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Let me introduce myself. My name is Mark Sisson. I’m 63 years young. I live and work in Malibu, California. In a past life I was a professional marathoner and triathlete. Now my life goal is to help 100 million people get healthy. I started this blog in 2006 to empower people to take full responsibility for their own health and enjoyment of life by investigating, discussing, and critically rethinking everything we’ve assumed to be true about health and wellness...

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April 01 2008

10 Ways to “Eat Green”

By Worker Bee

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.

5. Whole-some:

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

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

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!

mrwalker, .Deirdre., Jean-Francois Chenier, law keven, Wiedmaier, gentlemanrook, podchef, Beedle Um Bum, malla mi, missha Flickr Photo (CC)

Further Reading:

More Top 10 Lists

That’s Fit: Three Ways to Buy Organic on the Cheap

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21 thoughts on “10 Ways to “Eat Green””

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  1. I prefer to eat healthy, than green.

    Please, do not misunderstand.

    I believe in conservation, but not for the stake of impacting health.

    So if the two complement each other that is great, but please do not buy into the Unproven, Global Warming Mythology, which is best left to the political websites.

  2. Oxybeles,

    I agree 100%. Don’t think we mention Global Warming in this post – just ways to save on energy or to stay “green” for those who want tips. That doesn’t mean we believe that Global Warming is man-made or that we can do anything about it. Because it’s not and we can’t in my estimation.

    Nevertheless, I would prefer to drink cleaner water, breathe purer air, eat more wholesome foods and save a few bucks on electricity. Wouldn’t you?

  3. I beg to differ on the global warming comments, but I really appreciate the tips on green eating. I personally want to be healthy, and I’d like to do what I can to allow others the same opportunity. Thanks for the great post!

  4. I understand this website is primarily about food, health, nutrition, fitness and related issues, but Mark’s statement above about global warming surprises me. The reason is that I’ve found the writers at MDA generally to take research and evidence very seriously in drawing conclusions about diet, nutrition, etc. Considering the amount of evidence widely available to support the human causes of global warming, I’m surprised the same standards aren’t applied on that topic. I do think it’s relevant; food is inseparable from environment.

    I do appreciate the great list, though. Nice post.

    Food Is Love

  5. Skip the reusable plastic water bottle and carry a reusable glass water bottle. I use a watertight glass jar which a lot of pasta sauce manufacturers seem to favour here. The plastic water bottles contain bisphenol A, a known mutagen. Mountain Equipment Co-op, Canada’s largest retailer of outdoor equipment, has pulled all such bottles off their shelves and now only sells stainless steel containers:

    I’ll differ on the global warming comments too. Just because scientists wrongly agree on the lipid theory of heart disease does not mean that every scientific consensus out there is wrong.

  6. Great tips! However, the case for buying local isn’t all that clear cut. On a per unit basis shipping foods is very efficient (for the same reason trains and public transport are more efficient than individual autos). Plus the places we get the food from are often more suitable than same item locally produced. For example, even counting the transport costs, lamb grown in NZ is more efficient than lamb raised in England. Also, if you buy local produce that is even somewhat outside its normal growing season it can be more resource inefficient than getting it from elsewhere. Finally, driving your car to the store will often have a much larger effect than any choice between local or non-local.
    On the other hand, I love my Community Supported Agriculture program and Farmer’s Market!

  7. You know what I hate? When you go to the grocery store and the organic produce is not just packaged but overpackaged – placed in a styrofoam tray and covered with shrink rap. This screams “Unclear on the concept!”

    I realized a while ago that I don’t know who to believe on the question of global warming, but I decided it didn’t matter, because there are so many other reasons to conserve energy! No one knows when the oil will run out, exactly, but there isn’t an infinite supply. Fossil fuels pollute, and clean air and clean water are public goods. (I heard last night that Olympic athletes are seriously concerned about their ability to compete – read, breathe – in China’s polluted air.) Many of the man-made “organic” compounds that poison our soils are petroleum-based. You don’t need to believe that the polar ice caps are melting to find many good reasons to turn your thermostat down a degree or two in the winter and up a degree or two in the summer.

  8. Migraineur,

    That was my main point in the above comment – you said it better.

    And as long as we’re ranting, I hate getting home from the Natural Food store only to find that the overpakaged $8 organic blueberries are still moldy underneath and the organic nectarines are kind of brownish inside.

  9. If you check the content of bottled waters from North America and those from Europe, you will discover amazing differences.

    Those from Europe contain huge variations in mineral content. Most of the waters from North America are no different than the water from my tap (Toronto). But the ones from Europe can be extremely high in Magnesium (heart attack prevention), Potassium (diuretic function), Low Sodium, very high Calcium Carbonate (bone health)…. some German waters are extraordinarily high in Sodium.

    Some waters also contain a high level of Lithium for the bipolars among us. I haven’t seen any of these (two, actually) waters imported.

    By comparison, North American waters are hardly worthy of bottling. Bottled for health purposes, at any rate. It’s weird that North Americans believe that the less minerals in a given water the better it is. Purity: Puritanical? Studies of sudden death from myocardial infarction indicate that chronic consumption of high magnesium waters significantly decrease the incidence of MI deaths.

    Those of use who live in cities with filtered chlorinated water are relatively safe. Usually we are not in danger of drinking coliforms, enterococci, cholera vibrio or any of the myriad and fascinating waterborne infectious organisms. But a whole whack of humans live in places where there is a reliance upon well water. There are houses in big North American cities that have been ‘grandfathered’ to well systems. Not all of this well water is free of coliform and other bacteria. Drinking bottled water, under those circumstances, is probably a good idea regardless of the environmentally negative impact of plastic bottles. There are 5 gallon deposit/return bottles available.

    Anyway, when is anyone going to help me out in re: heart disease and death from heart attack in North America during the 1940s, 50s and 60s? Why was this happening? There was more organic farming going on in those days than now. Where were those people going wrong?

  10. I guees it’s a topic for another post, but the Global Warmng Issue is not so clear cut.
    Art Deavany has posted some very insightful posts on it. There are many many top notch scientist that will tell you that Global Warming is not so.
    They are not being contrarian, they are just following their researched facts.
    Just something to think about….


  11. I heard about that study of the low carbon footprint of NZ lamb vs. British lamb. Can’t comment on the accuracy, of course, but I will point out that the study was bankrolled by–you guessed it!–the NZ lamb producers!

  12. I see the global warming issue like Migraineur does.

    I guess I’ve become jaded. I figure by the time something scientific has become mainstream to the point that I see it in several TV ads in an evening, there is a good chance the theory has less the realm of hard science and debate has become part of the cultural meme. I don’t think it is possible to seriously research it and get a different conclusion now – too many people just accept global warming as fact.

    Now days, global warming seems to be a major selling point, from personal consumer items to major oil companies, and that always puts my skeptic antenna up. And seeing how scientific funding and a voice can dry up for the losing argument in “consensus science” (as in the heart-lipid theory), I can’t help but imagine that could be happening with the global warming issues.

    But like Migraineur said, the oil is going to run out. There are lots of good reasons to conserve and change habits. We have polluted the earth and our bodies with all sorts of nasty compounds, and a reduction of pollution, for whatever reason, is a good thing.

  13. The other argument not mentioned about local buying is that it strengthens the local economy. The dollars stay put, and the producer usually gets to keep a larger portion of the purchase price.

    I love NZ lamb, and if I were buying supermarket lamb, I would choose NZ lamb (generally grass-fed) over US lamb any day (generally grain-fed and lacking in flavor). But I’d rather my lamb purchase dollars go to the nice couple with the small “hobby farm” in my county.

    Same for my produce dollars. I buy direct (CSA) from a small family produce farm in my county, instead of the huge corporations in the Central Valley in CA, Oregon, Washington state, or outside the country. We are losing farms at an alarming rate in my county. I don’t want that to happen.

    And even with products I use that have to originate from some distance, like coffee, I often buy locally roasted versions. It’s fresher and supports a local business.

  14. Whether you believe in global warming or not, it’s important to understand that coal-fired power plants, the biggest contributor to warming *and* global air pollution, also produces high levels of toxic mercury. And speaking of global air pollution, scientists say those of you in California can already see the effects of the pollution cloud produced by the booming and ever-growing number China’s coal-fired plants, where they don’t bother using scrubbers to filter out any level of pollution like are required in the U.S. (not to the better levels they should be, but it’s something). I understand the concerns of international athletes going to the Olympics.

  15. Can you please tell me any more ways to eat green, please? Is there something called ‘slow growth’ or something like that count?


  16. Wow. I can’t believe the Global Warming comments, when there really is no doubt that man is impacting climate change and there has yet to be any other explanation for the recent rapid pace of change that coincides with industrialization. And please remember that climate change is not the only result of our activities. There’s all kinds of pollution like mercury and endocrine disrupters in all our waterways. And there’s the acidification of our oceans. Which will worsen the climate change, btw. The lists go on and on. Add in population growth and increasing middle class in China and India who want to be gluttons like us…

  17. Thanks for all of these great tips! I am a huge fan of checking out seasonal fruits–I live down the street from a local fruit stand and I have found some pretty tasty and affordable produce. Thanks for the tip on checking labels. I usually don’t pay attention to those kinds of stickers on meat products, so I look forward to making more informed and environmentally friendly purchases next time I’m at the grocery store.