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The NI Science Festival is championing sustainability in this year’s packed programme of events and workshops from February 13 – 23.

Sustainable living can happen cost effectively by shopping local, knowing your labels and growing a wild garden.

Here are the top 10 pieces of advice from NI Science Festival participants - scientists from the School of Biological Sciences, Queen’s University Belfast, Dr Niamh O’Kane and Dr Paul Caplat  - to help everyone #Do1Thing.  

1. Eat more plant-based foods


A balanced diet with a variety of foods is key for nutritional health, but global experts have suggested that adopting a diet rich in plant-based foods, with fewer animal-sourced foods, can provide health and environmental benefits. You can start small by going meat-free at least one day a week. Book your tickets to Climate: Time to Change(February 15) to learn more about how our diets affect climate change.

2. Follow the seasons
Eating fruit and vegetables that are in season are not only cheaper and taste better, but they are better for the environment.

Dr Niamh O’Kane says: “Demand for foods out of season, such as strawberries in the winter, can contribute to higher greenhouse gas emissions because measures need to be taken to produce crops out of their natural growing season by using artificial light and heat.” For extra eco conscious shopping; buy fruit and vegetables loose instead of in plastic packaging to cut down on single use waste.  

3. Read food labels

Food labels offer a wide range of information, including where the food comes from, when the food will expire, and indication of sustainability certifications. This information can guide you in making decisions about which products to buy and when to use them.

4. Buy local
Buying local produce can reduce the ‘food miles’ of your food (i.e. how far food travels between production and consumer) this reduces your carbon footprint. Buying local has the added benefits of supporting your local economy and producers, and access to potentially much fresher foods.

5. Grow your own produce

Nothing gets more local than your own garden. Try your hand at growing fruit and vegetables yourself, for example runner beans, spring onions, and tomatoes. You can check GIY’s veg directory for a guide to what you can grow with the space and skills you have.

6. Opt for sustainable products
Look for sustainability certificates such as Fairtrade, Marine Stewardship Council (MSC), and Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). These certificates are not without their faults, but generally mean that the produce has reached some set standards or requirements for sustainability.

7. Shop smarter

It is estimated that UK households throw away 6.6 million tonnes of food waste a year. Planning ahead before you shop can help you reduce food waste. Coming up with a meal plan for the week and buying only the products you need will help ensure you throw away less food at the end of the week.

8. Use up your leftovers
Despite one’s best planning efforts, sometimes leftovers are unavoidable. When you do have leftovers, get creative - rather than throwing the food away, think about incorporating it into your lunch for the next day. If you still find yourself with food left over, some foods are safe to feed to the birds in your garden (for example, plain pasta or rice), but always check the food is safe for birds before doing so.

9.Let it grow

Don’t worry about mowing the lawn regularly when spring comes, it’s actually helpful for the environment.

Environmental scientist Dr Paul Caplat says: “Keeping the grass in your back garden long encourages insects and native flowers such as dandelions to grow, making it an ideal place for insects such as bees to pollinate.

“Even a denser grassy area in the corner of your garden can help encourage wildflowers to grow.”

10.Get advice

Visit a free local forum or eco-fair such as the NI Science Festival Sustainability Fair on February 22 at Ulster University (UU), Belfast. Supported by UU and Cathedral Quarter BIDS the fair is a variety of workshops, exhibitors and talks to help everyone learn and share how to be more sustainable, resourceful and kinder to the planet.

Visit NI Science Festival for full details of events – let your mind wonder!

Read full article on Northern Ireland

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