The climate-friendly kitchen: Top tips for sustainable, budget-friendly food

Platter of colourful fruit, vegetables and salad

Following last year’s success, the Grantham’s Climate Friendly Pop-Up Kitchen will be returning to the Great Exhibition Road Festival on Saturday 17 and Sunday 18 June. The pop-up kitchen will offer visitors samples of delicious planet-friendly meals prepared by professional caterers and tips on cost-effective sustainable cooking. In this blog, the team behind the pop-up, Linsey Wynton and Nicole Kuchapski, preview what’s on offer and share tips on foods that are good for the planet, good for your health and affordable.

[*Please note, this blog was updated on 2 May 2023]

Sustainable sustenance

The food we eat – and waste – is the second biggest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions after the energy industry, according to the National Food Strategy. So, given that we all need to eat, what can we do to lower the climate footprint of our meals? And how can we do so in a way that is affordable during a cost-of-living crisis?

Banner for the Grantham Climate Friendly Pop-Up Kitchen, featuring those words, logos and graphics of fruit and veg, with a knife and fork

Grantham’s Climate Friendly Pop-Up Kitchen aims to explain. The idea came after Grantham Institute members who attended the United Nations Climate Change Conference COP26 in Glasgow in November 2021 noticed all foods were marked with a climate footprint. A similar carbon traffic light system for supermarket foods is currently being explored by Foundation Earth.

To raise awareness about planet-friendly food this year, the Grantham Institute will be working with community cookery school Made in Hackney, which has expertise in teaching communities how to cook sustainably. Meanwhile, chef Jethro Carr will also be demonstrating how to cook climate-friendly meals from 12 – 12.45pm each day, with support from Elizabeth Fonseca, a researcher from Imperial’s Centre for Environmental Policy. There will also be a selection of Oohos available, made by Imperial start-up Notpla. Made entirely from biodegradable packaging, these will contain fruit cordial.

Recipe cards and leaflets explaining the climate impact of certain foods and offering top tips for eating sustainably will be given out on recycled paper and as QR codes. There will also be the chance to chat to Imperial experts including Dr Tilly Collins, Dr Charlotte Vrinten and Dr Zeinab Mulla about topics ranging from how to interest kids in plant-based meals, to offering culinary tips to help reduce food waste, to eating crickets as a source of dietary protein.

Why does it matter?

What we eat – and what we don’t – matters. Around 26% of global greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) come from the agriculture sector. More than half of these emissions come from animal-based products, with beef and lamb the worst offenders.

Added to that, a third of all food is thrown away. The production of that food, transportation of the food waste and rotting of it in landfill sites creates one twelfth of global greenhouse gas emissions. Indeed, if food waste were a country, it would be the third highest emitter in the world, according to the Food and Agricultural Organisation of the United Nations.

Food that’s good for you, good for the planet and good for your wallet

At Grantham’s Climate Friendly Pop-Up Kitchen, we’ll be running an interactive game to help you figure out which foods are good for you and the planet, and also affordable and healthy. To get you started, here are some of our top tips:

Eat less meat and dairy

Lowering your meat and dairy intake is one of the most important things you can do to reduce your climate impact. Eating less meat also has health benefits, such as reducing the risk of certain cancers and heart disease.  

Try making your favourite meals without meat, or with less meat, and eat more fruit, vegetables, wholegrains, beans, pulses, nuts and seeds. Experiment with different plant-based ingredients, like lentils, beans, tofu, tempeh and mycoprotein. These can often be cheaper than meat!

You can pack a flavour punch with condiments and seasonings like garlic, chilli, lemon juice, miso paste, soy sauce, curry paste, coriander, mint, nutritional yeast and smoked spices.

Waste less

Avoiding food waste not only helps the climate, it saves you money. When you can, try to plan meals – write a shopping list of what you need, batch cook and freeze extras and use your food waste recycling bin if you have one. Using a refillable water bottle, instead of canned and bottled drinks, also means less packaging waste.  

When you have food leftover, or are in need to some, try using food sharing apps like Olio, which connects neighbours with each other and local businesses so surplus food can be shared. This could be food nearing its sell-by date in local stores, spare home-grown vegetables, or the groceries in your fridge before you go away.  You can also give and receive any surplus tins, jars or packets at food banks.  

Choose local and in-season produce

Another simple way to reduce the environmental impact of your food is to eat locally-grown food, as this reduces the emissions produced from chilling and transporting food. Meanwhile, less emissions will be needed in the production of food that is grown in season with natural heat and light.

Colour-coded wheel showing what foods are in season during what months of the year

You can look for foods produced close to home, for example, at a local farmers’ market, or through a community farm veg box, or try growing your own – join an allotment or experiment with tomatoes or herbs on a windowsill.

We hope you can join us at Grantham’s Climate Friendly Pop-Up Kitchen, but if you can’t make it…

Do you have any top tips for how you eat planet-friendly food? Or any questions about preparing climate friendly food on a budget? Post your ideas, or any questions you may have, in the comments below. Alternatively, share your ideas on Twitter – just tag @Grantham_IC and use the hashtag #ClimateFriendlyFood. We’ll try to answer all your questions and update this blog with the answers.

Grantham’s Climate Friendly Pop-Up Kitchen will be open from 12 noon to 18:00 on Sat 17 or Sun 18 June. We will be in the Sir Alexander Fleming Building on Imperial’s South Kensington Campus.


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