbon footprint of foods: are differences explained by the impacts of methane? - Our World in Data
    10 Ultra-processed food consumption, cancer risk and cancer mortality: a large-scale prospective analysis within the UK Biobank - eClinicalMedicine (; Could ultra-processed foods be harmful for us? - BBC News
    11 Eating more fruits, vegetables, nuts and… | Oxford Martin School; Healthy diet means a healthy planet, study shows | Food | The Guardian
    12 Is eating local produce actually better for the planet? | Food | The Guardian
    13 Contrasted greenhouse gas emissions from local versus long-range tomato production | SpringerLink
    14 Minerals from Macroalgae Origin: Health Benefits and Risks for Consumers - PMC (
    15 Immunomodulating activity of seaweed extract on human lymphocytes in vitro - PubMed (
    16 Regenerative ocean farming: GreenWave (
    17 A happy food chain: can mussel farming restore the UK’s damaged coastline? | Coastlines | The Guardian; Manila clam and Mediterranean mussel aquaculture is sustainable and a net carbon sink - ScienceDirect
    18 Charcoal versus LPG grilling: A carbon-footprint comparison - ScienceDirect
    19 (PDF) 2020 Analysis of the EU Charcoal Market (
    20 5 facts about food waste and hunger | World Food Programme (
    21 The Shocking Amount Of Food U.S. Households Waste Every Year (
    22 Chill the Fridge Out | WRAP
    23 How to make the most of cauliflower leaves | Food | The Guardian
    24 Banana peel curry recipe - BBC Food
    25 How to use up fruit & vegetable scraps | BBC Good Food

    Important information

    This document is issued by Bank Lombard Odier & Co Ltd or an entity of the Group (hereinafter “Lombard Odier”). It is not intended for distribution, publication, or use in any jurisdiction where such distribution, publication, or use would be unlawful, nor is it aimed at any person or entity to whom it would be unlawful to address such a document. This document was not prepared by the Financial Research Department of Lombard Odier.

    Read more.


    let's talk.