BY ROSANNA MORALES
The Gibraltar Climate Change Strategy, published November 2021, has outlined the importance of a move towards more plant-based diets. Diet change toward more plant-based diets is critical for avoiding catastrophic environmental damage, including climate change. In fact, we should all be eating more plant foods because our lives depend on it and just like recycling, it is our duty. A plant-based diet is doing the right thing for the right reasons.
The United Nations has said that “[a] substantial reduction of [climate-change] impacts would only be possible with a substantial worldwide diet change, away from animal products.”
But how can diets be measured to assess their climate impact? What do we know about the relative climate impact of different plant-based diets?
A new study conducted by the University of Oxford has found that a switch towards plant-based diets is vital to avoid the worst impacts of climate change. It follows on from a previous study by the university, which found that eating a vegan diet could reduce our carbon footprint by 73%.
There is a devastation that is unfolding every moment because of animal agriculture. The more we eat meat, eggs, and dairy, the more it will harm our beautiful planet. To help make the world a better place we need to be aware of how we contribute to the devastation as individuals.
Eating a vegan diet could reduce our carbon footprint by 73%.
Shifting our personal diets to plant-based is a critical tool in preventing global temperature from rising above 1.5°C or 2°C by 2100. A shift to plant-based will also help to tackle chronic diseases, water pollution, overconsumption of water, and loss of biodiversity.
“The Government, through Public Health Gibraltar, will develop guidance on how to make more sustainable food choices, including information on the health and environmental benefits…” – Gibraltar Climate Change Strategy
According to the Gibraltar Green Initiative on Conscious Eating, if Gibraltarians gave up meat for just one day it would save the daily water consumption of 9000 people. Manager at the Wildlife Conservation Park, Jess Leaper, who is also involved in the Conscious Eating initiative, was delighted to see the plant-based movement has been recognised as an important aspect in the climate change Strategy: “Cutting down on meat consumption will help to support and maintain our delicate biodiversity.”
There are now numerous Gibraltarian social media groups and pages dedicated to lifestyle changes for the environment, animal welfare, and health. Pages such as Cut Meat, Not Trees, a campaign supported by Thinking Green, The Department of Environment and Climate Change, and the Gibraltar Health Authority, are challenging local restaurants to have meat free days once or twice a week and to extend their vegan offerings throughout the week. They are also asking schools to encourage children to abstain from meaty snacks and lunches at least once a week.
This plant-based Strategy will hopefully spill over into the Governments’ Health initiatives in hospitals and health services. It may begin to encourage local doctors, psychologists, and other medical practitioners to address dietary considerations as part of their treatment plans. The future of plant-based meals in our hospital is also of most importance as research continuous to find that a plant-based diet heals and contributes to a quicker recovery.
A growing number of health practitioners, such as Certified Wellness Coach, Bianca Yeo, are now encouraging a return to wellness through plant foods and plant-based remedies. “I noticed many personal health changes after giving up dairy. My diet had a positive effect on sinus and migraine issues,” said Ms Yeo who recommends vegan products such as liver cleansers and metabolic boosters to her clients.
Charitable organisations such as the Nautilus Project whose mission is to bring greater understanding and knowledge of the marine environment to the local community through initiatives such as #MedOceanHeroes recognise and promote the importance of the positive changes plant-based diets will ultimately have on the oceans and biodiversity.
“The Sustainable Catering Policy will be adopted by the public sector in respect of its procurement of food for events, and in institutions such as schools, hospitals and care homes. Government will also explore options for directly encouraging a move towards plant-based diets.” – Gibraltar Climate Change Strategy
Things are changing within our community. The Government has, for some time, been running initiatives to help encourage the move towards a more plant-based diet. As John Cortes, Minister for the Environment, Sustainability and Climate Change explained, “The messaging of the benefits of plant-based diets on the environment need to intensify throughout the community. The government is also developing a catering policy that will encourage a prevalence for plant-based food in receptions. On a personal level I have started consuming plant-based alternative foods such as oat milk, vegan cheese and vegan sausages. It makes great health sense and environmental sense.”
If Gibraltarians gave up meat for just one day it would save the daily water consumption of 9000 people.
It will be transformational for catering at businesses meetings and official events at No.6, at the Governor’s Convent and City Hall to provide plant-based lunches and afternoon teas. This will be a great way to set an example of conscious eating in our community.
Shawna Jones, Education Officer at the Alameda Gardens is working to educate the public on how to become good food ambassadors for their families. “Adults have the power to embolden good food choices for their children.” Shawna is actively educating children through school programs, but she feels environmental education for adults will also be an important component of her role at the gardens.
There is more to be done in sustainable food choices and support for families wanting to transition to a plant-based diet. Initiatives that encourage parents and grandparents to replace meat burgers and sandwiches with plant-based alternatives will promise their children a planet to thrive in. Taking small steps to transition as a family will create a strong and compassionate bond with the planet. A stable climate is essential for a stable planet and community.
If you care about the planet and the future of our kids, we can make one simple choice to help halt climate change: Eat plants.