Many of us know what food is best for our health, but how about what food is best for of our planet, too? For Earth Day this year, let’s consider the big picture for buying and eating food.
Easy eco-friendly habits include bringing reusable totes to the grocery store, using “real” coffee mugs and water bottles rather than the single-use variety and buying energy-efficient kitchen appliances.
Green Eating for Earth Day
Here are few more simple ways to adopt a greener diet:
- Skip fast food and processed meals: Besides expanding our waistlines, fast food comes with bags and wrappers that contribute to landfill waste. Processed foods and meals (like frozen entrees) also use unsustainable materials for excessive packaging that multiplies in trash dumps. Healthier, more affordable alternatives include unwrapped produce and grains sold in bulk.
- Eat local: The transportation of foods, known as food miles, represents one of the biggest ways our diet affects the environment. In the US, processed food travels about 1,300 miles before arriving at the store, while “fresh” fruit and vegetables travel around 1,500 miles. The fuel burned to transport these items makes a huge carbon footprint. Reducing food miles extends Earth Day throughout the year. Try farmers’ markets and community-supported agriculture (CSA) programs. Their food is fresher and in season, which enhances taste and nutritive qualities. Check out the farmer’s market sponsored by North Shore-LIJ this summer at the Business Park at 100 Community Drive in Great Neck. It will be open every Sunday, 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m., from July 13 to October 26.
- Choose more plant-based meals: Many studies link plant-based diets to reduced risk of heart disease, some cancers and Type 2 diabetes. Swapping a meat-based meal for a vegetarian one can reduce your carbon footprint, too, because factory farming causes high greenhouse gas emissions, soil erosion and water pollution.
- Revamp leftovers: Turning leftovers into new meals saves time, money and energy—and reduces waste, too. Add leftovers to broth for soup or mix them with leafy greens and dressing for a satisfying salad. Another way to save time, money and energy is to double recipes–making twice the amount of one recipe rather than cooking it from scratch twice.
- Choose organic: Look for the USDA Organic seal, which verifies that crops are grown without synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, sewage sludge, irradiation and genetically modified organisms (also called GMOs). Meat and poultry that are certified organic means that the animals did not receive antibiotics or growth hormones and ate 100 percent organic feed.
- Skip disposables: Styrofoam and plastic plates, cups and utensils take hundreds of years to decompose. Soften the environmental impact of get-togethers with “real” plates and utensils and bins set up for recycling. Bringing your own “to-go” container to restaurants minimizes Styrofoam and plastic use, too.
Eating sustainably doesn’t have to be hard, and it doesn’t have to be all-or-nothing. A single change can make a tremendous impact on your environment beginning on this Earth Day and in the days to come.