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3 Ways to Make Your Diet More Eco-Friendly *Without* Giving Up Meat

Trying to reduce your carbon emissions but don't think you can cut out meat? A new study shows maybe you don't have to!

Written by
Asha Swann

Plant-based diets have been a huge topic of conversation in the sustainability community, as studies have shown ditching meat can drastically reduce carbon emissions. But going vegan or vegetarian isn't the only way to make a change when it comes to your diet.

There are many reasons why people aren't ready to—or simply can't—give up meat. In a recent study published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology, researchers collected grocery purchase records from 57,578 American households in 2010 and calculated the carbon emissions that resulted from growing and harvesting those food items.

Through that research, they found 71% of homes could make changes to reduce their carbon footprint. And, the part that might surprise a lot of people? Cutting out meat wasn't included in the researchers' three key strategies to better the planet. In fact, these changes don't involve a complete diet overhaul at all, making them more realistic for many individuals and families.

If you're looking to reduce your carbon footprint without cutting out meat, here are the top three sustainable eating tips recommended by researchers.

Sustainable Eating Tips from the Pros

1. Buy Less Food in Bulk If You Have a Smaller Household

We love a good Costco deal as much as the next person, but if you belong to a small household, you may want to limit your trips.

Buying in bulk can be better for the planet if it cuts down on packaging waste and all that food gets eaten in time. But according to the study, when smaller households (i.e. ones with only two or three people) purchase groceries in bulk, excess food waste is a likely outcome.

Food waste releases methane when it rots in a landfill—a gas more potent than carbon dioxide when it comes to global warming. If you find that your household isn't able to eat all that bulk food before it goes bad, researchers recommend buying less food in bulk. In that case, sticking to smaller batches at the grocery store is a better way to reduce carbon emissions.

2. Cut High-Calorie Foods with Low Nutritional Values

High-calorie foods that are low in nutritional value—like sugary cereal, pizza, and ice cream—are undoubtedly delicious. Unfortunately, they don't do our health (or the planet!) any favors. Researchers found cutting these foods could result in a 29% reduction of the total potential emissions.

3. Buy Less Bakery Products and Ready-Made Foods

Last but not least, researchers recommend buying less savory bakery products and ready-made foods. They found they're responsible for relatively low carbon emissions, but the large amounts of these items that are purchased "adds up to significant emissions."