Cutting back on red meat and dairy can be one of the biggest steps to reduce your carbon footprint. While Greenpeace campaign for renewable energy and a transition from fossil fuels, we're also looking at other ways we can protect ourselves and the environment.
Ecological produce at Raspail Market in central Paris.
Just like a fossil fuel transport system, the meat industry has an impact on the environment. When we eat red meat every day, it has an effect on our water use and carbon footprints.
"Consistent evidence indicates that, in general, a dietary pattern that is higher in plant-based foods, such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds, and lower in animal-based foods is more health promoting and is associated with lesser environmental impact (GHG emissions and energy, land, and water use) than is the current average US diet."
So why start a low-carbon diet, and where do you begin making changes? Check out these great tips on how to cut back on meat.
Food illustration of a farm created by Instagram food artist and enthusiast Ida Skivenes.
1. Your diet, your rules
Your diet is a very personal part of your life. That means you don't need to follow the rules and trends of other herbivores – just the advice of your doctor (and maybe your mother). Some vegetarians choose to eat sustainably caught seafood, and some vegans eat eggs from their own chickens. Others – called 'freegans' – eat meat and dairy that would otherwise be thrown out to avoid food waste. As long as you're safe, healthy, and making the decisions you want for yourself and the world, you're all good.
Farm workers pack organic produce with their child at Shared Harvest Farm in Tongzhou, China.
2. It's okay to start slow
If dropping meat from your diet right now sounds daunting, you can try phasing it out over time. Initiatives like Meatless Mondays, where people stop eating meat one day of the week, are a great place to start (not to mention you'll be alongside people like Sir Paul McCartney and Chris Martin). You could also make an effort to choose the vegetarian option when eating out, or start by cutting the most resource-intensive meats like beef from your diet.
Francesca Kitheka from Kenya holds pigeon peas. In Kenya, farmers are effectively applying ecological farming practices that are increasing their ability to build resilience to and cope with climate change.
3. Talk to friends and loved ones
Sometimes our diets affect the people we live with or see a lot. If you're sharing food preparation duties with someone, make sure you talk to them about your decision and make an effort to work out a plan. Maybe some nights you'll cook separately, or you'll make dishes with the meat on the side – or they might even make a change with you!
If you're visiting friends or family for a meal, let them know about your new diet. You might want to bring a vegetarian dish or two to share, or offer to come early to help cook and prepare. Your diet doesn't have to stop you from enjoying your life.
Farmer's markets like this one in Slovakia, sell produce made with love for the nature and environment, without using chemicals.
4. The internet is your best friend
From nutritional information, to vegetarian recipes, to helping you find the perfect ingredient substitutes – the internet has everything a vegetarian needs.
If you can't stop eating meat, but still want to bite away at your food footprint, there's still lots you can do. You might choose to buy local or organic produce, stop eating processed or packaged foods, or grow your own fruit and vegetables at home. There are even ways to make changes to how you consume meat and dairy to reduce your carbon food footprint, like choosing from more ecological farming methods such as buying grass-fed rather than grain-fed beef.
A farmer uses cattle to plow his field in Kammavaripalli Village, Bagepalli, India.
Making the decision to commit to a new diet is difficult – but once you start it's easy! But if you slip up or forget, be kind to yourself and keep at it.
Rashini Suriyaarachchi is the Digital Communications Officer at Greenpeace Australia Pacific. This article originally appeared on the Greenpeace Australia Pacific's website here.
Overconsumption is a big problem for some people in Russia. But they don't have access to a proper recycling system. Once a month, people have to carry their separate recyclables to a collection point that's run entirely by volunteers. There is no state-run recycling programme.
They find collection points near them with this map, created with the help of Greenpeace Russia volunteers.
Violetta: "I decided to not only take my recycling to the collection points, using recyclemap.ru, but also to reduce the amount of packaging I buy. I try to take containers to the store with me and fill them with what I want to buy, like my own bags for fruit and vegetables.
"At first, it was awkward. A saleswoman once asked why I do it. I told her about how long plastic takes to decompose and how many animals die from plastic pollution. 'We all have our quirks', was her response. But now it seems like more and more people are asking stores to stop selling products in plastic packaging."
"Since childhood, I've made use of unwanted materials, like making papier-maché out of receipts. This Wonder Woman costume is made from medical shoe-covers with red tape from bread packaging for the corset."
"The majority of our visitors are people under 40, many with children. There is always someone who will ask: is this all really is processed? It's not just sent to a common landfill site? And I explain: we are not spending our days off here for nothing – yes, it all gets recycled."
Dmitry: "I have a funny story about recycling in Russia. Greenpeace were hosting an event to inform people about separating their waste. We were approached by a man who said, 'You, Greenpeace, you work for the CIA!' We asked, 'What's the CIA?' The man said 'You collect all our garbage in those boxes and their contents determine how our people live. You'll pass all this information on.' We didn't know what to say to that.
"My dream is to get Californian worms, which make compost from food waste. They convert waste into something useful. It'll be nice to have new animals in the house that aren't cats."
Veronika: "Sometimes we come across quite amazing things at the point. One of my favourites was a pre-revolutionary bottle of arsenic. Another find was beautiful Argentinian maté teacup, which I found out from an antiquarian was from the 1940s."
Greenpeace Russia has been leading a project about recycling waste since October 2014. Now, thousands of people are demanding an adequate local recycling system from the government.
More than 170,000 people have signed Greenpeace's petition to their regional government. In some towns, local governments have already started recycling projects with local businesses.
Violetta Ryabko is a Media Coordinator at Greenpeace Russia.
This story originally appeared on Greenpeace Russia's site here.
Brecht Goussey is an organic farmer and runs a community-supported agriculture (CSA) farm in the area of Leuven, Belgium. What he struggles with most is access to healthy soil and affordable land to grow food for his local community. Together with thousands of people, Greenpeace Belgium is crowdfunding a direct support network for farmers just like Brecht.
Doing what I love most: farming
I'd been working as a social worker for years but, ever since I was a boy, I dreamed of becoming a farmer. Two years ago, I made up my mind. It was time to start doing what I loved the most: cultivating land!
Today, I grow vegetables for approximately 320 people on a 1.5 hectare plot. Those people harvest the vegetables themselves. But I have bigger plans: three colleagues and I aim to cultivate an integrated farm with vegetables, fruits, cereals, potatoes and flowers, as well as cows, sheep and other animals. The manure of the cattle is used to fertilise the soil and we close the cycle on our company, which results in more biodiversity, flowers, wild plants and bees.
Land is more expensive than what can be produced on it in one farmer's career
But we're not quite there yet. It's uncertain for how long and under what conditions I can keep using my current plot. In a situation like this, it's pointless to invest in permanent crops like rhubarb and fruits or in landscape measures like hedges. How will I ever be able to turn this into a real sustainable farm?
I would like to buy the land myself but, just like many young would-be organic farmers, I don't have enough money to buy agricultural land in Belgium. Speculation, shortage and scaling-up have dramatically increased prices. Oddly enough, land is becoming more expensive than what you can produce on it in an entire career.
Luckily, I'm not alone. I'm being supported by 'De Landgenoten' ('The Countrymen'), a cooperative that buys farmland and rents it to organic farmers. Together, we're looking for people, organisations and companies who would like to invest in this programme. If we collect enough money to buy 'my' plot of land, I will be able to cultivate it for the rest of my life. Thereafter, 'De Landgenoten' make the land available for other farmers.
This method suits my philosophy perfectly. Agricultural land must not stay in the hands of only a few big companies or rich individuals. We have to return our land to our local communities. Furthermore, we need more organic farmers who, instead of impoverishing the soil, embrace it and protect it for generations to come. And not with artificial manure, which only improves the fertility for the short term, but with crop rotation, compost and diversity. We need farmers who improve the ecosystem and stimulate an increase of biodiversity.
Together with Greenpeace Belgium, you can directly support the work of 'De Landgenoten' in Flanders, and 'Terre-en-vue' in Wallonia, and the dozens of ecological farmers they provide with affordable land. For me, these first square metres mean one I am step closer to renting my 1.5 hectare plot. This cooperative understood that we – all together – need to improve access to ecological farmland and healthy soil. This will be key to determine the future of farming across Belgium – and further afield.
Today, Munduruku Indigenous representatives and activists traveled thousands of kilometres from the heart of the Brazilian Amazon to the annual shareholder’s meeting of General Electric (GE) in the United States. Their goal: to confront the company on its involvement in destructive hydroelectric mega dams in the Amazon.
The Munduruku are fighting a massive hydroelectric project – the São Luiz do Tapajós mega dam – along the Tapajós River in the Amazon Rainforest that would displace entire villages and destroy livelihoods. As Munduruku leader Adalto Jair Munduruku explains, “We journeyed here to speak to the leadership of GE and meet those that would consider profiting off the displacement of thousands of people from our traditional lands against our will, destroying our natural environment. The traditional population uses very well this territory. When we are forced out of our land, we lose our traditional livelihoods.”
Munduruku leaders, together with their allies, are showing up to speak directly to corporate decision makers around the world – from Austrian engineering company Andritz, to Siemens in Germany, to GE today – because these corporations make massive hydropower projects possible. Some have even been involved in devastating mega dam projects before.
GE recently acquired the hydropower business of the French company Alstom who supplied equipment to the another massive Amazon dam project – called Belo Monte. Alstom, prior to being merged with GE, had reportedly been in discussions to supply the São Luiz do Tapajós dam.
Siemens, too, has a history of involvement in such projects. The company also provided turbines and generators for the Belo Monte dam.
At GE’s meeting today, Antonia Melo – the leader of Xingu Vivo, a Brazilian organisation resisting Belo Monte – joined the Munduruku. Antonia has been displaced by Belo Monte, watched her river get destroyed and witnessed the environmental consequences of the project firsthand. As detailed in a recent Greenpeace Brazil report, the infamous Belo Monte dam displaced thousands like Antonia, and is even embroiled in a corruption scandal.
We must make sure none of these companies choose to be involved in the São Luiz do Tapajós dam.
Standing up against the São Luiz do Tapajós project
Now they are here at GE’s annual meeting, and GE is at crossroads. The company needs to listen to the Munduruku leaders. GE is already the largest supplier of wind power in Brazil. It can stop contributing to destructive, wasteful mega dam projects and instead contribute to the growth of Brazil’s clean energy solutions.
This past week the São Luiz do Tapajós project was stalled when its environmental licensing process was suspended – but not definitively cancelled. Now is the right moment for GE and all corporations considering involvement to publicly declare that they will have no part in São Luiz do Tapajós.
"I have a visual at two o'clock!" We rush to the 'monkey island', the highest platform of the Greenpeace ship Esperanza, where watchers scan the ocean from sunrise to sunset. The ship changes course and heads towards the small floating construction of bamboo, nets and buoys. It's day four of our expedition and our third catch.
A Greenpeace campaigner scans the horizon for fish aggregating devices from the monkey nest of Greenpeace ship Esperanza.
The 'catch' we're after are marine snares called FADs – fish aggregating devices – used by the fishing industry. Fish congregate under floating objects and these simple, handmade rafts attract schools of tuna. But scores of other marine species, including sharks, are also drawn by the rafts and the small ecosystem growing beneath. These animals mostly end up indiscriminately caught, killed and dumped overboard.
Marine life congregating under fish aggregating devices are often scooped up indiscriminately.
Greenpeace is in the Indian Ocean to document and protest this destructive fishing method used by Thai Union, the world's largest tuna company, and to pull the FADs we find out of the ocean.
Follow that bird
Finding the FADs is a full time job. Luckily the whole crew is in. At least three people are on watch, looking for the harmful gear that comes disguised as an innocent raft of bamboo, old nets and buoys. Another way to detect FADs is to look up. The fish these marine snares attract swim quite close to the surface and attract birds. So when we see a bird circling around, all eyes track the bird.
Most fishing vessels use the same techniques to locate their small 'floating lures'. Only they will have about five people on the lookout, and a GPS-signal transmitted by a beacon attached to their FAD. This gives them a pretty detailed idea of where to look. We have to rely on our eyes.
Two more tools in our box
To widen our visual range, we have two other tools. One is a small helicopter and a very enthusiastic heli-team. When weather allows and the area seems interesting, they fly out to scout. They're also on the lookout for fishing vessels.
Secondly, we have three UAV (unmanned air vehicles) at our disposal and someone who knows how to fly them. They haven't flown yet and it's the first time we're using them in the search for FADs, so fingers crossed.
A Greenpeace RHIB is deployed to investigate a fish aggregating device.
Tracing the tuna supply chain
With a FAD in our sights a RHIB (rigid-hulled inflatable boat) is sent out to the raft. After documenting the marine life swimming beneath it, we bring it on board the Esperanza. Then we track down the owner with the data written on the beacon. It's from a French fishing company. Our earlier research reveals that this company supplies Thai Union. This is direct evidence that the fishing companies that Thai Union gets its tuna from still fish with FADs, despite the damage they do to our oceans.
The data is sent to the teams on shore, who work hard to put pressure on Thai Union from every part of this globe to stop supporting this unsustainable fishing method. Meanwhile, we start the engines and continue our search.
The word nadeshda means hope in Russian. The Nadesha rehabilitation centre was founded to give hope to children living in towns and villages contaminated by the Chernobyl disaster.
Thousands of children across Belarus have been robbed of a healthy childhood. Their food and playgrounds are contaminated. Their health weakened by radiation.
At Nadeshda I meet Elena Solovyeva, a teacher from the heavily contaminated Mogilev region, who has brought her class to the centre. She tells me that around 40% of her students have health problems: asthma, diabetes and cancer or weak immune, respiratory and digestive systems.
"We explain to the kids where their problems come from. They get it. We breathe contaminated air, we eat contaminated food… You never get used to it, but it is almost impossible to get away from," she says.
Nadeshda was founded not only to help care for the health of the children, and now grandchildren, of Chernobyl, but also to teach them how to live in a contaminated environment.
Olga Sokolova, a doctor at Nadeshda, tells me: "We explain to them what they should do and what they shouldn't. What to eat and what not to eat, where to go and where not to go, how to take care of themselves."
I'm saddened talking to Olga. A great injustice has been done to the children who come here. Before they were even born, Chernobyl stole their ability to grow and to play without inhibition. It is now left to the children to protect themselves from radiation.
"Our aim is to help children to understand their responsibility for their own health," Nadeshda's director Vyacheslav Makushinsky tells me.
It's unfair, but it's the reality for millions of Chernobyl survivors. Teaching responsibility and living by example - those are the basic principles of Nadeshda. While governments and the nuclear industry walk away from their responsibilities, survivors come together at places like Nadeshda.
What's beautiful about the centre is that people are not only coming together to support each other, they've also taken it on themselves to show the world that there is no need for nuclear power.
As the Belarus government builds a new nuclear reactor just 80 kilometers away from here, Nadeshda is retrofitting its buildings so that it can be powered by 100% renewable energy.
Nadeshda has the most powerful solar heating system in Belarus, and all its buildings and electrical devices are energy efficient.
The centre is now installing new solar photovoltaic systems on a nearby field to cover all their energy needs.
"We're showing how even a big institution like ours can operate without harming nature," Makushinsky says.
The director is enthusiastic: it will be the first project in Belarus of such a scale financed solely from donations. I'm proud that a Greenpeace-run foundation is part of it by donating 15,000 euros to help make it happen.
Makushinsky tells me why it's so important for the centre to go renewable: "The kids must learn to live in such a way that they preserve their health and make sure that a catastrophe like Chernobyl doesn't happen again."
Speaking to Makushinsky I realise how hope inspires action. The suffering caused by Chernobyl shows why we need to get rid of nuclear power for good. The persistence of Makushinsky and others at the Nadeshda centre shows that another way is possible, if we only try.
Nearby, a group of children are drawing pictures of the Chernobyl disaster and their dreams of non-nuclear future. Above them hangs a banner saying "We are the earth's hope." Indeed they are. And they should inspire all of us to support them and to speak up for a renewable future where disasters like Chernobyl or Fukushima would be a long forgotten nightmare.
Andrey Allakhverdov is a communications officer with Greenpeace Central and Eastern Europe.
As Indonesia's president announces a temporary ban on palm oil development, one of the world's biggest palm oil traders faces a customer revolt over its deforestation in Borneo… and it could lead to some big wins for forest protection.
Remnant forest beside artificial drainage and recent plantation development in IOI's PT Bumi Sawit Sejahtera oil palm concession.
Earlier this month [PDF], the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) finally took action on palm oil company IOI, suspending its certification because it was destroying rainforests in Borneo. Now the destructive company can no longer claim its palm oil is "sustainable".
IOI is huge: it supplies palm oil to over 300 companies, including the household brands whose products line our supermarket shelves. It's also hugely destructive. Greenpeace International first documented IOI's destruction of orangutan habitat in the 2008 report Burning up Borneo.
Since then, IOI has carried on destroying forests and draining peatlands – and carried on getting caught. Last November, when fires were blazing across Indonesia, our team exposed massive fires in and around its concessions in Borneo.
IOI has also been accused of serious social and labour issues including conflicts with local communities and exploitation of workers on its Malaysian plantations.
But finally IOI is in the firing line – and its customers are leaving in droves. At least thirteen international brands including Unilever, Kellogg and Mars have agreed to stop buying palm oil from the toxic company.
Interestingly, both Colgate and Johnson & Johnson – two of the worst performing companies in our palm oil scorecard that rated 14 global consumer goods companies - were amongst those breaking ties with the palm oil giant. (PepsiCo, which also failed in our survey, doesn't buy from IOI.) It's a great example of how pressure from hundreds of thousands of us gets results!
Greenpeace activists protest in front of Johnson & Johnson headquarters in Prague, Czech Republic, with nearly half a million signatures asking the company to buy only responsible palm oil.
With IOI's customers in revolt, the company will be putting enormous pressure on the RSPO to resolve this quickly so it can continue with business as usual. But we can't let it get away with a half-hearted apology – we need to push for real protection for Indonesia's forests!
Last year, devastating forest fires blazed across Indonesia affecting wildlife, peatlands and spawning a toxic haze that affected millions of people across the region. Indonesia's president responded by ordering peatlands to be protected and recently promised a moratorium on palm oil expansion. But there is little sign that the industry is listening.
Without radical change from companies like IOI, the deadly fires will return in just a few months.
Forest clearance in an IOI palm oil concession, PT Bumi Sawit Sejahtera (PT BSS) in West Kalimantan (2014)
IOI should listen to President Jokowi. As one of the world's biggest palm oil traders, IOI could set an example for other palm oil companies by protecting and restoring the forests and peatlands it has damaged – starting with its concessions in Ketapang, Borneo.
That would be a major breakthrough for Indonesia's rainforests, and help protect Indonesian citizens from devastating forest fires and haze. But is IOI ready to make a difference?
Kiki Taufik is the Global Head of Indonesia's Forest Campaign at Greenpeace Indonesia.
Want to protect Indonesia's forests and make sure companies like IOI stop destroying forests and peatlands for palm oil? Take action here.
Don't let unlabelled or untested GMOs in through the back door.
If the companies get their way, GM plants and animals could soon end up on our fields and on our dinner table without any safety testing or labelling - and without any way to ban them. And we wouldn’t even know! European law requires that GMOs undergo a detailed assessment of health and environmental risks, as well as labelling, to allow consumer choice.
The European Commission said that it would publish a legal opinion to tell national governments what’s in and what’s out of EU GMO law. Internal documents obtained under freedom of information rules reveal that the Commission was set to confirm that the genetically modified organisms (GMOs) produced through new techniques referred to as gene-editing are covered by the law. This means that they would need to undergo safety testing and labelling before being placed on the market.
Why then didn’t the European Commission publish the opinion as planned? Well, it seems that not only the GMO companies, but also the US government, lobbied heavily so that the Commission wouldn’t classify gene-edited plants and animals as GMOs. These new GMOs are largely unregulated in the US, which is why a letter from the US warned of “potentially significant trade disruptions” from the application of EU GMO law. It suggests that the EU should ignore its health and environmental safeguards to pave the way for a new transatlantic trade agreement (TTIP).
The next round of TTIP negotiations starts on 25 April 2016 in New York.
EU GMO laws are designed to protect our health and environment. They shouldn't be sidelined for the sake of TTIP and industry profits. Tell European leaders to act now - sign the petition.
Franziska Achterberg is the food policy director for Greenpeace EU.
Today, on Earth Day, more than 165 countries sign a global agreement - Paris Climate Agreement - to protect our environment. This is a record turnout for an international agreement. It is an encouraging sign. After many years of foot-dragging, the world is finally coming together to confront climate change, the most urgent issue of our time.
This combined pressure resulted in an agreement that sends a clear signal that the age of fossil fuels is ending. An agreement that makes staying within 1.5 degrees C the benchmark against which all decisions by governments and corporations must be based on.
Solutions are not adopted fast enough because of those few who benefit from the destructive status quo. There are still too many powerful people and corporations who benefit from the spoiling of our global commons.
Now is the time to show that we can share the world more equitably, and deliver a decent life for all. It is time for a vision of humanity being part of nature and of cooperating to save the beautiful planet we depend on. This is what we get out of bed for every morning.
It's also why we feel it's important that we at Greenpeace - who vigorously hold polluters to account - show that a more cooperative approach works. We are the first Executive Directors of Greenpeace International to share this post. We do so, not just because it is nice to divide the workload and learn from each other, but because we want to show that cooperation brings real benefits. If we - the two of us - bring out the best in each other, we get a better organisation. If we - all of us - bring out the best in humanity, we get a better world.
So, we welcome that the world is coming together this week to say: “we will fix the climate emergency.” We are truly encouraged by this global response to a global problem.
And, together with all of you, we look forward to ensuring that this is indeed the beginning of something new. The beginning of a renewable era, built on trust and cooperation.
Together, we can ensure that the businesses and investors who continue to put greed before the interests of people and our planet find themselves on the wrong side of history. Together, we can show a better way, with less selfishness and more community.
More than 45 years ago – on the very first Earth Day – tens of millions of people decided to do something about environmental destruction. They rallied against pollution, oil spills, pesticides and deforestation… issues that continue to resonate with us today.
Their activism remains inspiring. But as Earth Day comes and goes each year, we can’t just celebrate the past. The day must be a rallying cry for action in this present moment! This Earth Day, challenge yourself, your friends and your community to step up and make a change.
Want to get moving but don’t know where to start? Here are a just a few ways you can do something for the planet right now.
1. Take action for the climate.
Last December, world leaders met at the Paris climate summit and created an agreement – which many will sign on Earth Day – marking the beginning of the end for fossil fuels. But this agreement alone is not enough to avoid the most catastrophic consequences of climate change. It’s up to all of us (world leaders included) to take more action to keep coal, oil and gas in the ground and build a 100% renewable energy future.
Our food system is broken. Industrial agriculture is polluting water, destroying habitat and harming our health. The livestock sector alone contributes to climate change at least as much as all trucks, cars and planes combined! But you can fight back, starting in your own kitchen. Make a personal commitment to help change our food system – from starting a garden, to eating less (or no) meat.