With the increasing cost of oil – and, as a result, the increasing cost of just about everything else – these days it is both environmentally and economically friendly to “eat green.”
Read on to discover how you can reduce your carbon footprint without compromising on food quality or choice…
1. Seasons Eatings:
One of the greatest things about being a consumer in today’s marketplace is that you can get just about anything you want at just about any time of the year. However, when it comes to fresh produce, eating out of season can mean that your asparagus has logged more air miles than the average international business traveler before ever even hitting the grocers shelves. By purchasing local foods in-season, you eliminate the environmental damage caused by transporting foods great distances and also help support your local farming community. Plus, eating in season encourages you to try new produce and tasty seasonal recipes!
2. Grow Up:
If you want complete and total control of your produce, perhaps growing your own is the way to go. Only when you’ve seen the entire process from seed to harvest can you know that the entire process was chemical free and eco-friendly. If you’re just starting out – start small. Even a 6 foot by 6 foot vegetable garden can yield a decent crop. Beginners should start out with vegetables that are easy to grow and easy to store such as onion, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots and plum tomatoes.
3. Fish out of Water:
Yes, fish is good for us, but consuming fish isn’t always good for the environment. On the “to avoid” list? Chilean sea bass, swordfish, and ahi tuna. Need some keepers? Tilapia, wild salmon, domestic mahi mahi, Pacific halibut, Pollock, white seabass and sardines are all good choices. Looking to add some shellfish to the menu? Currently, eating oysters, clams, calamari, and American lobster are all considered relatively harmless.
4. Meat Head:
Much like fish, eating lots of red meat isn’t always the best choice for the environment. The reason? The animals we tend to dine on put a tremendous strain on resources by consuming well over half of our crop harvest (and all of the resources that go towards growing those crops.) In addition, animal waste is not treated at conventional sewage-treatment facilities and often winds up – hormones and antibiotics and all – in our rivers and streams. But this doesn’t mean you have to give up juicy steaks. Instead, buy only clean, organic meats where you can be assured that the animals have been raised chemical-, antibiotic- and hormone-free. To further up your eco-ante, look for beef labeled 100% grass-fed/finished, which ensures that the cattle were raised on a diet of grass and foliage and were afforded continuous access to (greener) pastures.
In addition to being better for you, eating whole foods is better for the environment. Any foods that come in any type of packaging, by de facto, requires more energy to produce. Plus, when you consume foods with additives and other chemicals, you also have to account for the energy required to make them. Our vote? Whole foods are the way forward!
6. Organic Overload:
Yes, they may set you back a few more pennies, but organic foods have dramatically fewer energy-consuming pesticides and fertilizers than standard produce. The biggest chemical-containing offenders? Produce that has a large surface area (think spinach, kale, and other leafy greens) as well as any item where the skin is consumed (apples, bell peppers, berries). If you are looking to cut costs, however, it’s relatively safe to assume that the thicker the rind or peel, the less the chemicals are likely to have affected the part that you consume.
7. Label Love:
By now, you’re more than used to checking food labels for nutrition information, but by ignoring the other labels, you might be missing out on key information about your food and how it was produced! The most recognizable label is the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) “certified organic” label, which is given only to products that do not use prohibited chemicals, are produced in accordance with regulated farming practices and maintain organic integrity from farm to table. However, the USDA also issues other labels, such as “no antibiotics administered” or “raised without hormones,” and a growing number of third-party consumer interest groups are also campaigning to add further information to product labels about everything from the conditions under which the product was harvested to how the company in question treats its workers. To learn more about the eco-label movement, please visit www.greenerchoices.org/.
8. Fine Dining:
Love to dine out but don’t want to damage the planet? The Boston-based not-for-profit Green Restaurant Association will let you know, via a window sticker, which restaurant owners in your area are doing their best to be green. In order to qualify for the coveted “green restaurant” window sticker, restaurants must demonstrate that they have replaced all polystyrene foam products, agreed to recycle as much as possible, installed energy efficient light bulbs and other appliances, use nontoxic cleaning products, and have started to phase in other green measures, such as composting, conserving water, disposing of grease responsibly and using chlorine-free paper products. To find green restaurants in your area, log on to www.dinegreen.com.
9. Water Winner:
This one should be fairly obvious, but we’ll say it again. Bottled water is a huge no-no. Think of it this way – in opting for a plastic bottle, you have to account for the energy used to make said bottle as well as the emissions associated with transporting said bottle to the store (which, when you consider that some water is shipped from Europe, Fiji or other far-flung locales, can rack up quite a carbon footprint!) Instead, purchase a reusable plastic bottle and a filter for your tap to remove any extraneous chemicals or minerals – we promise you, it tastes just as good!
10. Store Adore:
Technically this one isn’t eating green, but since refrigeration plays such an integral role in keeping produce fresh, it seems wise that eco-conscious consumers invest in an appliance that is more energy efficient. Current Energy Star models are about 40% more energy efficient than conventional refrigerators and can, across their life, result in high enough energy savings to offset their purchase price. Honestly, what’s not to love here – saving the environment and saving some dollars?!
We know your have your own ways to eat green. Share ‘em in the comment boards!
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