(OrganicJar) Eating green is perhaps the most impactful single act we engage in. The products we buy all have very specific impacts — from where the cows graze before supplying your milk, to how near your home your bread is baked. Of course, it isn’t quite that simple; there are numerous factors throughout the entire life cycle of all your food and its inputs that affect its relative impact. So, how do you navigate all of these choices?
1. Indulge in the Big O
When you eat organic, don’t just picture the healthy food you are putting in your body, picture the healthy ecosystems which produced that food, the workers who are safer from chemicals, the land, water, and air that is being protected, and the wildlife that is being allowed to thrive. Organic vegetables, fruits, grains, juice, dairy, eggs, and meat (and don’t forget the organic wine and beer), are grown and processed in ways that support healthy people and a healthy planet.
2. Feast on Fair Trade fare
Fair trade certified food ensures a proper wage and working conditions for those who harvest and handle it. But fair trade is green for the environment as well. TransFair, the only fair trade certifier in the U.S., has strong environmental standards built into its certification process that protect watersheds and virgin forests, help prevent erosion, promote natural soil fertility and water conservation, and prohibit GMOs and many synthetic chemicals. TransFair claims that their environmental standards are the most stringent in the industry, second only to USDA organic certification.
3. Go local
Buying seasonal, local food is a boon for the environment for a lot of reasons. Since most food travels many miles to reach your table (1,500 miles, on average), locally sourced food cuts back on the climate-change impacts of transportation. Local food also generally uses less packaging, is fresher and tastier, and comes in more varieties. It also supports small local growers and lets them get more for their produce by not having to spend so much on packing, processing, refrigeration, marketing, and shipping. The best way to track down local food is at farmers markets or through community supported agriculture (CSA), which often offer home delivery.
4. Don’t follow the pack
Instead of buying foods that come in extensive packaging (most of which is petroleum-based plastics) look for unpackaged or minimally packaged foods, experiment with bringing your own containers and buying in bulk, or pick brands that use bio-based plastic packing. And of course try and recycle or reuse any packaging you end up with. [Trader Joe, we love you but it’s a packaging nightmare in there]
5. Compost the leftovers
Greening your meals isn’t just about the food that winds up on the plate—it’s the entire process, the whole lifecycle shebang. Composting leftovers will ease the burden on the landfill, give you great soil, and keep your kitchen waste basket from smelling. Apartment dwellers and yardless wonders can do it too! And yes, a composting toilet can be part of the miraculous cycle as well.
6. Grow your own
In the garden, in the greenhouse, in the window box, or something fancier. Even urbanites can get quite a bit of good eats from not much space.
7. To and from
Just as buying locally grown food cuts on “miles per calorie,” buying from local sellers cuts back on emissions, fuel consumption, and unnecessary traffic.
8. Just enough
Put some extra planning into the amount of food you cook will cut back on waste. If it’s something that will spoil quickly, try to avoid making more than you or your family can eat. If you’ve got extra, make a friend happy with a home cooked surprise. If it’s a bigger affair, give the leftovers to those who may need it more.
9. Eat it Raw
Many people swear by the benefits of eating raw. Whatever the health advantages may be, preparing raw food consumes less energy and because raw food is usually fresh by definition, it is more likely to be locally grown.
10. Ease up on the meat
Meat is the most resource-intensive food on the table and eating less of it can be the single most green move a person makes. Producing meat requires huge amounts of water, grain, land, and other inputs including hormones and antibiotics, and leads to pollution of soil, air, and water. A pound of beef requires around 12,000 gallons of water to produce, compared to 60 gallons for a pound of potatoes. If you’re a meat eater, for starters, try cutting out a serving of meat each week. Going vegetarian or vegan is a profoundly meaningful environmental choice, and it’s done wonders for Chris Martin and Prince.
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