A new column by Otley 2030 about the small and simple changes we can make to reduce our carbon footprint and save money too.

Some meat and dairy foods are part of our tradition, culture, family get-togethers and childhood memories: meals like roast chicken on Sundays, that we would struggle to give up. But there are many benefits to eating more vegetarian and vegan foods. Pizza, shepherds pie, curry, chilli, spaghetti bolognese, lasagne, pies, pasties, fry-ups; all these can be made meat and dairy-free.

A government-commissioned report recommended we reduce our meat and dairy consumption by 30% – 85% of farmland is used to feed livestock when it could be used to produce food for people. The United Nations echoes this, saying eating more plant-based foods could free up several million square kilometres of land by 2050 and reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

In Brazil, huge areas of the Amazon rainforest are cleared for cattle and to produce soya for animal feed in countries like the UK. When forests are destroyed, species die out and the carbon dioxide released accelerates global warming.

Much of our meat from supermarkets and fast-food restaurants is intensively reared, which is bad for animal welfare and produces around half the carbon emissions of the fossil fuel producers.

Life in the oceans is threatened, and the main cause is commercial fishing, according to the UN.

Populations of cod and mackerel in British waters are now plummeting again. If we fished sustainably, we could safeguard our supplies, but this is largely not the case; we also need to reduce our fish consumption, and campaign for a sustainable fishing industry.

According to leading nutritionist Dr Tim Spector, it is healthier to eat less red meat, especially processed meat, such as bacon and sausages. Around 2 billion people around the world exist without eating meat, so it’s clearly not essential for survival. He recommends eating a range of 30 different plant-based foods a week, including vegetables, pulses, nuts, seeds, herbs and spices.

Think about replacing some meals with plant-based alternatives. A committed meat eater, who recently converted to mostly plant-based said: ‘If there’s plenty of flavour and the presentation is good, ( and you don’t have what looks like just a plate of carrots), plant-based meals are delicious!’ Many people in our community struggle to afford these life-giving foods. Please support Otley 2030’s Fruit and Vegetable Box scheme, support the Otley Community Allotment, try growing some of your own vegetables or look around locally for people sharing allotment produce.

If you only make one change this week, cut out meat and dairy one extra day a week.

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