Can you fit 6 kilograms into your school bag and lift it up? That’s the equivalent weight of greenhouse gas emissions caused by producing the food each person eats in one day, on average.
A group of university-based researchers are sharing free online content for children to learn about how food contributes to climate change. Each weekday in June they are putting out new materials aimed at 7- to 14-year-olds, including videos, activity worksheets and interviews with experts. They will also be answering questions and showcasing the work sent in by children.
The Take a Bite out of Climate Change team – led by the University of Manchester, and including Brunel University London’s Dr Ximena Schmidt – won a place at the Royal Society Summer Science Exhibition 2019, and since then they have been spreading fun facts around the world, from Brazil to India.
The worksheets are available one week in advance, so schools can include them in their ‘learning from home’ content, and at 12 noon Monday to Friday each day of June families can make and eat their lunch while chewing on some food for thought from the Take a Bite out of Climate Change team.
The video from the first day kicked off asking questions about how food compares with other contributions to climate change. It raised awareness that food contributes a quarter of all greenhouse gas emissions and this can be reduced by eating more vegetables and beans as well as less meat and dairy.
Coronavirus and contemplation
“With Covid-19, we’re all thinking about food more than ever before, and we’re more aware than ever before about how dependent we humans are on the natural world,” said Take a Bite out of Climate Change team lead, Prof Sarah Bridle, from the University of Manchester. “We’ve had such fun over the past year talking with school students and other members of the public about the impact of food on climate change, and we wanted to bring something online, that people can easily do at home.”
“These resources come at an ideal time for schools,” said Zoe Woffenden, a primary school teacher in Stockport, who has been advising on the project. “The children are asking lots of questions about climate change and what they can do about it, and it’s great to be able to connect them with experts from universities across the UK to consider how different foods contribute.”
Each week launches with a 3-minute video introducing members of the team and the theme for the week. The team has recorded videos talking through the worksheets, which will be available each Tuesday. Kids can learn from interviews with experts on Wednesdays. On Thursdays, the team will be answering questions sent in via Twitter, Instagram and email, and Fridays will be a showcase of what people came up with at home.
“In this first week, we’re putting the climate impact of food in the context of other emissions and comparing them to driving a petrol car,” said Prof Bridle. “Before heading over to the farm to learn about emissions from animals and fertilizer in the second week. Then in week 3, we’ll talk about transporting food by ship and air, as well as packaging. Finally, we’ll focus on decisions we make at home about what to eat, and food waste, in the last week of June.”
Empowering through activities
The week 3 activities will be led by Dr Ximena Schmidt, a Global Challenges Research Fellow at Brunel. Together with the rest of the team, she has developed hands-on activities, and will run interviews and question-and-answer sessions.
“This is a great opportunity to talk about food and climate change and what we can do,” said Dr Schmidt. “Because of the pandemic, we have been facing an extraordinary time which has made us reflect on our actions, and re-assess what is important and what we can and cannot control. We have been at home, perhaps cooking more, having restricted options in terms of food items and acquisition channels.
“I feel that all of us have also started talking more about important food-related issues: food insecurity, health and nutrition, where our food is coming from, food waste, and so on. We in the Take a Bite out of Climate Change team planned these activities to engage with some of these issues while we are at home with our families and friends. The aim is to empower us all through fun activities, and to raise awareness of the impacts on climate change of our food choices and what we can do at home”.
“Changing our diets is important from so many perspectives,’’ said Prof Tim Benton, who is Research Director for emerging risks at The Royal Institute of International Affairs at Chatham House in London. “In 2019, the School Strikes for Climate had a major role in raising the priority of climate change with world leaders, meanwhile Covid-19 has created a huge shock, but is an example of the sort of problem climate change will throw at us increasingly in the years ahead. As we invest in recovering from Covid-19 we must introduce measures to cut emissions and incentivise climate-friendly behaviours, including around food choices. To achieve that, we need the public demanding changes from politicians, which is where projects like this one are so important.”
Find out more and sign up to the Take a Bite out of Climate Change mailing list at www.takeabitecc.org/athome
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