Nutrition Inspiration

April 21, 2018

9 Sustainable Eating Tips for Earth Day and Beyond

April 22nd is Earth Day. Take Earth Day as a day to educate yourself and start making more sustainable eating choices that support a more earth friendly approach to food. What we choose to eat and how we prepare our foods has environmental and social impacts. As consumers, collectively we have the ability to drive change in companies based on our demands for products and buying behaviors. Here are 9 ways we can start making changes today to be a little more earth friendly when it comes to the food we choose to eat.

1. Waste less food

This is a huge one! One-third or 30-40% of post-harvest food never makes it into anyone’s belly. This is not only wasted money, wasted calories and nutrition, but there are big environmental impacts of that as well. From the beginning food requires water and fertilizer. From there, it is usually transported long distances, processed, and stored in warehouses and then on the grocery store shelves or at the farmers market, which uses fuel and electricity. When we waste food we are wasting all of the resources that goes into producing those foods.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations the amount of water associated with food waste is the equivalent to the annual flow of Russia’s Volga River (Europes largest river) and is responsible for adding 3.3 billion tonnes of greenhouse gases to the planet’s atmosphere.

Food waste also contributes to up to 1/4 of landfill mass. Landfills let off harmful greenhouse gas emissions and take up a lot of valuable land space. Consider composting your food waste to reduce landfill contribution and you get a major bonus because it makes healthy soil for your garden!

photo from slowfood.com

2. Eat sustainable seafood

Many fishing practices have detrimental effects on our oceans. Use this guide from the Environmental Defense Fund or the Monterey Bay Aquarium guide to make better seafood choices . In general avoiding large predatory fish like shark, tuna, swordfish and cod is a better choice for the environment.

3. Support good farming practices

Farmers using crop rotation and organic farming practices keep our soil healthier. This will reduce soil erosion, emit less harmful pesticides into our watersheds and the soil will have more nutrients. Healthy soil means more nutrient rich foods and a healthier environment. Talk to the farmers at your local market about how they farm and choose organic when you can at the grocery store.

4. Eat more plants

I say this all the time in respect to our health but it also impacts the health of our planet. When we eat more plants farmers will produce more plants. Grazing animals, such as cattle ranching is the largest contributor to Amazon deforestation. In addition, manure releases large amounts of methane gas, a gas that is 84 times more potent than carbon dioxide when released into the atmosphere. According to studies shifting less than one day per week from animal products including meat, dairy, eggs, and fish saves more greenhouse gas emissions than eating all locally sourced food.

5. Eat local

Now I know I just explained shifting from animal based is better than eating all locally sourced for sustainable eating but please don’t take that to mean I don’t want you to eat local. Most of our food is shipped and comes from over 1,000 miles away. Eating local is still very good, not only for environmental ramifications but also for thelocal economy and supporting small farmers and producers.

6. Try heirloom varieties and sustainable grains

94% of seed varieties available to farmers and gardeners in 1900 have been lost. There are organizations and seed savers all over the world that are trying to combat this issue. If you choose to buy more heirloom varieties you are supporting the farming practices to encourage a more diverse global food supply that is more resistant to shocks.

Sustainable grains include sorghum, amaranth, adlai and more. These grains require less water and they are more draught tolerant than corn and wheat. They are also often times more healthy so it’s a win-win!

7. Stop sucking

By that I mean pass on plastic straws! There is actually a #stopsucking. Americans alone use 500 million plastic straws per day. Holy cow, that’s insane to think about. These straws are ending up in our oceans along with so many other plastic food containers and bags. It’s a small, simple change you can make today that will make a difference in the future.

El Nido is a beautiful beach town in Palawan, Philippines and the city as a whole has outlawed plastic straws! Exciting stuff.

photo from the Monterey Bay Aquarium

8. Shop plastic free

Bring your own bags to the grocery store. Try going beyond a grocery bag and get the reusable fruit and veggie bags. Try saving your to-go containers and re-use them, or better yet bring your own containers.

There are more and more stores that are also waste free. In Austin, TX there is a waste free grocery store called In.gredients. Ritual is also a small store in Manila selling all local Philippine foods and products where you bring your own containers. Try looking for a store like this near you. I know many Whole Foods stores also have bulk sections where you can fill your own containers with all sorts of foods that normally come packaged.

9. Avoid Palm Oil

Palm oil is now in half of the products you buy, from ice cream to shampoo. Palm oil is devastating the rainforest. We have lost over 6 million hectares of forest in Indonesia alone. I went to Borneo, Malaysia earlier this year and saw the devastation for myself, it looked like a scene from The Lorax by Dr. Seuss in real life. We are losing millions of species of plants, animals, and insects due to this deforestation.

Using less packaging, less single use containers and utensils, and saving food, will ultimately save us money, leave us healthier, and support more sustainable eating practices for the Earth. I hope you find these short tips to be useful. If you have any more tips or useful facts I would love to hear them! Share in the comments below.

Enjoy ~ Amanda

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