It’s Not Always Easy Being Green

bunch of asparagus

So today I found myself hugely frustrated with my own actions and it drove home to me how little things can escape a person’s attention if they are not careful. It may not seem like a big deal to many people, but I was trying to follow the Meat Free Monday approach so popular with climate enthusiasts and championed by Paul McCartney, which can bring the carbon footprint of your meal down considerably, if only on one night of the week.

I thought I’d make myself a nice vegetable risotto with mushrooms, pepper, spinach and fresh, seasonal British asparagus. The problem is that it seems I went into my local supermarket without my brain and picked up a pack of Asparagus without checking its country of origin; I just presumed that it would be UK grown given that it’s a week into May.

I located my brain once more when I got home and checked the pack to find, to my horror, that this asparagus had been air freighted from Peru. Now, if you believe the figures in my old favourite book ‘How Bad Are Bananas?’ then my 125g pack of veg has a carbon footprint of some 1.75kg compared to that of a home grown pack which would come in at closer to 62.5g.

Now I don’t know whether Tesco were selling British grown asparagus or not as it seems, after a bit of research, that the season here in the UK may have been delayed by all the extreme wet weahter we have been experiencing. Even so, I still feel somewhat guilty by buying a product with such a high impact on the environment.

It Just Goes To Show

What this has shown me is that no matter how hard we might try, there are always going to be times when we slip up from our low carbon lifestyles. It has also taught me not to be too hard on myself when I do make mistakes but to learn from them and be better prepared next time I shop.

It also makes me wonder whether supermarkets should be doing more to really highlight a product’s country of origin on their shelves. To be fair, the information is visible on the front of the pack but it’s in fairly small print alongside all the other use by and storage details.

Looking On The Bright Side

While my asparagus may not be as green as it might have been, I have found comfort in the fact that if I eat half the pack in tonight’s meal then at 875g, the asparagus is still only a fraction of the carbon footprint of something like a beefburger or lamb shank.

While I’m not going to be turning veggie any time soon, I like my meat and fish too much for that, I have found that my recent shopping habits are more towards lower carbon foods and alternatives and that it is becoming almost habitual now. Like just the other day I made myself a chilli con carne but instead of the usual beef mince, I opted for turkey mince instead. Since the spice and sauce do most of the talking in a chilli, I found that it was just as tasty, virtually half the price, much healthier and indeed much greener.

So while I may slip up once in a while and while I may also choose to indulge in some of the more polluting meats every so often (mainly beef and lamb – read more about sustainable livestock), I can honestly say that I’ve moved to a quite considerably lower carbon diet over the past few months (moving to oat milk has been my most successful switch) and I haven’t found it in the least bit less enjoyable. If anything, I now savour those times where I do gorge on meat even more.

So as the title of this post states, it is not always easy being green but I believe it is something that everyone can make a gradual move towards and diet is just one great way to do so.

What are you most common green living faux pas and how do you make sure you learn from them? Let me know by leaving a comment below.

Steve (152 Posts)

I am chief writer and editor on Green Steve. Blogging since 2011, I like to delve into a wide number of topics to help people reduce their carbon footprint. You should follow me on Twitter here. And add me to your Google+ circles here.

5 Responses to “It’s Not Always Easy Being Green”

  1. Helen
    May 22, 2012 at 9:50 PM

    Tesco is a multinational corporation with a supply chain that discourages selling local products. A locally owned store would be more reliable source of local foods.

    • Steve
      May 23, 2012 at 9:25 AM

      Good point Helen although I’m not sure where my closest local food/farm shop is in central London – might be one around somewhere

  2. Helen
    May 23, 2012 at 9:27 PM

    Unfortunately, there are few corner groceries in the middle of large cities because the rent is too high.

  3. June 1, 2012 at 6:22 AM

    Ack! I can relate to this one; just as you think you’re doing something great you realise you’ve slipped up. I’ve found many things this year that I expect from the UK are not yet – I reckon it might have been to do with the prolonged wet weather earlier on in the year. Anyway, you’ve not beaten yourself up and that’s the main thing. We have to focus on what we ARE doing and celebrate those things. I’ve found myself with more non-recyclable packaging than usual recently because I’ve been buying convenience food – we’ve all been busy and so my mind has been on getting through the day not creating a culinary delight at the end of the evening. Not good, but I’m aware of it and today it will be home made soup to redeem myself! Check out Big Barn for local farm shops; you might be surprised – I would have thought you’d have MORE in London than anywhere else??!!

    • Steve
      June 1, 2012 at 9:36 AM

      Thanks for the Big Barn tip – there are a few places near me indeed and an actual farmers market not too far away that I could probably walk to. I might try it out this weekend.

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