Reducing our plastic usage and recycling are fantastic ways to start making a positive change, but our eating habits also have a huge impact on the planet. 


Currently the food system contributes to more than one-quarter of global greenhouse gas emissions however, the environmental impact of different foods varies hugely. Unfortunately, having a green diet isn’t as simple as just becoming vegan, so we’re here to simplify the science, helping you make informed choices! 


Edinburgh is a great place to start your journey to a greener diet. There are heaps of vegan/ vegetarian places to eat, loads of greengrocers, farm shops and markets and even a few zero waste shops thrown in. 


If you’re not sure where to start, you’re in the right place as you’ll find loads of information below on how to build a green food cupboard and suggestions of the best shops or restaurants. There’s even some recipes from two of our student Societies – Edinburgh University Vegetarian and Vegan Society and Student Voice for Animal Rights. The recipes, made from seasonal foods, have all been tried and tested by a number of vegan students on a budget.


A quarter of global emissions come from food production with more than half of the emissions (58%) coming from animal products, and half of all farmed animal emissions come from beef and lamb. Which is why a vegan diet makes sense, as this cuts out meat and dairy products from your diet.


However, it isn’t quite as simple as that, and knowing how and where your food is produced is also important! For example, beef cattle raised on deforested land is responsible for 12 times more greenhouse gas emissions than cows reared on natural pastures.


So the simple answer is to:


- Eat more locally sourced, seasonal food


- Buy less meat, milk, cheese and butter


- Consider eating meat that is grass-fed, organic, or is regeneratively raised


- Shop smart and meal plan so you throw less food away


- Find about more about your food’s carbon footprint with this food impact calculator.


If you’d like to find out more about plant-based diets and meet fellow students who are passionate about this cause, Student Voice for Animal Rights and the Vegetarian and Vegan Society are two friendly student-led communities who are always open to welcoming new members. Check out their pages or drop them a line if you’d like to join or simply find out more about them!


If you still eat meat and you want to know how to make ethical choices, don’t despair! There are many options for buying meat that are so much better for the planet than typical commercially-produced meat. To find out more information about these methods of meat production and for some great recommendations of where to source your meat, check out this blog by Vet Student, Charlie Beane. And, if you’re looking for a longer read, have a read of What to Eat by Joanna Blythman.


Ready to give a more plant-based diet a go? To keep the cost down and make sure you’ve always got the basics at hand, below are some suggestions of ingredients to buy in bulk every now and then:


• Olive oil

• Vegetable oil (e.g. rapeseed, sunflower)

• Vinegar

• Oatcakes

• Various nuts

• Various seeds

• Dried fruit

• Various spices (e.g. cumin, coriander, cinnamon, oregano, garam masala, turmeric)

• Rice

• Pasta

• Grains (e.g. barley, bulgur, couscous)

• Beans, chickpeas, and lentils

• Tinned tomatoes

• Soy sauce

• Salt and pepper

• Chili powder or flakes

• Date syrup (much cheaper than maple syrup!)

• Cocoa powder

• Oats

• Nut butter

• Jam

• Onion

• Garlic


Got surplus food you don’t want to throw away or looking for a little jar of something? Check out Olio where you can connect with neighbours and local businesses to share surplus food!


Edinburgh has plenty of big supermarkets and smaller shops to get your groceries and cooking ingredients from. Here’s some great local shops where you can get local produce:


• Realfoods

• New Leaf Co-op

• Dig In

• Tattie Shores

• Jordan Valley

• Hanover Healthfoods

• Hearty Squirrel Food Coop – University of Edinburgh’s own student-led food cooperative


There’s also a number of great Zero Waste Shops across the city including:


• Zero Waste Corner – In David Hulme Tower!

• Eco Larder

• Refillery

• Weigh To Go


Or, if you’re looking for great local producers for meat and dairy products, check out:


• Peelham

• Whitmuir

• Mossgiel

• The Ethical Dairy

You can even arrange a visit to find out where your food comes from!


If you want to treat yourself, here are some of our recommendations for local and ethical choices, with many offering vegan/vegetarian-friendly options:


• Beetroot Sauvage

• Cafe st Honore

• Chocolate Tree

• David Bann

• Forest Café

• Harajuku

• Harmonium

• Henderson’s (various locations)

• Holy Cow

• Hula Juice Café

• Humpit (in Potterrow!)

• Kalpna

• Kebab Mahal

• Locanda de Gusti

• Novapizza

• Ostara

• Pakora Bar

• Paradise Palms

• Social Bite

• Seeds For the Soul

• The Auld Hoose

• The Library Bar (In Teviot!)

• The New Amphion (In Teviot!)

• Thrive

• Treehouse


There’s also the great Too Good To Go app, where lots of local restaurants and cafes offer food that would go to waste at a discounted rate! A great way to get your favourite treats for less and stop food waste.



One of the best things not only for the environment, but for our health too, is to eat in season. By eating seasonally we support local farmers who choose to farm more sustainably, while also preserving the environment, as land isn’t forced to produce in an unnatural cycle. Eating seasonally ensures our food is fresher and that less transport is needed.


You can check out some exciting recipes below  from two of our student Societies – Edinburgh University Vegetarian and Vegan Society and Student Voice for Animal Rights – to help you on your way to more sustainable eating. Just click on each season button to discover more!







Looking for more tips and advice on ethical and sustainable food? Check out the Department for Social Responsibility and Sustainability's guide on 5 Steps to Good Food.


Also, if you have recipe ideas or other suggestions to add to the Green Guide, get in touch with our VP Community or VP Activities and Services