Environmentally Sustainable Foods
By Editorial Staff
Contributed by Info Guru Angela Hail
It is becoming increasingly apparent that what we eat has a big impact on our planet.
No longer is a trip to the grocery store a simple matter. How do you know if the items in your shopping cart are good for the environment? The following is a list of food choices to get you started on the road to a more sustainable diet.
10. Grass Fed and Pastured Meats
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While the lowest impact foods will always belong to the vegetable kingdom, we cannot overlook the fact that most humans are, and shall remain, omnivores. The best option for omnivores, then, is grass fed and pastured meats. Grass fed is typically associated with beef, since a cow’s natural diet is simply grass. Pastured, however, indicates any livestock raised on pasture, never having been subjected to the horrors of factory farming.
9. Pastured Eggs and Dairy
Pastured eggs and dairy come from pastured animals. These foods also have the added benefit of containing higher nutrition than their pale, industrially farmed counterparts.
8. Ocean Friendly Seafood
Riddled with mercury, overfished, and genetically modified, how do you know which seafood is a good, sustainable choice? Determining between which fish to buy wild-caught, responsibly farmed, or avoid altogether can be daunting. In order to stay up to date on the ocean of eco-friendly fish options, you can download the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch pocket guide.
7. Organic Fair Trade Coffee or Tea
Americans can’t seem to live without their coffee and tea. Unfortunately, those two crops typically have to be imported. In order to choose the most sustainable option for your morning cuppa, reach for organic fair trade. You avoid all those nasty chemicals, and have assurance the farmers who grew your Fair Trade coffee beans or tea leaves were paid a fair wage while encouraged to grow their crop in an environmentally responsible manner.
6. Organic Fair Trade Chocolate
Organic fair trade chocolate is similar to fair trade coffee or tea. Cocoa bean farmers and sugar farmers are able to make a decent wage producing your chocolate, the milk (in milk chocolate) comes from an organically raised, hormone-free cow, and you assuage all that chocolate guilt by knowing how much good you’re doing for your planet.
5. Organic Fruits and Vegetables
Certified organic produce must be raised without the use of pesticides, herbicides, or chemical fertilizers to meet USDA organic standards. This protects the environment and farm workers who would normally have to handle and breathe these toxic chemicals. The USDA organic seal is also one of the few ways to know for sure whether the product has been genetically modified or contains genetically modified ingredients. Grow your own vegetables using certified Non-GMO seeds to ensure you are serving the highest nutritional value to your family.
4. Non-GMO Certified
While the GMO (genetically modified organisms a/k/a GE–genetically engineered crops) debate rages on, there is mounting evidence that GMOs have a horrific impact on our environment, accounting for a major increase in the use of farming chemicals (all sold by the same chemical companies which develop GMOs) and a loss of environmental diversity. Because the United States government currently does not require labeling of genetically engineered products, the Non-GMO Project has started its own system of independently labeling those products which it can verify are not genetically modified.
Approximately 70% of the grain produced in America is fed to livestock on factory farms. To buck this wasteful trend, eat more whole grains yourself, like brown rice, barley, buckwheat, and oats. Many grains are quite drought resistant, so they require minimal irrigation (lessening their environmental impact) while still packing a healthy punch for your plate.
Beans and peas are often seen as the perfect counterpart for grains. Eaten together, they form a complete protein and many a cheap and environmentally friendly meal can be made of pairing the two. Additionally, legumes are nitrogen-fixers, and so help to naturally fertilize the soil in which they’re grown, keeping that much more chemical fertilizer out of our environment.
1. Eat Local
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Today’s grocery stores are stocked full of produce, meats, and packaged products which travel thousands of miles to get to you. These products burn countless gallons of fossil fuels and account for tons of packaging waste being added to our already overflowing landfills. In response to this, the local food movement was born, and has been growing and thriving via farmer’s markets, roadside stands, and backyard gardens – try tomatoes, hot peppers, and herbs – all over the country. When you know the source of your food, it’s easier to make an informed decision for your health and planet.
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