The word “sustainable” is a buzzword right now and, while many of the changes needed to prioritize sustainability in our communities must come from an institutional level, individual action is more powerful than many of us think. Being mindful of what we buy, cook, and eat is just one of the things we can do to contribute to our own health, as well as that of the environment and our communities.
Usually when people think of being mindful and sustainable in our consumption of food, they think of a vegetarian or vegan diet, but the changes you can make don’t have to be that dramatic. Small shifts in each step of your use and consumption of food can have a large impact!
Buy locally grown produce
Locally grown produce is most easily found at farmers’ markets. Buying locally is great for the environment because the food doesn’t have to be transported across long distances, which means less greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. This also means that the fruits and veggies will taste better, since they can be picked when they are ripest and be sold within a short period of time since harvesting. Additionally, you can feel good about what you’re putting into your body because you know exactly where your food is coming from. You can use LocalHarvest to find a farm or farmer’s market near you to support!
Take advantage of seasonal produce
Buying locally also means you are buying seasonally. Seasonal produce tastes much better than produce that has to be picked before it is fully ripe and shipped or transported across long distances. To take full advantage of seasonal produce, you can preserve both fruits and veggies in a variety of ways and save it for the winter. Check out this seasonal food guide to find out which produce is in season in your area or this seasonal produce guide for February to discover new recipes to use your seasonal produce in.
Minimize food waste
According to Foodtank, “consumers in high-income countries discard up to 30% of fruit and vegetable purchases and trim products up to 33% by weight during household preparation.” This adds up to 1.3 billion tons of food that are wasted every year, which equals about $1 trillion. One way to decrease the amount of food waste that goes to landfills is to prevent food waste in the first place. Some ways you can do this is by making a list before you go shopping and plan out meals so that you’re using everything you buy. One way you can redirect food waste from landfills is by composting. Besides it being good for the environment, you can then use it as fertilizer for your garden or sell it to other gardeners.
Eat less meat
You knew it was coming…. The meat industry actually has a huge impact on the environment. It takes 2,400 gallons of water to produce just one pound of meat. According to the EPA, it’s also the number one source of water pollution in the U.S. By cutting down on your meat consumption, you can lessen your contribution to the industry. Incorporating Meatless Mondays into your schedule can help you do this and allow you to get creative with your meals.