"Green” Eating

Photo: Person Biting into an Apple

Maybe you’ve already bought a fuel-efficient car, updated your home with energy-efficient appliances, low-flow toilets, dual-paned windows, and compact fluorescent light bulbs. Maybe you recycle, walk to work and use both sides of the paper when you print. There are so many things we can do to live a more environmentally-conscious lifestyle, from big investments like installing solar panels to smaller endeavors like picking up trash along the beach, or giving up meat once a week. The very food we choose to eat has a major impact on the health of the earth. This Earth Day, let your dietary choices honor the earth and all its inhabitants. Here are some tips for eating greener, everyday:

  1. Reduce your meat intake. Moving to a predominantly or completely plant-based diet is the most powerful step you can take toward “greening” your diet. Even if you only cut out meat once a week on “Meatless Monday,” you are still making an impact in moving toward a healthier world (and a healthier you!). See this month’s feature article for more information about how a plant-based diet is an eco-friendly way to live.
  2. Buy Organic. Conventionally grown produce is often environmentally destructive, causing soil erosion and polluting water with fertilizers and chemical pesticides. Organic farming methods work with nature, caring for the soil and the ecosystems and staying away from synthetic fertilizers and pesticides.
  3. Buy local. Local is the new organic! As organic produce has become increasingly desirable and common in major supermarket chains, many people have begun to question the value of produce that, although organic, has travelled thousands of miles to reach the shelf. When food is shipped across the country and around the world, whether by truck, train, boat or plane, enormous amounts of fossil fuels are consumed and emitted. Plus, the more transport involved, the less fresh the produce is and the more likely it is to come into contact with contamination. Food-borne illness resulting from contaminated produce is frequently in the news. When the contaminated product is shipped all over the country, the exposure to it becomes widespread and the source of the contaminant is much harder to trace. Farmers’ markets are a great way to connect with your local growers. There are also many small farms in Hawaii that have Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) programs that allow you to receive delivery or pick up of fresh produce, often organic, direct from the farm. This benefits not only the environment, but your local economy as well. In supermarkets, look for signs specifying “locally grown” – or just check for yourself as there is often a sticker or a label stating the product’s origin.
  4. Grow your own. Having your own garden is eco-friendly, economical, and incredibly rewarding. There is something very satisfying about stepping out your back door (or onto your lanai) to cut some crisp leaves of lettuce for your salad, pick fresh basil to garnish your soup, or pick a papaya for your morning smoothie! Click here to read more about growing your own food: http://www.downtoearth.org/environment/localhawaii/eating-local-your-ow…
  5. Compost. Going hand-in-hand with growing your own food, composting is the perfect solution to food waste. Instead of sending your apple cores, coffee grounds, wilted lettuce leaves and avocado skins to the landfill, turn them in to nutrient-rich soil! If creating your own compost isn’t practical, see if there is a farm, a community garden, or a friend with a green-thumb that you can donate your compostable waste to.
  6. Decrease packaging. Avoid buying products with layer upon layer of unnecessary packaging. If your favorite products seem to have an excess of packaging, let the company know how you feel about it. Your suggestion might encourage them to make changes. Look for packaging that is made of recyclable materials or can be reused. The best way to avoid packaging altogether is to buy in bulk and store food in reusable glass containers. Buying in bulk is usually cheaper as well. Choose loose fruits and vegetables in lieu of shrink-wrapped and packaged varieties, and bring your own reusable bags to put them in. Don’t forget your supply of reusable grocery bags every time you go to the store!
  7. Use Re-usables. At home, always eat and prepare food with reusable dishware and utensils. For daily lunches or a day at the beach, invest in reusable bags and containers. There are so many kinds of convenient, reusable packaging available these days – lunch sacks, sandwich baggies, glass, Tupperware containers, utensils and drink bottles. Buy or make cloth napkins and use cloth towels and washcloths instead of paper towels or napkins.