from Sunday Herald New Era magazine, 16 June 2013
By eating more local organic food, wasting less and composting more, people could prevent hundreds of thousands of tonnes of carbon emissions and rescue the nation’s faltering reputation on tackling global warming.
Statistics released by the Scottish government earlier this month revealed that, for the second year running, Scotland has failed to meet the legal targets it set itself to reduce carbon emissions. Emissions in 2011 were 848,000 tonnes over the target.
But a new report for the award-winning Fife Diet estimates that the scheme’s 5,000 members saved 990 tonnes of carbon dioxide in 2012-13. If everyone in Scotland made similar changes to their food habits, maybe a million tonnes of carbon could be saved.
The report says that most of the carbon savings came from eating organic food, which is produced using less energy. Major savings also came from buying more locally grown food, throwing away less and composting more to produce natural fertiliser (see table below).
Osbert Lancaster, a sustainability expert and honorary fellow at the University of Edinburgh, pointed out that food production, processing and waste accounted for a significant proportion of Scotland’s climate pollution. Projects like the Fife Diet could make a real difference, he argued.
“The changes in eating habits that the Fife Diet demonstrates are not only possible but are also healthy, enjoyable and affordable, and certainly have the potential to make a major dent in Scotland's greenhouse gas emissions,” he said.
Suzy Goodsir, a former carbon consultant who now manages the ‘Greener Kirkcaldy’ project, described the Fife Diet’s carbon savings as “really impressive”. Although governments and energy companies had a major influence over carbon emissions, households could still make a huge impact, she contended.
“Changing the way we eat will be an important step towards meeting the Scottish government's targets of reducing our national carbon footprint by 42% by 2020,” she added. “The Fife Diet's calculations show that simply by following the example of their members, we could make a meaningful contribution to that now.”
Mike Small, director of the Fife Diet, welcomed the backing for the scheme’s “message of hope” on carbon savings. “We could make some really significant steps just be re-thinking the way we do food,” he said.
“Scotland has failed to meet its climate change targets for the second consecutive year. The disappointing thing is that we needn't have, but we need to be bolder and we need more leadership. People need to get their heads around the fact that this will actually involve change, and then embrace that change.”
Small urged political leaders to grasp the opportunity for “radical holistic change” right now. “Let's create a plan to re-localise our food system and make a plan for decarbonising our food system,” he said. “It's social change that will taste good.”
Begun by volunteers in 2007, the Fife Diet has become one of the most famous and most successful food experiments in the UK. In 2009 it was named “ethical contribution of the year” by Observer Food Monthly, and in 2012 it won ‘best green campaign’ at the Scottish Green Awards.
Carbon saved by the Fife Diet
pledge / tonnes of carbon saved 2012-13 / percentageEat more organic / 417 / 42%
Eat more local food / 368 / 37%
Waste less / 104 / 10%
Compost more / 86 / 9%
Eat less meat / 8 / 1%
Grow some of your own food / 7 / 1%
Total / 990 / 100%
source: Fife Diet