By Tracy Adler
Every April 22nd, when Earth Day rolls around once again, we see the public renew its interest in protecting the environment and finding practical solutions for sustainability. There are benefit concerts, clean-up days, and eco-rallies; all dedicated to spreading the word on ways everyone can help preserve our planet's natural resources. However, one way we can all help is right there in front of us, every day. It's the food we choose to eat, and how we choose to eat it.
Here are five simple, "foodie" ways that you can help make a difference for the earth:
1) Go organic.
Yes, it’s more expensive sometimes. But pesticides and industrialized growing methods take a toll on our planet, our community, and even our own health. It's a good use of your money, and well worth the investment. And the more Americans that demand organic food – as most people in Europe now do – the more competitive the pricing will become.
2) Support local food.
This ties into going organic quite nicely, and often makes it more fiscally viable for those with tight budgets. Find the farmer's markets in your area and make the trip there a weekly, or even family, event. Another great movement gaining steam is CSA's (Community Supported Agriculture). With this, you make an initial deposit, and then you get weekly or monthly delivery or pick-up of fresh veggies and fruits from a local farm all through growing season (typically 6-8 months of the year). In most situations, you will save money, and be eating like a king! And if you don't have those options available in your community, at least take a second look at the labels on your food at the supermarket before you make your choices. For example, try not buy apples from Washington if you live in New York. It took precious fossil fuel for them to get there, and the local ones are probably also fresher. Going local is a win-win.
3) Package your own. One of the worst things about packaged food is just that – the package! Our landfills and recycling centers are incredibly overburdened, and when we grab a "snack-size" bag of chips because it's "easier" we are doing the earth a bit of a disservice, and also often spending more money in the process. So when you know you have a family outing ahead, buy the larger package and divvy it up into snack-sizes for the kids. And it doesn't have to go into environmentally questionable plastic bags either. Eco-conscious companies such as Yum Yum Dishes are now selling snack-size, reusable, earth-friendly ceramic containers with lids. Less trash = better.
4) Eat seasonally. We all get those occasional cravings for out-of-season food, and with most supermarkets offering tropically sourced produce year-round, it’s easy to forget foods even have a season. But again, we’re using a lot of precious energy to transport those more exotic choices. It doesn't have to be "all or nothing", but next fall, think about making a pumpkin pie instead of a strawberry cobbler. It just makes more sense.
5) Choose vegetarian… at least one day a week. There are tons of fabulous and delicious vegetarian meal choices out there, so make a commitment to trying one out even just once a week. Besides being a healthy idea, even one meat-less meal a week can and will make a difference to the planet. Eating meat is a personal decision, but the environmental effects of industrial ranching as it exists now are well-documented, and as we find better solutions, a once-a-week "bye" on meat helps the situation immensely.
Of course, you probably noticed that the benefit to all of these ideas isn't just on a global level. You are also helping your community, your family, and yourself by eating fresher and healthier, consuming more sustainably, and supporting local business. And long after Earth Day has passed us by, try to keep in mind that the environmental choices you’re making at the supermarket are way more than just "paper or plastic". Responsibly choosing what you eat, and how you eat it, is a key decision in working towards a better planet for everyone.
About the Author: A strong advocate in the fight against childhood obesity, Tracy Adler is a former restaurant owner and mother of two. She created Yum Yum Dishes™ to help parents teach their children about correct portion sizes. For more information, visit www.YumYumDishes.com.