These days, the green movement is everywhere: canvas shopping bags, solar panels, hybrid cars, even “green-collar workers”a term that describes the employment wave within the environmental sector. With so many options to help save the Earth, it may seem like our food choices cant make much of a difference.
But Im a strong believer that every little bit counts. And if we all shopped, ate, and prepared our food a little more eco-consciously, we could take the first steps toward cleaning up our planet. And heres even better news: Whats good for the Earthfresh, natural, sustainable productsis good for us too. Here are a few simple ways to start your green (and healthy!) journey.
Buy local and seasonal produce
Not only is local food fresher and tastier (packaged at the last minute, versus ripening in a box), but its "greener," as well. This is attributed to the shorter travel time: An out-of-season mango from Latin America, for example, takes several days of travel (and fuel) to get to your supermarket. In the wake of fuel price increases, Ive seen tropical fruits more than double in price in the last few months. Check out your local farmers market (find one near you at LocalHarvest.org), or ask your grocer what local produce they stock in the supermarket.
Organic fruits and veggies are grown without harmful pesticides, which have been shown to poison wildlife (and are linked to cancer and birth defects in humans). Plus, some studies have shown that organic foods contain higher levels of specific cancer- and heart disease-fighting antioxidants. It may not be financially viable to purchase all organic produce, so prioritize those with the highest pesticide counts.
Skimp on packaging
Don't buy prepared foods, and look for those sold in larger quantities so you need less packaging. Buying one large watermelon per week versus individual containers of sliced fruit, for example, uses a lot less plastic. This rule should also be attributed to bottled beverages (liters over cans), grains and dried pasta, and everything else in your household.
Don't buy bottles
Speaking of bottled beverages, when did it become stylish for people to order fancy French water in restaurants? Unless you are really wary of your citys water quality, order tap water with ice and lemon. If you, like me, are a sparkling-water girl, order club soda from the gun (I call it “bubble water”) with limeand without a straw. Stop picking up bottled water and soda on the go too. Instead, carry a reusable Nalgene or Sigg water bottle with you; it will keep you hydrated and save you some cash as well.
When entertaining, serve up food with disposable (and biodegradable) plates, and silverware made from bamboo, corn, or sugar cane, rather than plastic that will stick around in landfills for decades. If you dont mind using your regular dishes, dont prerinse them before loading the dishwasher; with newer models, a good scrape into the trash can should be enough, says the EPA. And always wait until the machines full to start a wash cycleyoull save water and electricity.
Replace your old fridge
Make sure your refrigerator is an up-to-date, energy-saving model; anything sold before 2001 can be costing you 40% more in electricity every year. The cost of an upgrade will quickly pay for itself.
Give the cook a break
In the summertime, prepare raw foods such as fresh, colorful salads. It will encourage you to get more fruits and veggies in your diet, and the environment will love you for all the energy you save by not using electricity or gas. And make sure youve got a good ceiling fan in your kitchen: When you do cook, it will help circulate steam and hot air, and might keep you cool without the need for air conditioning.
Now back to those shopping bags. Regardless of what type you use, it really is conscientious (not to mention more stylish) to use your own when at the grocery store. Don't waste just because everyone else is doing it. Because guess what: Not everyone is doing it anymore.