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50 Ways You Can Be A Greener Eater

May 19th, 2010


In your training as a nurse practitioner, you will likely run across many ways to keep your and your clients' bodies healthier. Not only is eating green an option for better health, it is also a great way to make a huge impact on the environment. Feeding a world of people in this ever-connected society has become a manufacturing and shipping relay that takes its toll on the environment. Learn how you can make a difference by reducing the impact on the environment and helping yourself to become healthier by eating greener.

Produce

Focus on these ways to make your fruit and veggie eating experiences greener.

  1. Eat seasonally. Choose to eat produce that is in season. When you eat out-of-season produce, it is being flown from around the world where it is in season. Reduce the mileage your produce will put on the environment and learn about local, seasonal produce instead.
  2. Grow your own. No matter if you live in an urban apartment or a house in the country, you can grow your own food. Start with a few simple items such as tomatoes or herbs, and soon you may find yourself growing a considerable amount of your own produce.
  3. Go organic. While most people have heard of the benefits of eating organic, not everyone thinks about the environmental and medical cost of eating foods covered in pesticides and herbicides. The few extra dollars a week you may spend on organic produce will far outweigh the expense of the medical and environmental costs of not going organic.
  4. Make veggie stock. If you notice the produce in your fridge is starting to turn or you have a lot of vegetable scraps, make a vegetable stock that can be frozen until you are ready to use it in other recipes. You will avoid having to buy canned stock this way.
  5. Community garden. Take part in a community garden where everyone shares the work and the rewards of gardening in a shared space. If you don't know of a community garden near you, find one with resources such as the American Community Gardening Association.
  6. Compost. Instead of throwing away your food waste, compost it instead. Not only will you keep it out of the garbage, you will also be creating compost you can use in your yard, reducing the need to purchase prepackaged yard fertilizer.
  7. Find public fruit trees. There is a growing underground movement to harvest urban fruit from available sources. Go to sites like Fallen Fruit to learn about events and visit Neighborhood Fruit to see if there are any publicly-available fruit trees where you can gather free fruit.
  8. Trade veggies. If you are growing your own produces or are getting a produce basket from a CSA and find yourself with too much of a particular item, trade with friends or neighbors. If you need help finding someone, try a veggie swap site like VeggieTrader.
  9. Learn to can foods. Canning foods will not only offer a solution to saving food that might go to waste, but it also provides a taste of out-of-season foods when you might be craving them.
  10. No veggie washes. Sure, you want to wash your produce, but skip the prepared veggie washes and use one with water and dish soap you already have in your kitchen to get the same results.

Meat

Follow these tips to eating greener when eating meat and seafood.

  1. Eat grass-fed meats. Grass-fed animals eat only their mother's milk and grass from the field. This type of feeding is not only more natural that feeding them grains, but also eliminates the transportation of grain, which is better for the environment.
  2. Eat organic meats. Animals raised organically are not routinely given antibiotics to stimulate growth, so rest assured this type of meat will not contribute to the frightening antibiotic resistance occurring as a result of the overuse of antibiotics in livestock raised for food. You will also avoid any unnecessary hormones going into your family since these animals are also not given hormones to stimulate growth.
  3. Check that seafood. While seafood is often touted as an excellent meat, great for both the body and the brain, there are many seafoods that are either dangerously full of mercury or perilously close to extinction due to overfishing. Be sure to check updated seafood lists ensure you are eating the best seafood for your body and the environment.
  4. Skip farm-raised fish. Farm-raised fish is not only unhealthy for those who eat it, but it is harmful for the environment as well. Farm-raised fish are often filled with antibiotics, harmful chemicals, dyes to make the meat look like wild-caught fish, and more. Even farm-raised fish that are supposed to be better for the environment, such as tilapia, may not be a healthy alternative. Go with wild-caught fish as often as possible.
  5. Reduce meat consumption. You don't have to completely eliminate meat from your diet, but try eating non-meat meals two or three times a week to reduce the impact on the environment.
  6. Use the whole animal. Roast a whole chicken, then after eating the meat, use the carcass for making a soup stock. Likewise with meat, order a side of beef and freeze what you won't eat right away. You will use less packaging and shipping when purchasing and using more than just a few parts of an animal.
  7. Thaw ahead of time. Don't thaw meat under running water. Instead of wasting all that water, put your meat in the refrigerator ahead of when you will need it.

Grocery Store

You can make quite an impact on eating greener with the way you shop. Read this list to find out how.

  1. Go GMO-free. Genetically modified foods are being linked with many problems, including organ damage in livestock fed GMO corn. Select food labeled GMO-free when shopping at the supermarket.
  2. Skip the package. Any packaged food requires more energy to manufacture, package, and ship. Skip the package and go straight for the real deal. Most of the pre-packaged food can be easily and quickly made at home using whole foods instead.
  3. Pass on the individually-wrapped items. If you have a choice, choose the items that are not invidiously wrapped or wrapped once inside a sealed package. The extra packaging requires more energy to produce and creates more wastes.
  4. Buy in bulk. When possible, buy in bulk to help reduce packaging.
  5. Bring your own produce and bulk bags. Skip the plastic bags available for bulk items or produce. Use your own reusable bags or skip the bag altogether for larger items or items that can go straight to the grocery bag like bananas or broccoli.
  6. Bring your own grocery bags. Many stores now sell reuseable bags or you can purchase high-quality bags for carrying your groceries instead of relying on the plastic or paper bags in the market. Put a few bags in your car so you always have some with you.
  7. No frozen foods. Producing frozen foods creates excessive carbon dioxide emissions and requires extra energy to keep them cold during transportation and storage once at the store.
  8. Look for the label. See if your groceries have the USDA Organic label on them. This label indicates that the agricultural products labeled have met rigorous standards to ensure they are organic.
  9. Recognize reputable labels. Not all labels on food are playing fairly when it comes to revealing the food's organic nature. Learn to recognize reputable labels such as Fair Trade Certified and Rainforest Alliance Certified.
  10. Skip the paper napkins. Use cloth napkins that can be thrown in the washer with the other laundry at no extra expense. Better yet, use cloth napkins used with sustainable materials such as bamboo.
  11. Buy Fair Trade certified foods. Fair trade foods are grown, harvested, and handled with both the workers involved and the environment in mind. Buying food that is Fair Trade certified ensures that the workers received a fair wage in humane working conditions and the food was grown in a green, sustainable manner.
  12. Don't over-buy. Too many people throw away food that goes bad. Plan your shopping so that you purchase just what you need and not too much.

Restaurant

Eating out can be a green experience too. Learn what you can do to eat greener at restaurants with these suggestions.

  1. Locally grown. Many restaurants are beginning to feature produce and meat from local farms on their menus. Check to see what restaurants in your area may be following this trend of supporting local farmers. You can be sure the food will be fresh and have a lower impact on the environment.
  2. Dine Green. Visit this site to find out how you can participate in a green restaurant experience no matter where you may be dining out. These restaurants have made conscious efforts to lower their environmental impact, from improving water efficiency to waste reducing and recycling to relying on sustainable foods.
  3. Take-out containers. After you have eaten your leftovers from take-out, wash and use the containers to take your lunch to work, then recycle them when they are no longer of use. You won't have to buy a separate lunch container and are keeping the take-out containers out of the landfill.
  4. Skip the chain. While there are some exceptions to this rule (Chipotle, for example), chain restaurants rarely use local products, usually relying instead on shipping in everything from food to paper products.
  5. Meatless Monday. Urge your local restaurants to participate in Mario Batali's Meatless Monday project where restaurants offer at least two meatless entrees to help consumers embrace a lower meat diet.
  6. Study the menu. Make smart choices from the menu when dining out. If you have a choice between Chilean sea bass or wild caught Pacific salmon, go with the more ecologically-friendly choice (that would be the salmon).
  7. Avoid trans-fats. Trans-fats are vegetable oil with hydrogen added to it. Not only are these manufactured trans-fats not good for your health, they require more manufacturing, and therefore add more pollution to the environment. Avoid manufactured trans-fats and go with natural fats and vegetable oils instead.

Other Ideas

From asking questions of local farmers to buying boxed wine to eating farmstead cheese, these idea will have you becoming a greener eater in no time.

  1. Ask questions. Find out where the food comes from, how the animals were raised, or how the produce was grown, or ask about the advantages of the choices made by specific farmers.
  2. Strive to eat locally. Locavores only eat food that is grown in a 100-mile radius of where they live. While for most, this style of eating would require major lifestyle changes, you can move toward a more local way of eating by purchasing some of your foods from local farmers or participating in a challenge such as the Locavore Lite 2010.
  3. No bottled water. Bottled water requires energy to make the plastic bottle, energy to transport the bottled water to a store near you, and the bottles frequently end up in landfills. When water comes from the South Pacific or Europe, that is a lot of wasted energy for something you can get from your own tap with a filter attached.
  4. Join a CSA. Community Supported Agriculture is an awesome way to eat locally, support small farmers, and have fresh, healthy food in your home. Find a CSA and start getting produce, eggs, and meat that you know will be good for both you and the environment.
  5. Farmstead cheese. Farmstead cheese is made from the milk of the livestock at the farm where the cheese is made. These cheeses are usually of a high quality and taste great–and don't require the expensive transportation of their European cousins.
  6. Buy boxed wine. Many reputable wineries are moving toward boxed wine. Consumers may find the box wines super convenient, but they are also more ecologically sound. Not only does producing glass bottles require more energy, shipping these bottles is costly.
  7. Farm-fresh eggs. Purchase local, farm-fresh eggs to discover what eggs really taste like. Not only will you discover a richer, more flavorful egg, but you will also reduce the transportation costs of these fragile beauties.
  8. Make coffee. While it is tempting to drive into the local Starbucks for a quick cup of coffee in the morning, make your own coffee instead to reduce the paper products you use. If you really must visit the coffee shop, ask for reuseable cups or recycle your disposable ones after you have finished your coffee.
  9. Make coffee wisely. Don't purchase a one-cup coffee maker that relies on prepackaged coffee-filled filters. Instead, purchase fair-trade coffee and make it in a coffee maker that provides a reuseable filter.
  10. Stay alert for recalls. Most of the food recalls taking place over the past several years have involved problems with processed or packaged food, produce, and meat. If you are not eating completely locally, then you must be aware of any recalled food that may contain dangerous pathogens such as salmonella or E. coli.
  11. Plastics. Some of the plastic containers on the market contain harmful chemicals that leak into the foods and beverages. Learn how to avoid plastics with BPA to keep yourself healthier.
  12. Clean with non-toxic supplies. Why clean your food preparation area with chemicals when you buy organic food to avoid chemicals? Use everyday items such as vinegar and baking soda to clean your kitchen and food prep areas with non-toxic cleaners.
  13. Eat raw. While you may not choose to eat a completely raw diet, opting for more raw foods not only means you are eating healthy, whole foods, but you are also eliminating the cooking process, which saves on energy consumption.
  14. Green alcohol. From organic wine to locally-made beer, consuming green alcohol makes a difference. Instead of opting for beverages made across the country or half way around the world that will require tons of packaging and shipping, explore local options instead.