You don’t have to invest in a composting toilet and harvest rainwater to live a more sustainable life. There’s no need to dive headfirst into the extreme in order to make a difference. Often times, you can take action from your plate. Whatever you put on your plate has a large impact on the environment. Eating more sustainably may not only save you money and improve your health, but also benefit the health of the planet.
What Does It Mean To Eat Sustainably?
A sustainable diet should be nutritionally adequate, economical, and culturally acceptable. Essentially, eating sustainably works to protect both your health and the environment. Emissions from food production have a damaging effect on our world, more so than transportation emissions. Beyond the environmental concerns of food systems, they also create unhealthy food choices, which reduce physical health and life expectancy. If you want to reduce the risk of chronic illnesses and do your part for the planet, dive into the seven tips below for more sustainable eating.
This is a very easy habit to adopt, especially when you realize that seasonal produce is the freshest. You can taste the difference when you enjoy an apple in the fall, asparagus in spring, or watermelon in summer. Seasonal foods are not only less expensive than those purchased out of season, but they also exhibit more nutrients. Growing crops year round requires food producers to use fertilizers, pesticides, and other chemicals. They may even need to use extra gas or electricity to grow herbs, for example. Eat seasonally and locally to support your community!
Seek Out Local Growers
It’s very common to see farmer’s markets everywhere nowadays. When you purchase the fresh produce offered from local growers, you get to meet the people who produce your food. Knowing where your food comes from is a big part of sustainable eating. Farmers can educate you on how the food was grown, when it was harvested, and even how to prepare it. Most local grocery stores also carry food that local farmers grow.
Be Picky With Seafood
If you choose to eat seafood, be picky with the fish you purchase. Most fishery laws outline sustainability standards that work to protect ocean habitats and prevent overfishing. There are, however, many fish farms that are not the best living conditions for fish, and they pollute the surrounding environment. The increased demand for fish and overfishing laws in the ocean is the reason these farms exist. Elevated mercury levels and omega-3 contents can be indicators of eco-ratings, helping you determine if your fish is healthy. Support sustainable fishing when you purchase wild caught fish from local fishermen.
Eat Your Leftovers
There’s a large problem with food waste in the United States. Too often do people throw away their leftover food, which is a perfectly good meal option the next day or the day after. There are certain time frames of when you should eat food after making it, though, so be sure to keep that in mind. Besides reducing food waste, eating your leftovers prevents you from spending money on a meal or new groceries that you don’t need. If you don’t love leftovers, consider repurposing leftover meat in salads and stir-fries, or tossing extra fruits and vegetables in salads and smoothies.
Avoid Ultra-Processed Foods
If you want to do a lot of damage to your health, continue to eat ultra-processed foods. These foods undergo multiple industrial processes and contain added flavors, sugars, and preservatives. Candy bars, chips, and cereals are some of the most common ultra-processed foods. Eating these foods increases the risk of obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. Ultra-processed foods also harm the environment because many ingredients have a large carbon footprint.
Minimize Meat Consumption
Reducing your consumption of meat can help reduce greenhouse gas emissions. According to statistics, beef production and the raising/transportation of livestock requires a lot of energy and resources. Meat production requires more water, land, food, and energy than plants need. In addition to reducing cholesterol and plaque build-up in the arteries, eating less meat benefits the environment, so focus on protein sources like vegetables, nuts, seeds, and legumes.
Buy A CSA Share
Community-supported agriculture (CSA) gives farms and farmers the opportunity to sell excess in-season produce to their community. Often times, you can get a box of seasonal, local produce for a very reasonable price. There is typically a drop-off or pick-up point for these boxes. CSAs work to reduce food waste from farms by getting fruits and vegetables into the hands of community members. With competitive prices, it’s hard not to get one!