More and more lately, there has been a raising awareness of all things eco-friendly… and we’re here to talk about an eco-friendly diet. Farmer’s markets, organic produce, free-run eggs, farm-to-table restaurants, pasture-raised livestock.
The reasoning behind it for many comes down to personal health benefits of eating a natural, organic, and locally sourced diet, but there is a much larger factor at play that people may be unaware of: Eating a diet of this nature is actually good for the planet.
Did you know your diet is responsible for up to 30% of your personal impact on the environment? That fact alone shows you that eating organic and locally grown foods can reduce your food footprint, and there are tons of other ways to go green with your grocery shopping routine.
At The Store:
Next time you go to the store bring your own reusable bags with you. Every single year Americans and Canadians use over 110 billion plastic bags… and worldwide only about 1% of plastic bags are recycled - which means that the rest end up in landfills, oceans or elsewhere in the environment.
Don’t Buy Plastic Bottles
Use tap water or large storage bottles. Not only will you reduce your carbon footprint, but you’ll save money too!
Watch For Excess Packaging
A lot of products use tons of packaging! Whether it’s wrapped in plastic or cradled in cardboard, we can ditch this step with a few simple tricks. Meat and cheese are unwrapped if you go straight to the butcher or deli counter where they are usually wrapped in paper which can be recycled after a quick rinse.
Another good way to strip down is the produce department, my favourite purchase lately has been reusable produce bags. Not only are they great for the environment (bye bye numerous plastic bags!), but they’re budget friendly and they actually help keep your produce fresher, longer!
Try Going Local
Eating locally grown foods is one of the best to lower your carbon footprint when it comes to what you eat. This is simply because you’re not eating food that has been shipped across the globe. Less transportation means less gas and less emissions overall.
Eat More Produce
Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFO’s) are one of the worst ways to raise food from an environmental standpoint (it’s not great ethically either, but we’re looking at the eco-factors today). CAFO’s are a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, water pollution, and deforestation, so whether you eat more produce or get your meat elsewhere, both will help reduce your carbon footprint.
While the definition of organic can be a little confusing, food labels can help! There are a few different organic labels out there, but in relation to food, you should be looking for: the USDA Organic seal in the USA, or the Organic seal from the CFIA in Canada.
Certified organic foods are grown and processed using methods that recycle resources and promote biodiversity.
While not all produce can be eaten raw, try to eat what you can raw. Chop up some veggie sticks, have a great mixed salad, some delicious fruit. Not only is it nutritious for a variety of health reasons, but you’ll be saving energy by not taking the time to grill or boil or sauté something that can be just as delicious raw.
Eat in season
Indulging in off-season produce is okay every now and then, but eating an eco-friendly diet means eating in season whenever possible. Eating seasonally means your produce is much more likely to have been grown locally. And since seasonal fruits and veggies are harvested when they’re ripe, they’re likely to be much more delicious!
For example, here’s a list of what’s in season for the upcoming month of July:
Avocados, blackberries, blueberries, cherries, corn, cucumbers, green beans, greens (arugula, spinach, lettuce, spinach, swiss chard and/or watercress), herbs (basil, cilantro, dill, green onions, lavender, oregano, parsley, mint, rosemary, and thyme), kale, mango, peaches, peppers, plums, potatoes, radishes, raspberries, squash, strawberries, tomatoes, and more!
Cut Back on Meat
Industrially farmed meat has the greatest impact of any food product on the environment. Again, we talk about those Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFO’s) and how they are one of the worst ways to raise food from an environmental standpoint. From greenhouse gas emissions, to water pollution, and deforestation.
But not only that… raising animals requires a lot of water – both for growing the food they eat and for drinking. Think about this: only one pound of beef takes one thousand, eight hundred gallons of water to produce. If you want to try cutting back on meat, but it’s currently a big part of your diet, start small! Meatless Monday’s are huge in the social media world but could easily be swapped to a day of your choosing. The goal is to eat a vegetarian or vegan diet for the day to reduce your overall weekly intake. Give it a try!
It’s really no surprise that the same principles still apply when talking about meat as they do when talking about produce when it comes to an eco-friendly diet. Of course, you want to buy local whenever you can. How much energy do you think you’re going to save if you purchase locally raise meat as opposed to meat flown in from across the globe?
With meat, the term “organic” changes a little. Organic livestock must have access to the outdoors and cannot be supplemented with antibiotics or growth hormones.
Cut Back on Cheese
Did you know that producing one pound of cheddar cheese generates about ten times as many pounds of carbon dioxide? That’s the primary greenhouse gas emitted by human activities and a big driver of climate change. So, as with meat, cutting back on how much cheese you eat is a great way to lessen your environmental impact.
Be Hormone Free
Just as livestock raised for consumption are often pumped full of antibiotics, dairy cows are often treated with a growth hormone that increases their milk production to highly unnatural levels. This has big health impacts for cows, the people who consume their milk and other dairy products, and the environment
Have we said it enough yet? It’s simple… the more of your food you can buy locally, the better.
Yet again, a recurring theme. Organic is important with dairy they will be free of pesticides. However, according to Mercola, “the real issue is not organic vs. non-organic milk, but pasteurized vs. non-pasteurized, or raw milk (the latter is the superior choice)”.
Leftover fruit and veggie scraps, and even leaves and grass clippings (so long as they have not been treated with chemicals) can be turned into natural fertilizer if you compost!
Cook Local (Once a Week)
We’ve talked so much about buying local! Now why don’t you challenge yourself to create a delicious, and naturally nutritious meal solely made out of all of your fabulous finds. You’ll be amazed at what you can create with what’s practically on your doorstep.
Don’t Waste Food
A jaw-dropping 40% of food produced in America/Canada winds up going to waste. When thinking of how much energy goes into raising, making, and producing this food, it’s a lot of unnecessary overall pollution. Choosing an eco-friendly diet means doing everything you can to not be a part of that problem. Before you go grocery shopping, try shopping your pantry/refrigerator. You’d be amazed by how much you can create with what you already have. When cooking throughout the week, plan ahead. Double your recipes by using one batch and freezing the rest for another day. And remember, leftovers can be revamped into incredible meals with some imagination.
A closing note… no one is going to go from 0 to 100, take a couple small steps! Even if it’s just bringing a reusable bag to the store, or trying Meatless Monday’s. Every little bit counts. Support your local vendors. Support your local growers and co-op’s. Support your local business’s that demonstrate they care for the planet, whether that’s in company practices or in selections of food they provide. Be smart, be educated, and have fun with it!
Mercola (33 Ways to Eat Environmentally Friendly)
Conserve Energy Future (35 Super Easy Ways to Eat Environmentally Friendly)
Time - Diet (33 Ways to Eat Environmentally Friendly)