Eating sustainably is more than just sourcing local food options or going green. It is about educating yourself on the purpose of sustainable eating and how you can create a positive impact through what you eat. It's also about choosing ethically sourced foods that have minimal negative environmental impact in the way they are cultivated and prepared.
Starting to think about the sustainability of how you eat can help you develop ethical habits that extend to all areas of your life.
You've surely heard this one before, but it continues to ring true. A plant-based diet is not only good for you, but also for the environment. Fresh fruits and veggies, whole grains, and legumes are all filling foods that help minimize harm to the natural world.
If everyone starts eating more chicken, then the industry has to respond by creating more supply to meet demand. One of the ways to minimize environmental impact on any one food group is by adding variety to your diet.
For example, if you eat meat, try to incorporate different ethically-sourced meats and keep your animal protein to the recommended percentage, instead increasing plant-based foods to round out the meal and fill you up.
From fair trade options that protect growers to certifications that guard against animal cruelty, one way you can create a more environmentally-friendly approach to mealtime is by choosing ethically sourced foods.
Look for certifications on food labels and do some online research for brands that promote sustainability and issues that are important to you as a consumer.
If you have even the slightest green thumb, a backyard or balcony garden could be an ideal way to eat more sustainably. Start small with just one or two veggies or perhaps an herb garden. You can even grow food indoors, if necessary.
There is plenty of information online on how to get started — including tons of plant-specific details on The Habitat! Grow from seed or seek out seedlings or established plants at garden centers.
Take a look in your fridge and pantry: how much plastic do you see? One way to reduce your environmental impact and eat more sustainably is to reduce your reliance on plastic.
Wherever possible, choose food contained in cardboard or bring your own containers to the store for produce and bulk products like nuts and fresh-ground peanut butter.
Organic can be a bit more expensive, and the label does not always equate to healthy, but there is a better chance that a certified organic product has been grown under more sustainable conditions.
One of the best ways to know for sure is to research organic food brands you are interested in adding to your pantry. If you don't want to swallow the cost of going all in, check out the dirty dozen, a list of the foods that retain the most pesticides, and focus your organic purchases on those.
One of the things that people often forget about environmentally friendly practices is that no matter what products you choose, they have to get to you. This means that you are contributing to transportation emissions, costs, and other factors that mitigate the sustainability factor of choosing plant-based or organic foods. So if you live in northern parts of America, avocados, pineapples, and oranges might be healthy, but they're not necessarily sustainable. Doing what you can to buy food that is in-season and was grown or processed in your state or a neighboring one helps reduce your footprint.
There are many ways to reduce the amount of food you throw away. Buying an entire bag of potatoes that is on sale is great for saving money, but if you're not going to use them, you're wasting both money and food. Try to start your grocery shopping trips with a list of ingredients needed for your planned recipes that week — then stick to it. You can stock up on pantry items that are on sale, but avoid being drawn in by cheap produce unless you have set plans to use what you buy. Compost the food you do need to throw away.
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Another way to eat more sustainably is to choose foods that are in-season Doing so taxes the environment less — you're doing your part to reduce the demand for foods that require extra energy, either the artificial light needed to cultivate summer fruits in the winter or the fuel costs and emissions to transport foods from parts of the world where they are currently growing.
When you go to the store, really read the labels on your chosen foods. Look at the ingredients, the information provided by the company, and any other pertinent details that give you an idea of how the product was made.
This will ensure that you make more informed decisions on sustainable foods.