Eating sustainably is all about taking everyday actions to help protect the planet and promote human health. It’s important because it allows us to eat well without compromising the next generations' ability to do so. Think sustainable living is too complicated or time-consuming? Here are five practical changes you can make today to eat more sustainably.
(This post is written by Grateful Grazer contributor, Mackenzie Burgess, RDN.)
1. Eat seasonally and locally
Fruits and veggies that are local and in-season often have more flavor, less greenhouse gas emissions from transportation, and are packed with key nutrients. Use this seasonal produce guide to know which fruits and veggies are at their peak. Aim to bookmark recipes that incorporate these ingredients.
What you can do: Experiment with recipes where you can switch out the ingredients for seasonal ones like this Thai peanut tofu buddha bowl or anything goes veggie fried rice. You can also filter the recipe index by season.
At the grocery store, look for items labeled “local”, or better yet, shop at your local farmers market. You can also join a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) which allows you to receive a weekly or bi-weekly box of produce from local farmers.
2. Shop the misfits
Many grocery stores, CSAs, and farmers markets offer “misfit” produce. This is produce that is slightly blemished or misshapen, but the flavor and nutrient profile is the exact same. These imperfect fruits and veggies sell for less than their retail counterparts, plus it helps reduce food waste. It’s a win-win for your wallet and the environment.
What you can do: Scout the misfit section at the beginning of your next shopping trip to see if there’s anything you can check off your list from the start. Depending on where you live, you can also have misfit produce delivered.
3. More plant-based meals
In general, it takes more greenhouse-gas emissions to produce meat and dairy products than plant foods. Although meat in moderation can be a part of a healthy and sustainable diet, if you’re currently eating a lot of it, shifting to more plant-based meals may be beneficial for the planet.
4. Try composting
Around 30% of what we throw away is food scraps and yard waste that could’ve been used for composting. In landfills, food waste has no oxygen so it produces methane and carbon dioxide (greenhouse gases). With composting, oxygen is present, allowing those food scraps to transform into a rich fertilizer, without forming greenhouse gases.
What you can do: Follow this beginner’s guide to composting to get started. This guide includes instructions for what you need, how to get started, and maintenance tips.
5. Show some leftover love
Every year, there are approximately 30 million tons of food waste, with 11.4 million tons of food waste generated from restaurants alone. Whether you're eating out or cooking at home, you don't have to scrape extra food in the trash when you're full.
What you can do: Box up those leftovers and store them in the fridge for your next meal. You can also transform leftovers into a whole new meal. Try throwing those bread basket slices into a tomato basil strata, extra cooked grains into a savory breakfast bowl, or cooked veggies into an egg frittata.
Eating sustainably is important for a number of reasons. It helps reduce food waste, boost nutrient-packed plants in our diet, and preserves our planet for future generations. Your choice to put these tips into action is the first small step in making a larger impact. What are some of your favorite ways to eat more sustainably?
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Mackenzie Burgess, RDN is a dietitian, recipe developer and blogger based in Fort Collins, CO. Her blog focuses on simple recipes with customizable ingredients of your choice. This allows recipes to cater to different dietary preferences and ingredients already on hand. Connect with her on her website, Instagram, Pinterest, or Facebook page.