A Short Guide to Sustainable Eating

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A Short Guide to Sustainable Eating

By Elizabeth Long, Reporter

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Summer is the optimal time to make changes in life, and food consumption. But it’s hard to know how “sustainable” really applies to food. Luckily for you, here is a short guide to answer some of the most pressing questions about eating in an eco-friendly way.

 

Meat

The proteins with the largest carbon footprint are beef and lamb. Switching these out with chicken or fish is good, but substituting legumes or soy into your diet is even better. Switching to  a plant-based diet is the best thing you can do for the environment, but not everyone can be be vegan or vegetarian. One simple change to make is adding more legumes and grains into your diet. You still get protein, but with a much smaller carbon footprint. Merely cutting out one meat-based dish a week can have a huge impact on your personal emissions as well.

 

Seafood

Seafood is a mixed bag in sustainable eating. Fish themselves don’t contribute much to pollution, but fishing boats do emit. Fish and mollusks have small carbon footprints, making them a great alternative to pork or beef. However, overfishing is a major issue, and eating more seafood contributes to this issue. It’s best to do some research about where your fish is coming from. Fish farming is looking like a viable protein source for the future, but can cause deforestation if land is cleared for the farms. The single most important thing you can change in your seafood consumption is eating more mollusks, like clams or mussels. Mollusks have some of the lowest climate impacts found in sea creatures.

 

Dairy

We all know that cows emit a lot of methane, contributing greatly to our changing climate. Therefore, cow milk is a byproduct of one of the leading causes of climate change. However, some of the proffered dairy alternatives may not be as eco-friendly as you think. Almonds require a huge amount of water (one gallon per almond) to produce, making them a major drain on resources. It’s best to avoid almond milk, but soy milk is usually all right as long as it has been grown sustainably.

Generally, dairy products have a smaller footprint than chicken or pork. However, in the cases of cheeses like mozzarella or cheddar, this is reversed. Due to the large amounts of milk used to make these cheeses, their carbon footprints are extremely costly to the environment.

 

Produce

In general, fruits and vegetables have pretty small carbon footprints. If you want to further reduce your food-related emissions though, consider planting a garden. Transportation of produce can emit a lot, so plant your own tomatoes and peas. Another step you can take is eating seasonally. Strawberries and oranges don’t grow in December, and are likely being shipped from far away. Agricultural transportation results in a lot of added greenhouse gases to the atmosphere, so try to eat what’s in season.

 

Other

When buying beans, grains, or nuts, try to buy in bulk. The disposable plastic goods are often wrapped in is rarely recycled and does not decompose. On this note, always bring a reusable bag to the grocery store. You might think paper bags are a better alternative to plastic, but 14 million trees are harvested annually to make paper bags.

 

Food waste

Food waste is a huge problem in America. Americans throw away around one pound of food per day, which typically ends up in landfills. The rotting food releases methane, which further contributes to climate change. To prevent food from being wasted, plan out your meals beforehand and bring a shopping list to the grocery store. Quantity is also important-don’t buy an unrealistic amount of food that will just in up in a landfill. Understanding how to store food is another important part of reducing food waste. Refrigerating or freezing food is a great way to keep it edible, though it may come at the expense of flavor. If possible, purchase “ugly” produce when grocery shopping. Misshapen qualities do not impact flavor, and these fruits and vegetables would be thrown away otherwise.

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