Eating with the environment in mind doesn’t require a complete diet overhaul. Even small changes add up to make a big difference. From eating more plant-based protein to remembering our reusable grocery bags, there are a lot of things we can do to protect the environment. Here are seven simple ways to eat for a healthier planet:
1. Eat More Plant-Based Protein (and Less Beef and Cheese)
Commercial beef and cheese are major producers of greenhouse gases that trap heat and make the planet warmer. According to the Lifecycle Assessments, about 30 percent of the meat consumed in the United States is beef, which generates more than twice the emissions of pork, nearly four times that of chicken and 13 times that of plant-based protein. Cheese production generates nearly half the amount of greenhouse gases as beef — around 11 pounds of carbon dioxide for every pound of cheese. Eating more plant-based protein and less beef and cheese doesn’t only benefit the planet — it’s good for your health too!
2. Opt for Organic
If your budget allows, eating organic reduces the amount of energy used to produce your food as well as the synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides that enter our soil and water supplies. Organic farming also creates healthier soil, combats erosion and may even help slow climate change. Purchase organic produce when possible, especially the fruits and veggies included in the Dirty Dozen™ since these foods tend to carry more pesticide residue than others.
3. Eat Local
In the United States, conventionally produced foods are often said to travel 1,500 miles from farm to plate. To preserve precious fossil fuels and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, purchase local fruits, veggies, eggs, meats, cheeses, breads and more from grocers, farmers markets, co-ops or roadside stands in your community. If you dine out often, try to support the restaurants that source ingredients locally as well.
4. Make Environmentally-Friendly Seafood Choices
The way seafood is fished or farmed has a big impact on the environment. Overfished oceans, destruction of delicate habitats, and harmful fish farming practices can do big damage. Luckily, the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch program helps consumers and businesses make the best choices for a healthy environment. Download their handy Seafood Watch App to help you make the most sustainable seafood choices, whether you’re cooking at home or dining out.
5. Shop with Reusable Bags
It is estimated that Americans use an astounding 100 billion plastic bags each year. In addition to the 12 million barrels of oil needed to make these bags, it takes more than 500 years for one bag to degrade in a landfill. Conserve precious fossil fuels and reduce the amount of plastic in our landfills with reusable grocery and produce bags every time you shop. Tip: Keep your bags in the car so you don’t leave home without them!
6. Reduce Food Waste
An estimated 40 percent of the food in the U.S. goes to waste and ends up in landfills. To keep your own food waste down, only purchase food you intend to eat or freeze, or donate uneaten food before it spoils. And make a fridge-cleanout casserole, soup or salad once a week to use up the foods that need to be eaten.
7. Compost Food Scraps
According to the EPA, food scraps and yard waste make up 20 to 30 percent of what we throw away. These materials take up space in landfills and release methane gas into the atmosphere. Composting, whether at home or within your community, keeps these biodegradable items out of landfills, adds essential nutrients back to the soil and reduces the need for synthetic fertilizers. See if you can participate in a local composting program, or start composting at home in just a few simple steps.
By making even a few of these small changes to the way you eat and shop for food, you can make a big difference in the environment.