I’m really not one for resolutions. I half-heartedly make them on New Year’s, only to promptly break them a day or two later. But I think the sentiment is a good one: think about things you want to accomplish in the coming year, and inch toward those goals. Don’t beat yourself up for not adhering to every single resolution you make. I think about Earth Day like an eco-New Year’s. I’ve been thinking about my goals to be a little bit more Earth-friendly, and I’ve been thinking about things I can share with you: some are easy-peasy, simple things you can do every day. Some require a little more commitment. Of course, (obviously) I love food and all things food-related, so most of the things on the list are food-ish. And really, our food choices can make such a difference. So much pollution and waste is generated from factory farms (not to mention lots of other bad stuff). So much energy is wasted transporting fruits and vegetables from, say, South America. And we, ourselves, as individuals (especially those of us who like to cook), generate lots and lots of food waste.
Sometimes thinking about all of this stuff can be a little overwhelming. But you can take small steps, and each small step you take will eventually add up to longer and longer strides for everyone. You don’t have to eat locally all the time. Heck, I really can’t see myself giving up citrus and olive oil and avocados and mangoes (you guys in California have it much, much easier, dammit), I just love good food too much. But I do try to make food choices everyday in a mindful way – think about where your food has come from, what it’s taken to get to you, and what you’ll do with it.
OK, here’s my list:
1. Buy at least some of your meat, dairy products, or eggs from local farmers.
I’m going to tell you upfront: it’s going to be more expensive than buying factory-farmed meat, dairy, or eggs from your local grocery store. I tend to eat less meat in order to be able to afford high-quality meat. And I often buy cheaper cuts of meat that I can stew or braise (cheaper cuts are often more delicious anyway, oddly enough). I am lucky because I belong to a food co-op that gets a lot of its meat, dairy, and eggs from local farmers, but farmer’s markets and CSAs (community supported agriculture) that carry locally raised meat, dairy, and eggs are now popular across the country. Many farmers also sell cuts of meat, dairy products, and eggs directly to the public. Some info on factory farming from FactoryFarm.org here, and info on meat labeling at Animal Welfare Approved here.
2. Cut down on the amount of processed food that you eat.
Processed food usually has a lot of sugar (in the form of high fructose corn syrup), lots of (often GMO) corn and soy, and lots and lots of preservatives. I know that processed foods are often more convenient. But in the long run, you don’t really benefit from eating processed food. Try to make a commitment to cooking with real food (fresh vege and fruit, whole grains, etc.) an extra one or two days a week. Focus on the joy that you get putting good food on the table – food you’ve made with your own little two hands. The Eat Well Guide is a great resource for finding real food (via farmer’s markets, stores, co-ops, etc.).
3. Cut down on drinking bottled water.
In most places in the US, tap water is delicious and healthy. It’s regulated better than bottled water and therefore is probably marginally better for you. Oh, and it’s absolutely free! (Hmm, maybe use the money you save on bottled water to buy good meat?) And most importantly, drinking tap water will reduce the amount of plastic bottles in our landfills. I have a lightweight stainless steel water bottle that I carry in my bag wherever I go. More reasons not to drink bottled water on Treehugger here.
4. Start composting.
I know – this might be the hardest sell on my list. And it’s something that I only recently started doing. I began to feel really bad about the amount of food waste I generate. I’m talking significant, serious amounts of food waste. I don’t have my own garden (I live in an apartment complex in Brooklyn, after all) and so composting my waste just didn’t seem like a viable option until recently. I joined a community garden down the street that composts, so I will be dropping my compost off on a weekly (or more) basis. Many cities have community gardens that need your food waste! If you have a yard, consider composing yourself, and maybe growing a few plants for food in the process. Some farmer’s markets also have compost drop-off sites. An interesting post from Ethicurian on the follies of composting is here.