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Danny Smith

Carbon Literacy with Danny Smith from Cumbria CVS

My Carbon Literacy and Actions

Back in March last year, me and other CVS colleagues took part in the Carbon Literacy training with Cumbria Action for Sustainability (CAfS).

The course, over just two half days, was very well run. Being a big advocate of climate change action, I was surprised at the amount of information I didn’t actually know.

Upon estimating my carbon footprint (You can use some of the calculators linked on the CAfS website to do your own here, you may get a shock!), I was even more surprised at how badly I was doing in taking personal action to limit my own direct and indirect emissions too. This is especially with regards to food related emissions.

Changing habits

Eating less/no meat and dairy-based products is one of the biggest ways (if not THE biggest way) any individual can do their bit to help tackle the climate crisis. This is mainly because of deforestation and land use, as well as emissions from farming activity and the animals themselves. Unfortunately for the climate crisis, I do love eating meat and dairy.

Another factor to throw into the mix (and I use this as an explanation, not an excuse) is that I am autistic, so I find changing habits and the ways in which I operate extremely difficult to manage. I can see this as the main reason why I don’t take action sooner, on this and anything else that requires serious thought around altering routines. But there’s still always a tipping point, and the Carbon Literacy and Carbon Footprint calculation was one of those tipping points.

Get certified

To get Carbon Literate certified you need to pledge certain group and individual actions that were highlighted by the training. I happen to like certificates and learning quite a lot, so I wasn’t going to pass up the chance. Writing this post is actually part of my group pledge to help set up a Carbon working group within Cumbria CVS that has led to Cumbria CVS Green.

My other main pledges were individual, and all around meat consumption. As context, here is a graph similar to the one we were shown about emissions coming from different types of foods


From this it was easy to deduce that it’s beef that is by far and away the biggest contributor to carbon carbon/greenhouse gas emissions.

As beef is probably my least favourite meat, it seemed that the easiest and most effective win would be around that. I pledged to stop eating it altogether. I am pleased to announce that it’s been several months since I have, and I haven’t missed it.

My change in behaviour has also caused others to change their buying and eating habits in order to accommodate me. They buy different meats and foods to serve to everyone, because it’s just easier that way. This goes to show that an individual pledge/action isn’t necessarily JUST an individual pledge/action. Over time it can ripple out to people around you even just by default.

Making pledges

My other meat-based pledges were focused around what I could control. If something is in my/your control then you are way more likely to stick to it.

The meal that I can control every day is lunch, because I’m usually at work and can make up/buy anything I want to. Initially my pledge was broken down into baby steps, because if something is perceived as daunting, adherence tends to suffer too.

I initially pledged to bring at least 1 meat free meal into work each week. I would look to scale that up over time. 1 was easy, 2 was just as easy, then there was a bit of a stumbling block because the alternative foods that I cooked for my lunches (I will resist using this post as an advertisement for Aldi’s vegan range!) tended to last a couple of days.

But to cut a long story short, I have managed to make it so that I have NO lunches with ANY meat in on work days, whether I’m in the office or working from home. This has required a huge amount of thought, planning and preparation because it meant changing my habits and routines around what I prepare for these meals. It has required a lot of trial and error too, especially when Aldi are out of their very yummy No Lamb Koftas (apologies, I’m advertising again!).

I’m happy where I am at the moment and taking time to settle into this part of the process. But this too can be scaled up to lunches at the weekend and beyond to maybe never eating meat at all.

I suppose my overall message is that the very best thing is cutting out meat and dairy completely and, ideally, I’ll get to the point of being vegetarian myself. But cutting down on meat consumption is certainly better than cutting it out altogether, if the cutting it out altogether proves so much of a challenge that you end up back where you started.

Baby steps. Let’s see where the journey takes me. Maybe you could join me?

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