The guide to responsible eating, key to eco transitioning

Food represents 50% of our carbon footprint. You want to act: what are the behaviours to adopt without getting frustrated?

50% of our carbon footprint. This is how much our eating weighs in the carbon balance. For eco-responsible eaters, this rate drops to at least 20% according to ADEME.  Soon food for a healthy body in a healthy environment?

In recent years, consumers have been asking more questions about what goes on their plates. In addition to the nutritional quality of eating, the methods of breeding and production are also being scrutinised. Undercover videos of slaughterhouses and other hard-hitting operations relayed on the networks have had an impact on consumer confidence.

But even more than the condition of animals, respect for biodiversity requires control of the means used in the production process. It is therefore logical that recent debates on the use of pesticides such as Glyphosate have splashed across the web. Quantity no longer prevails over quality. Consumers seem increasingly inclined to spend less and consume better.

1. Eating now feeds the fight against the environment

a) Changing your menu…

Adopt a more plant-based diet. The more plant-based your diet, the better.

WWF France

The international organisation is clear that the preservation of our natural habitat will require a change in our menus. On World Biodiversity Day, WWF France’s first recommendation was to increase the use of plants rather than meat.

Less meat and when you do eat it, choose organically produced meat

WWF France

WWF France insists on testing plant-based alternatives to meat. Several sources of pollution are exclusive to meat production, such as the treatment of animal waste and methane emissions. However, one of the consequences of pollution linked to the meat industry that is not sufficiently highlighted is deforestation. Indeed, feeding animals requires a significant amount of forest resources to be felled, particularly for their feed.

Unfortunately, many consumers make the mistake of looking for a substitute for meat and not an alternative. In other words, this means looking for a sort of “synthetic” steak that mimics the taste of meat. But of course, the illusion can never be perfect and may only last for a while. We should therefore see plants as providing new flavours and allowing us to diversify our diet. This dimension is beneficial to both our bodies and our planet.

2) … to compensate for new food practices

The production of 1 kg of meat emits 5 to 10 times more greenhouse gases than the production of 1 kg of grain


In France, we do not joke about meals. Established in our culture, the three daily meals are irreplaceable. At least, it was a few decades ago. Today, our consumption patterns have changed. The quest to save time has given way to ready-made meals. The result is a more salty, sweet and fatty diet. According to ADEME, between the early 1950s and the mid-1990s, our meals were on average 30% sweeter, twice as fatty and our meat consumption increased by 106%!
In addition to the negative impact on our health, this change in behaviour and expectations regarding our lunch break increases our need for natural resources and therefore our carbon footprint at the same time.

A glimmer of hope, organic is also winning our baskets and shopping carts! Between 2017 and 2018, the organic market grew by 15.7%. Today, organic products occupy on average 5% of our fridge.

C) Beware, organic eating does not necessarily mean green

A study by the Agence Bio reveals that 70% of French people say they regularly eat organic food. Choosing a certified organic product is a perfectly honourable approach to eating. However, one should not give in to the illusion projected by the certifications and labels to think that one’s shopping is perfectly eco-responsible.
From an environmental point of view, a classic apple from a local production will always prevail over an imported organic food.
AMAPs, associations that put producers and consumers in direct contact with each other, are initiatives that promote small-scale farming, often organic, and short distribution channels that benefit the planet.

D) Responsible eating: Respect seasonality 

Progress in transport has made it possible to have almost any food at any time of the year. This is a luxury that has an impact on the environment. Indeed, the journey a food takes before it reaches our supermarket shelves determines its carbon impact enormously. Moreover, eating a fruit or vegetable out of season logically increases the likelihood that it will be coated with pesticides.

2. Indicators and applications, new allies for consumers

Wanting to eat better and more responsibly is fine, but putting words into action is not so simple. How many consumers find themselves lost when faced with a product label indicating that it contains E450, E316 and all other types of additives?

a) The Nutriscore

The Nutriscore is a score given to a product based on the nutrients in the food in question. It is a result of the Health Law enacted in 2016 in France which helps consumers to see more clearly in the wide choice of products. Its content of healthy nutrients (fibre, protein, etc.) and unhealthy nutrients (saturated fatty acids, sugars, etc.) distinguishes between the good and the bad on our shelves.

b) More visibility on your food with Yuka 

Downloaded over 6 million times since its creation in 2017, the Yuka app has become an indispensable tool when shopping. Offering a digitised and more detailed version of the Nutriscore, Yuka has become a true pocket nutrionist. However, like the Nutriscore, Yuka is subject to criticism over the accuracy of its judgements. Such as: Not accurate enough, illogical, … Yuka is not perfect but it is still young and already helps to raise awareness and help many consumers to “eat well”.

c) ScanUp

At first glance, ScanUp seems to be Yuka’s twin application. However, to establish its diagnosis, ScanUp takes into account the Siga score. The latter is concerned with the degree of processing of a product. Unprocessed foods are those that can be consumed almost immediately after harvesting: vegetables, fruit, eggs, etc. On the other hand, the most processed foods are those that require human intervention. For example, at the first level of processing we find grinding, refining and crushing which make a natural food suitable for consumption or use in cooking.

The more important this action is, the more a food will be classified as processed. But contrary to popular belief, processed or ultra-processed foods are not necessarily those that we think. Apart from the obvious and classic junk food items such as pizza and crisps, many products belong to the category of ultra-processed foods. 80% of the supermarket offer, including the so-called diet or organic sections, is composed of TUEs.

Our recommendation: give priority to the degree of processing, which is the most important indicator for assessing the quality of a product. The Nutri-score is a complementary indicator, but we must not forget that nutritional balance depends first and foremost on a varied diet. And it is not forbidden to enjoy yourself.


d) Be responsible when leaving the table

Food waste is often forgotten by the actors of global pollution. This is why ADEME has decided to react and to evaluate the environmental consequences of food that ends up in the trash.

For example: in France, 10 million tons of food are wasted each year. This is equivalent to 150kg per French person. A waste against which we can act without waiting for an improvement of the production chain. Indeed, 33% of the 150kg of annual waste is related to what we leave after a meal or what we throw away at home. This amounts to 29 kg of food thrown away per French person!

Faced with this scourge, initiatives have emerged. The best known of them is Too Good to Go. The application allows its users to recover unsold food from low-cost restaurants by alerting them to the possibility of picking up their ‘surprise basket’. A beneficial gesture for the wallet but also for the planet.

Anti-waste food practices that are becoming institutionalized

The message is clear as it seems logical. However, no such strong law against food waste existed for the moment. Two to four years. That’s how long it will take to see the law take shape. It will succeed the one of May 27, 2018, which obliges restaurant owners to offer “doggy bags” to customers who do not finish their dishes and want to leave with them.

Fighting plastic, the great enemy of our shopping

70% of the packaging market in France concerns food and 85% of the packaging thrown away by households is food packaging. To reduce these figures, it is advisable to favour bulk products and reusable containers. Thus, with this in mind, the deposit has made a comeback. Companies offering this service have multiplied. Loop, recently launched in France, even offers a home deposit service.

Moreover, it is important to shop with reusable bags until single-use plastic bags disappear completely from supermarkets. But beware of the tote bag whose use is not always an eco-gesture…

Finally, it is necessary to know how to break the prejudices on the supposedly less good conservation of a product out of plastic. For example, a damaged product, like a fruit or a vegetable, will not be less good. But the most telling example is the water bottle. In France, we are lucky to have good quality tap water, even in cities. A recent study even shows that tap water drinkers ingest 22 times less plastic than those who prefer the bottle. Not to mention the use of stainless steel water bottles, reusable cutlery and glass cups that reduce our need for plastic.

Being an eco-friendly eater won’t leave you hungry

To conclude, we should not think that reading food through the prism of ecology has a very restrictive impact on our “pleasure of eating”. We must simply try to adopt a more responsible consumption that respects environmental issues.

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