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'I’ve heard all about how going vegan is better for the planet, and I really want to take the plunge… but I just can’t do it. I haven’t cooked a steak in yonks but I love going out to eat and can’t resign myself to only eating in vegan restaurants for ever. How can I navigate London’s amazing food scene while still minimising my impact on the world?’
Tara via email
I’ve got one possibly brilliant, probably controversial word for you: flexitarian. A flexitarian diet is mostly plant-based. Generally, it means only occasionally eating meat and dairy – and I mean ‘occasionally’. Meat-free Mondays just aren’t going to cut it.
A study by the journal Nature found we in the UK need to reduce our red meat consumption by around 90 percent and our milk intake by 60 percent if we want to avoid catastrophic damage to the planet. Why? Because livestock farming makes up 14 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions – about the same as all the world’s transport. It’s not just about emissions. Rearing livestock is one of the biggest polluters of the world’s rivers and seas, and one of the biggest causes of deforestation. Beef is the worst: it’s ten times more damaging to the environment than any other form of livestock farming.
So you’re bang on when you say that being vegan is better for the planet. But it’s not right for everyone, all of the time. Whether for health reasons or something else, we can’t all be 100 percent plant-based with our diet. But we can all do our bit by eating much less meat and dairy.
Being flexitarian makes eating out or being cooked for a lot simpler than diehard veganism. It gives you the freedom to enjoy what you love without being part of the problem. And you’ll be in good company: a 2019 YouGov survey found 14 percent of Brits are now flexitarian. I know – I’m one of them!
Just try to ensure that when you do buy or order meat and dairy, it’s organic. If you’re eating it less often, it’s worth paying extra for good farming practices. Lastly, why not commit to only eating out at vegan restaurants for the rest of the year? London’s plant-based food scene is super-exciting and not pricey. Start at Tibits on Heddon Street or Southwark Street, and tell ’em I sent you.
Got a question for Natalie? Write to email@example.com.
Natalie Fee is an environmental campaigner, author and speaker. She founded the City to Sea non-profit, which campaigns against plastic pollution. Her book ‘How to Save the World for Free’ is published by Laurence King. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram.