We know that our diet has a significant impact on our health, but we don’t always think about the effects it can have on the health of our planet. Many modern food practices that bring food from the farm to the table directly contribute to water and air pollution, increase carbon emissions, and endanger wildlife species and biodiversity. On June 5th, World Environment Day is celebrated across the globe. Whether or not you participate in one of the events taking place around the globe, making small changes to your food choices can positively impact the environment in significant ways. The next time you head out for groceries, keep these tips in mind!
SHOP WITH REUSABLE BAGS
Plastic bags not only end up in landfills and oceans, their production also uses up a lot of oil. Furthermore, these bags don’t degrade and exposure of the plastic to sunlight can release harmful toxic polymer particles. Worldwide, only about 1% of plastic bags are recycled. Shop with reusable bags whenever you can and recycle any plastic bags you accumulate. Avoid using plastic sandwich bags and instead pack lunches and leftovers in reusable containers.
Did you know that virtual healthcare is associated with up to a 70% decrease in carbon emissions?
BUY LOCAL WHENEVER POSSIBLE
Locally-grown foods don’t travel long distances to get to your plate, which saves gas and decreases your carbon footprint. You may not find everything you are used to, but you will often find a great selection of root vegetables, seasonal fruit and vegetables, wild game and other meats, eggs and dairy. Hit up a local farmer’s market to see what’s in season!
CUT BACK ON MEAT CONSUMPTION
Industrially-farmed meat production uses a lot of energy and resources, and is a major contributor to climate change. In fact, it is estimated that livestock production is responsible for 18% of greenhouse gases. You don’t have to cut meat out altogether if that’s not feasible for your lifestyle. Small changes can have a meaningful impact, especially if everyone participates! If you’re a meat lover, try going meatless for at least one day per week.
PURCHASE PRODUCTS WITH MINIMAL PACKAGING
Not only are minimally-packaged foods typically healthier than heavily-packaged ones, they also produce less garbage. Fresh, unwrapped fruits and vegetables, meat and fish straight from the deli counter or butcher, and nuts, seeds, beans, peas, lentils and grains purchased in bulk all boast minimal packaging. Skip bottled water and other beverages too, and use a reusable bottle for filtered tap water instead.
Organic fruits and vegetables are grown and processed using farming methods that recycle resources and promote biodiversity, while organic meats and poultry also tend to have a less detrimental impact on the environment. Organic meats are raised more humanely, and are typically more nutritious too. Organic products are often more expensive, so if it’s not feasible to go totally organic, consider buying organic for those products that are most heavily contaminated. Visit www.ewg. org to view the 12 most contaminated produce and the 15 least contaminated produce to help guide your decisions.
For more information on how to improve your nutritional health or for meatless meal recipes, contact our registered dietitians.