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Few people have a climate-friendly diet

A recent survey confirms that Finnish people like to have meat on their dinner plates and will continue to do so. Vegetarian food is fashionable and a common topic of conversation, but only three per cent of the respondents say they are vegetarians while one per cent are vegans. Although eating meat puts a strain on the planet, climate friendliness is a priority to very few people when they choose what they eat. The survey reveals people prefer Finnish food, seasonal food and reducing food waste.


Lilli Poussa

Specialist, Foresight


What shall we have today? Finnish people say they are keen to try things: 47 per cent report that they like to try new, healthy and environmentally friendly foods. However, only slightly over one third (34 %) try to minimise the environmental impact of their diet and the same proportion of people estimate they do not do this.

These results are based on the Resource-wise citizen survey in which Sitra examined the attitudes and actions of Finnish people regarding sustainable consumption and choices. The study is based on the responses of 2,000 people. The material was gathered in April by Kantar TNS.

“We know an awful lot about how smart it is to reduce the use of animal-based products from the point of view of climate change, the diversity of nature and people’s health, but this knowledge is not necessarily reflected in what we choose to have on our plates. Food is a basic need, but also a very personal thing. It has to do with much more than just nutrition and filling one’s stomach,” says Specialist Liisa Lahti from Sitra.

According to the calculations of the Finnish Environment Institute, food causes 16 per cent of the greenhouse gas emissions of ordinary Finns and emissions from food could be reduced by at least one half. A total of 45 per cent of the respondents in the Resource-wise citizen survey say they prefer a diet with an emphasis on vegetables, but the percentage of people who say that it is what they really do in their daily life is 35.

According to Lahti, the best course is often the middle course even when it comes to food, and not everyone needs to go totally vegetarian or vegan.

“Even though food has significant environmental impacts, we should not take it too seriously. According to the survey, we are keen to try new foods, so if we find the courage to request more climate-friendly alternatives in restaurants and shops, it would be easier for us to try a vegetarian diet one meal at a time. Moving towards a vegetarian diet could then be easier, more lenient and more fun,” says Lahti.

However, the image of climate-friendly food may be a problem. Only 18 per cent of the respondents say they choose a climate-friendly meal when in a restaurant.

“We easily forget that food can be bad whether it is meat or vegetarian food. The idea of having to give up something and a bad taste is often associated with climate-friendly food, although a vegetarian diet and replacing meat might, on the contrary, refresh our diet,” Lahti contemplates.

“We also have to remember that shops and restaurants provide a variety of vegetarian options for replacing meat and milk. In other words, we already have alternatives.”

The results of the survey were positive as regards to reducing the amount of food going to waste. People eat the food on their plates and do not want to throw food away. A total of 83 per cent of the respondents say they strive to reduce the amount of food waste.

It is also important for Finns that the food they eat has been produced in Finland. As many as 79 per cent say they favour food produced in Finland. Similarly, 57 per cent say they favour seasonal foods; 43 like freshwater fish and 32 per cent choose game. Organic food is favoured by 43 per cent of the respondents, but when asked if purchased regularly the figure drops to 26 per cent.

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