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Food – Eating for the Planet

What we eat is a major part of our impact on the planet, both in terms of our carbon emissions and also on biodiversity.

Having a better understanding of what makes a food sustainable could help us all make more informed decisions on what we buy and eat, and in turn reduce our carbon footprint and protect natural habitats.

You might like to take the Food module of the Sustainable Living in Congleton Course.

What is Sustainable Food?

Sustainable food isn’t only about the food itself. It’s a combination of factors including how the food is produced, how it’s distributed, how it’s packaged and how it’s consumed.

One factor is ‘food miles’ or the distance food has travelled to get to your plate. But growing non-local crops locally in heated greenhouses can also push up their carbon footprint.

Many farmers are now using more sustainable methods, avoiding harmful pesticides and monocrops, and using crop rotation to improve biodiversity and soil fertility.

Sustainable farmers use livestock husbandry techniques that protect the animals’ health and wellbeing. They provide pasture grazing and allow animals to move freely. No animal is confined to a cage or restricted holding pens. This all ensures that animals are treated with care and respect.

Sustainable food is food that is safe and healthy. It’s produced without hazardous pesticides and chemicals, non-essential antibiotics or growth promotion supplements.

Nutrition is also playing an increasing role in defining sustainable foods. There’s a growing movement towards plant-based foods. These foods tend to have a greater emphasis on whole foods and fewer processed ingredients.

How we prepare and cook food is also important for the carbon footprint of a meal. Generally speaking, the carbon footprint of the oven is greater than hob is greater than pressure cooker or microwave. Roasting vegetables has a much higher carbon footprint than microwaving them, for example.

Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Food Types

source: BBC/OurWorldinData

How can I eat more sustainably?

Start by making or two changes each week or month. You can swap beef mince for veggie mince, choose fair trade coffee or have a go at reducing food waste at home.


  1. Reduce the amount of meat, fish and dairy you eat. Animal agriculture is an industry with one of the largest carbon footprints. You don’t have to go full on vegan, just reduce the amount of meat and dairy you eat.
  2. Eating less meat and dairy may mean that you could spend a little extra on sustainably reared meat when you do eat it.
  3. Choose to eat foods that are in season. Seasonal foods haven’t had to be artificially ripened and are less likely to have come from overseas.
  4. Likewise, native foods that have been produced locally have fewer air miles.
  5. Reduce your food waste. Use leftovers in soups, curries and pies. Compost what’s left.
  6. Avoid buying food in plastic packaging. Plastic only adds to the problems of sustainability as it’s so energy intensive to make and recycle, and creates problem waste if not recycled.
  7. Choose products that have been traded fairly.
  8. Grow your own herbs, fruit and vegetables. That way, you’ll know exactly what’s gone into producing them and the ‘food miles’ will be zero!
  9. Consider how you cook your food, for example, only turn the oven on if there are several things going into it at once.

Source: Ecoandbeyond

You can check out the sustainability of the foods you eat with the BBC’s Climate Change Food Calculator.

Vegetarian or Vegan?

Many people are choosing to cut out meat or animal products all together.  A vegetarian or vegan diet can mean losing weight, saving money and discovering lots of new recipes, and is, on average 2.5 times better for your carbon footprint than a meat diet.

Check out the Ten Reasons to go Vegetarian from Down To Earth.

If you are vegan you don’t eat any animal products including dairy and eggs.  Check out the Vegan Society’s Reasons to go Vegan.

Buying Sustainable Food in Congleton

Here are a number of shops and cafes that provide locally-grown fresh food wherever possible:

Crema DeliCafé – upstairs/takeaway & Shop – homemade deli food to purchase5 Bridge Street, CW12 1AYhttps://www.cremadeli.co.uk
01260 270511
ReubensRestaurant – all homemade food, local produce46 Lawton Street, CW12 1RShttps://www.reubensbarandbbq.com01260 273517
RJ & J MooreLocal fruit, vegetables, flowers15 Mill Street, CW12 1ABhttps://www.near.co.uk/3584120-Moore-R-J-*-J
01260 273249
Wild & WildCafé – coffee, cakes, Home made, lunch, vegan, vegetarian2 Bridge Street, CW12 1AYhttps://www.wildandwild.co.uk01260 409327
The Loft RestaurantCafé – upstairs in antiques mill, food HomemadeVictoria Mill, Foundry Bank, CW12 1EEwww.theloftcafebingley.co.uk01260 400050
Higher GroundCafé – coffee, pastries, homemade food and alcohol licence  56 High Street, CW12 1BAhttps://thehigherground.co.uk01260 295042
Home of FeastRestaurant – homemade food, alcohol licence  The Old Chapel, 22 Mill Street, CW12 2ADhttps://homeoffeast.co.uk 
Pecks RestaurantRestaurant – fine dining, special occasion dining – pre book.  Newcastle Road, Brownlow Heath, CW12 4SBhttps://www.pecksrest.co.uk01260 275161
The Lion & SwanRestaurant – fine dining, breakfast, accommodation  Swan Bank, CW12 1AHhttps://lionandswan.co.uk01260 211211
No1 Health KitchenCafé- coffee, takeaway and seating area, homemade  24 High Street, CW12 1BDhttps://www.no1healthkitchen.com
01260 281701
Gather      Café – coffee, cakes, lunch, takeaway and sit in.  3 High Street, CW12 3BNhttps://www.facebook.com/GatherOfCheshire    01260 279990
Stock at the PavilionCafé in the park, special occasion, coffee, cake, lunch.  Mill Green, CW12 1JGhttps://stockpavilion.co.uk07923 371126
Bare HealthHealth & wellbeing shop, vitamins, refillable liquids, shampoos, hand wash etc34 High Street, CW12 1BDhttps://www.barehealth.co.uk
01260 408413
Old Saw MillFood hub, café, homemade food, coffee, cake, lunch, community building  Back River Street, CW12 1HJwww.theoldsawmill.org
01260 277658

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Last updated: 17th November 2022

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