Happy Earth Day!
Better health, a safer food supply, and a more sustainable environment all result from making conscious choices about food and eating.
The principles of eating green run parallel to the basics of eating well. A green diet emphasizes a wide variety of whole, unprocessed vegetables, fruits, grains, beans, nuts, dairy, healthy oils, eggs and smaller portions of meat, poultry, and fish. A green diet is naturally high in fiber, nutrients and beneficial plant compounds known as phytochemicals. Not only are green foods easier on the planet, they also provide optimal nutrition for growing, active kids.
- Eat whole, unprocessed foods as much as possible. Foods in their whole, natural forms require far less energy, packaging and transporting than their highly processed counterparts. Think whole baked potato with the skin instead of “potato crisps.”
- Eat less meat. Plant-based foods such as legumes, whole grains, nuts and seeds are rich sources of protein. Most Americans eat far more protein than needed for growth, repair and maintenance. Meat production – particularly that involving ruminant animals such as cattle, sheep, and goats – has the largest carbon footprint of any agricultural activity. You don’t have to go total vegetarian to make a difference. Simply cut back on portion sizes, use smaller amounts of meat in mixed dishes, or incorporate a few meatless main courses each month.
“American meat eaters are responsible for 1.5 more tons of carbon dioxide per person than vegetarians every year.”
& Diet, energy, and global warming. Earth Interact. 10, 1–17 (2006)
- Whenever possible, eat food that is grown, caught and processed close to home. Adapt diets to accommodate the local foods that are in season. Patronize local farmers by purchasing food at farmer’s markets, farm direct stores, or community supported agriculture (CSA) food shares.
Localharvest is a site that will help you locate sources of food produced right where you live.
- Grow some of your own food in a home garden, patio containers, or a community garden plot. It’s fun, educational and delicious. All the photos on this page are from my home garden.
During world war II, the government push to grow “victory gardens” resulted in a significant contribution of fresh produce to the family table. In 1943, 20 million victory gardens produced more than 40 percent of the vegetables grown for that year’s fresh consumption.
- Learn more about certified organic foods and when it makes the most sense to purchase organically grown foods. Grown without the use of pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, or genetically modified organisms, organic farming employs green principles of agricultural production. Animals that produce meat, poultry, eggs and dairy products are raised without the use of antibiotics or growth hormones.
The Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides from the Environmental Working Group is a handy reference guide when deciding whether to purchase organically grown produce. It is available at http://www.foodnews.org/
- Water is the most important nutrient our body needs as well as a precious and essential natural resource. Practice water conservation and advocate for wise water use and a safe water supply in your community.
- Once you get food home, be wise with the waste. The biggest source of food waste is actually food that is purchased and then thrown out, uneaten. Instead of
nourishing bodies, food is sent to landfills or processed through sewer systems (via the garbage disposal). Compost produce peelings and scraps, coffee grounds, tea bags, and egg shells. Worm bins are a great way to turn kitchen scraps into garden gold. It’s also a fun learning project for kids.
- Become an advocate for safe, healthful, whole foods that are produced in a way that is friendly to the earth. Let your voice be heard! Communicate with legislators, the media, food manufacturers, advertisers, government agencies, restaurants, schools, farmers, and anyone else that has influence over the food that you eat each day.
- Save trees and minimize the use of plastics by bringing reusable tote bags and mesh produce bags to the store to carry home groceries and other goods. Minimize food packaging materials by purchasing foods such as dry beans, oats, rice, pasta and other foods in large size containers. Better yet, purchase foods in bulk using your own reusable plastic containers.
- Recycle, and more importantly re-purpose, used containers whenever possible. Steel and aluminum cans, cereal and cracker boxes, glass jars, and many plastic bottles can be recycled curbside in many communities.
Better yet, Re-purpose the things you use everyday whenever possible:
– Punch holes in the bottom of cleaned yogurt tubs and you have great plant start containers. The lids on the bigger tubs make great trays to catch drips.
– Paperboard egg cartons also make great seed starters (just cut apart and put the entire well into your garden or container).
– Glass jars with lids can be cleaned and used to store leftovers.
– If you have children or work with children, many containers and items can be re-purposed into creative craft projects. Pinterest is full of ideas!