The sustainable food movement is sweeping the nation. Farmer’s markets, organic produce, cage-free eggs have all become part of the current culture. While a lot of this focuses around whether organic foods are better for people’s health, let’s not forget that these trends are also good for the planet. Sustainable eating doesn’t have to be hard, and it also doesn’t have to be all-or-nothing. A single change can make a difference. Read on to learn about some of the environmentally friendly eating habits that are making a difference for our bodies and our earth.
Let’s start at the grocery store where we can easily make a few changes that will make a huge environmental difference for our planet earth.
- USE REUSABLE BAGS. Think about this…If you started using reusable bags exclusively starting at age 25, you could save more than 21,000 plastic bags in your lifetime.
- LOOK FOR PRODUCTS WITH MINIMAL PACKAGING, like unwrapped produce or meat straight from the deli counter or butcher. Excess packaging is often made out of unsustainable materials and contributes to waste that ends up in landfills.
- DON’T BUY WATER IN THE BOTTLE. Millions of tons of plastic are used to produce billions of plastic water bottles each year. You will save money and lessen waste by drinking tap water from a reusable water bottle. If you’re worried about your health, try a using water filter, or take note of the fact that a lot of bottled water is likely no better than what’s on tap.
Now on to those environmentally friendly eating habits…
- GO LOCAL. Eating locally grown foods is possibly the best way to be environmentally friendly when it comes to what you eat. As an added bonus, eating locally means that food will be fresher — and therefore taste better and retain more nutrients than food shipped across the globe.
- EAT MORE PRODUCE than any other food category, and you will make an impact for the planet…not to mention your body!
- GO ORGANIC. The definition of organic can be a little confusing, but food labels can help. Though their benefits to the environment have a long-term payoff, organic foods can be pricier — if you’re on a budget, find out which foods are most worth buying organic, and limit your organic purchases to the ones that make the biggest impact.
- EAT VEGETABLES RAW. Chomp down on a raw carrot instead of boiling or sautéing it, and save energy that would otherwise have been used to power cooking appliances.
- PRESERVE IT. Want to eat more locally, but love to eat strawberries year-round? Learn how to preserve fruits and vegetables so you can eat locally grown produce all year long.
- GROW IT. You don’t need to live in the wild to grow your own fruits and veggies. Join a community garden, or, if you’re cramped for space, create a vertical garden right inside your window.
- EAT LESS MEAT. Industrially farmed meat has the greatest impact of any food product on the environment. Consider making meat less of a staple in your diet. If you can’t give it up, try going meat-free for just one day per week (or one meal per week if you’re really attached).
- KNOW YOUR FISH. Find out which fish are least endangered and most likely to be farmed sustainably. Also, try something new. Instead of eating the ever-popular Alaskan salmon, expand your diet and distribute your impact – reducing the risk of endangering key species by trying different varieties of fish.
- DRINK HORMONE-FREE MILK. Just as livestock raised for consumption are often pumped full of antibiotics, dairy cows are often fed artificial hormones to up their milk production. This has big health impacts for the cows, the people who consume their milk and other dairy products, and the environment as well.
- CUT BACK ON DAIRY. The production of one pound of cheese might produce upwards of 11 lbs. of carbon dioxide, the primary greenhouse gas emitted by human activities and a big driver of climate change. As with meat, you can quickly lessen your environmental impact simply by eating less. And as an added bonus: eliminating common staples from your diet one or two days a week is a chance to experiment with fun new recipes.
Here are more tips that you can practice at home on a regular basis thus making them good environmental habits to live by and share for the good of the planet and you!
- REDUCE WASTE. Use cloth napkins and real plates, bowls and utensils.
- TURN WASTE INTO A RESOURCE. If you’ve got the inclination and a little bit of free time, give composting a try and turn food scraps into a resource that keeps on giving.
- REVAMP LEFTOVERS. Instead of dumping leftovers in the trash, turn them into new meals. It’ll reduce waste and also save on the energy it would have taken to cook a different meal the next day.
- DOUBLE YOUR RECIPES. Leftovers will last twice as long, and you’ll use less energy than you would if you cooked multiple meals.
Once we are able to see the impact these changes make on our environment and more importantly our bodies, we can begin to take seriously the tremendous need to make these into sustainable lifelong habits…providing a much safer environment for future generations!