I’d never realized that my meals could have an environmental impact. In my mind, the sole culprits of global warming were transportation and power plants. Then, during my freshman year of college, I happened to watch Scottish comedian Daniel Sloss’ Netflix special, Jigsaw. In his hour-long show, Sloss took a few minutes to mock a subset of vegans, lovingly labeled "Facebook vegans," for employing what he refers to as their 'weakest argument for veganism." 

His voice went high as he rolled his eyes and mockingly recited: "You wouldn't eat meat if you had to kill it yourself." After pointing out the ridiculousness of the argument, however, Sloss acknowledged some of the indisputable reasons to go vegan, mainly the astronomical volume of landmass, crops, and water required to raise cattle.

Although the show continued to be entertaining and meaningful, the remarks about the cost of raising livestock for human consumption loitered in my head and spurred a fervent Google search, leading me down a rabbit hole of articles and research papers. I came out the other end with an understanding of the environmental impact of my eating habits that was far from comprehensive but adequate enough for me to be conscious about my food decisions. Based on my research, I've compiled a few simple ways for you to reduce your impact on global warming.

1. Eat Local

broccoli, carrot, vegetable, farmer's market, shop local, local farm, local vegetables, fresh vegetables, organic vegetables, swiss chard, kale
Sam Jesner

The average meal travels 1500 miles from farm to plate. By purchasing locally grown food, you can eliminate the cost of shipping produce. The best way to ensure that you are buying locally grown food is to shop at a farmer’s market. Conveniently, there are three different farmer’s markets in Berkeley, accessibly scattered around the city. Check out the Ecology Center's resources to find the one closest to you!

Understandably, shopping at a farmer’s market isn’t for everyone. It can be expensive, and it's hard to plan and coordinate all your shopping during the 4-5 hours that the markets are open. Lucky for us, Berkeley Bowl is located in downtown Berkeley (with traditional supermarket hours) and is renowned for the extensive, locally sourced produce selection. Although notoriously crowded at all times of day, the quality of product and modest prices can’t be beat.

2. Go Vegetarian One Day a Week

vegetable, pepper, onion
Gabby Quintana

Livestock production is responsible for 70% of agricultural land and occupies 30% of the Earth’s land surface. It accounts for 18% of greenhouse gas emissions, yet only 20% of the calories consumed globally come from meat. It can be hard to switch to a completely meat-free diet, but even making a couple vegetarian dinners a week can make a significant impact on your carbon footprint. 

However, not all meat has the same impact. Beef and lamb have significantly higher greenhouse gas emissions than chicken or seafood. BBC News developed a climate change food calculator that estimates the climate impact of commonly eaten foods based on your frequency of consumption. Keeping track of your eating habits and simply being more aware of the effect you might be having on the planet are great first steps to minimizing your carbon footprint.

3. Get That Hydroflask

water bottle, Health, fitness
Carolyne Su

Making a single-use plastic water bottle releases 0.9 pounds of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. With the average American consuming 39 gallons of bottled water a year, even giving up half of the amount of bottles we currently use would prevent over 9.5 million tons of carbon dioxide from being produced.

Of all the items on this list, getting a reusable water bottle is by far the most effortless. While not only being a blank canvas for your sticker collection, having a reusable water bottle is a great way to stay hydrated while studying. If you're a devoted boba enthusiast, consider investing in a reusable metal straw and Mason jar.

#SpoonTip: Bring your own cup to Starbucks to get a $0.10 discount on your coffee.

4. Start a Compost Bin

vegetable, mushroom, herb, Grow, Garden, dirt, compost, worms
Alex Frank

My freshman chem lab partner was wholly dedicated to a waste-free lifestyle. She would compost her food waste in a small, green, compost bin on her windowsill and then proceed to use her composted mix for the plethora of potted plants arranged around her dorm room.

Although it may require a bit of effort to set up your compost bin, it’ll go a long way in helping decrease the 18% of US methane emissions that come from the rotting food waste in landfills. Composting is an easy and interesting way to help the environment, especially with this guide to composting at home. You could even use the compost as a nutrient-rich fertilizer for a small smart garden in your kitchen or living room; not only will you be reducing your waste, but you’ll also be cultivating your own food!

herb, relish, vegetable, oregano, care, Harvest, Gardening, Garden, farming, planting, Plant, Grow
Alex Frank

Making a positive environmental impact doesn’t have to be taxing. It can be as simple as making mindful decisions about how you grocery shop and remembering to take your water bottle to class. Honestly, even ordering chicken instead of steak for dinner makes a difference. The next time you sit down for a meal, try to be mindful about the ingredients on your plate, and if you haven’t already, go watch Daniel Sloss’ specials. You won’t regret it.