Did you know that Americans toss out nearly 25 percent of their food? Or that between eight and ten percent of the energy usage in the United States is tied up in producing that food? Whether you knew these facts or not, they’re just part of the motivation to start being a greener eater. By watching what you eat, you’ll be reducing the amount of money you need to spend on healthcare, saving the environment and generally enjoying a longer, happier life. If you’re motivated to start eating greener, here are some tips on how to get started.
Not ready to jump into green eating feet first? These baby steps will let you start small and work your way up.
- Kick the bottled water habit. Millions of plastic bottles end up in landfills every year. Become a part of the solution by getting a water filter for your faucet and using a metal water bottle instead.
- Learn more. Not sure what it takes to go green? Do a little research to learn what you can and become an expert on the subject.
- Make coffee at home. Getting coffee out every day not only costs you a pretty penny but also leads to loads of waste. Make it at home instead and reuse the grounds in your garden.
- Cut out pre-packaged snacks. They might be convenient, but they’re also wasteful. Buy the bigger size and mete out your snacks into reusable containers instead.
- Eat less. Portion sizes are often much too large for what we really need to eat. Eat less and you’ll use less resources and energy.
- Slow down. If you’re rushing through meals or eating on-the-go you’re not doing your waistline or the environment any favors. Slow down and enjoy your meals for greener eating.
- Eat low on the food chain. What does this mean? It means focusing your eating on fruits and veggies rather than on meat, as this will expose you to fewer toxins.
- Educate yourself about when foods are fresh an in season. That way you’ll know what to buy, as foods that are out of season must often be shipped in from long distances.
- Eat more raw foods. They’re better for you and you won’t have to turn on the stove to cook them.
- Bike to the grocery store. Get your groceries while getting a workout to save big on gas.
- Take joy in eating. Eating isn’t just something you do to fuel your body. It can also be an enjoyable experience of you let it. Take time to eat, pick out your foods and plan your meals.
Make your next shopping trip a green one by utilizing these tips.
- Bring your own bags. Why waste plastic bags when you can reuse cloth? Most stores sell cloth bags – or you can make your own.
- Look for foods with little to no packaging. That packaging will just end up in the trash, so don’t bother with it in the first place if you can avoid it.
- Support local produce markets. You’ll not only be eating locally but also helping businesses and individuals in your community.
- Skip frozen foods. Those freezers take a lot of energy to keep cold (10 times more than non-frozen), so go for fresh instead.
- Always check labels. Some things may seem green, but upon closer inspection really aren’t. Always read the labels to know for sure.
- Know what you’re getting. Some foods may be emblazoned with the words "organic" but what that means can vary. Find out from retailers, the package or the company what’s really organic and where your food is coming from.
- Avoid certain plastics. They can leech into food and cause cancers and other problems, especially when food is stored or heated in them.
- Use a grocery list. This will help to avoid buying unnecessary things at the store, provided you stick to it of course.
- Focus on plants. The first place you should head when you go into a store is the produce aisle. Plant food is good for you and requires less energy to produce.
- Know what foods are important to buy organic. Some foods have thin skins or are more susceptible to absorbing chemicals. Know which foods you really should buy organic and which aren’t as big of a deal.
- Clip coupons. Buying organic, green foods isn’t always cheap so find ways to save where you can.
Green eating starts at home in your own kitchen, so use these tips to make it a reality in your home.
- Start a garden. This will provide you with fresh, delicious vegetables for several months out of the year. Better yet, you can do it even in a small space.
- Keep herbs in your windowsill. These can be used to give your foods flavor and won’t take up much space.
- Compost food waste. Don’t just throw out that banana peel or coffee grounds. Both make great additions to a compost pile that that fertilize your garden or houseplants.
- Filter your own water. Forget about bottled water or sugary drinks. Invest in a water filter for the faucet or a pitcher for your fridge. You’ll drink more water and waste less.
- Use cloth instead of paper. Instead of using paper towels and napkins and creating loads of waste, use cloth napkins and towels instead.
- Don’t use chemicals to clean up. There are a number of natural alternatives that can do just as good of a job cleaning. You may even be able to make them yourself.
- Use your dishwasher. Think dishwashers aren’t eco-friendly? As it turns out, a full dishwasher uses less water than doing those same dishes by hand.
- Keep your fridge clean and efficient. This will help keep it running smoothly and in turn keep your food fresher for longer.
- Choose natural pest repellents. Whether it’s for keeping ants out of the kitchen or aphids off your garden, don’t turn to chemicals without trying a natural method first.
- Avoid plastic cups and paper plates. Reusable versions are always better unless you really have to use the other type. If you must, look for compostable and recyclable versions.
- Waste not, want not. Do you best to not waste any food. This means buying only what you’ll eat and planning out meals very carefully.
Check out these ideas to help you green every part of the cooking process.
- Eat your leftovers. Don’t toss out leftovers or put them in the back of the fridge. Make use of them to make other dishes or to have for lunch.
- Keep your oven door shut when cooking. The more you check on things you’re cooking or baking, the more hot air you let out making your oven have to work harder to keep up.
- Maximize the efficiency of your stovetop. This means keeping it clean, choosing the right pot for burner size and using heat reflectors.
- Make stocks. You can make stocks from scratch using leftovers and veggies you have around the house. Freeze them for use anytime.
- Get a green cookbook. This will help you to learn new recipes that will serve you well in your quest to eat greener.
- Bring your lunch to work. You won’t create a bunch of fast food waste, and you’ll probably be eating healthier to boot.
- Try new foods. Being adventurous with your eating is a great way to make the most of the products of a CSA and take advantage of in season products.
- Do it yourself. Making things from scratch might take a little more work but it can reduce the number of prepackaged foods you rely on and improve the quality of what you eat.
- Opt for tofu sometimes. Replacing the meat in a dish with tofu occasionally is a great way to help the environment and won’t hurt your health either.
- Use resources wisely. When you cook smart you’ll save energy, food and time.
- Cook whole foods. Processed foods aren’t only bad for you, they’re also energy hogs. Focus on preparing whole, unprocessed foods instead.
- Use water to cook twice. It takes a good deal of energy to boil a pot of water so make the most of it. If you have two things that need to be cooked, use the same water for both. If not, you can always use the water as a natural pest remedy or if you were boiling veggies let it cool and water your plants with it.
Eating out doesn’t have to hurt the environment if you follow some of these simple ideas.
- Head to green establishments. Find restaurants in your area that cook with organic ingredients and try to be green in their practices.
- Save take-out containers. You can use them again to store things or to give guests treats to take home.
- Visit local businesses, not chains. While some chains do offer green options (Chipotle is a notable example) local businesses are much more likely to do so.
- Make smart choices. With a whole menu in front of you, it’s tempting to make an impulsive choice when it comes to eating out. Use your brain instead of your stomach to find a green meal on the menu.
- Stick to healthy foods. Healthy foods are much more likely to be green than those that are not.
- Eat out less often. Cooking at home is a much greener option in most cases, so try to limit nights when you eat out.
- No fast food. Fast food comes in wasteful packaging and is often produced in the cheapest, not greenest, way possible. If you can, choose another alternative for eating out.
These tips will have you enjoying fresh, delicious and healthy produce that are earth-friendly to boot.
- Try to buy organic. When you can, try to buy produce that has been produced organically. It might not always look perfect, but it won’t be exposing you to chemicals either.
- Eat foods that are in season. These won’t have been shipped from long distances and can usually be found from local producers.
- Become a locavore. Trying to eat foods that come from within a few hundred miles of your home can go a long way towards reducing the energy it takes to produce your foods.
- Forage for food. If you’ve got foods growing wild in your community, gather mushrooms, berries and fruits from the wild.
- Don’t buy more than you know you can eat. You’ll be wasting both food and money.
- Stick to heirloom varieties, not their genetically modified alternatives. They often cost more, but if you want to stick to what nature intended produce to be, they can be a great choice.
- Keep your eye out for recalls. Farm waste has caused the recall of several different types of produce in the past couple of years. Make sure what you’ve bought hasn’t been contaminated by always watching out for recalls.
Meat and Dairy
A lot of energy, land and resources go into producing meat so follow these tips to make sure you’re getting the most environmentally friendly products possible.
- Eat less meat. Especially beef, as cows produce methane gas which adds to the greenhouse effect.
- Look for grass-fed meat. These animals will have been fed grass, which is healthier and produces better meat.
- Find meat that has been raised organically. You don’t want to eat all those extra hormones, chemicals and antibiotics anyway.
- Ensure seafood is safe and environmentally-friendly. Always make sure that the seafood you’re eating isn’t endangered or unsafe to eat.
- Use the whole animal. Instead of simply throwing out the bones and nasty bits of a turkey or chicken, save them and make a stock instead.
- Buy wild caught fish. Strange as it may sound, wild caught fish are better than their farmed counterparts, which may be unhealthy and pumped full of chemicals.
- Embrace Meatless Monday. This movement encourages even meat eaters to give up eating the stuff at least one night a week.
- Check out farmstead cheese. These cheeses, also called artisinal cheeses, are produced on-site at the farm where the cows are milked. As such, it requires less energy for transportation and can be a good alternative for green eating.
- Go for local eggs. Local, farm-fresh eggs will not only be tasty, but since the delicate eggs won’t have been transported from a long distance you won’t have to worry about the energy costs of your purchase.
- Buy farm direct. When you can, it can help to buy meat directly from farmers. This can often mean buying a large cut, but it can be worth it in energy savings over the long run.
DIY Green Eating
These projects will help you eat greener and can be a fun way to spend an afternoon.
- Make your own lunch bag. A cute lunch bag will encourage you to bring your lunch with you and can be made from old fabrics you already have around the house.
- Whip up homemade cereals. They’ll be healthier and more delicious than the store bought variety.
- Start canning.Whether you want to make use of garden extras you’ve gown or just preserve foods that will soon be out of season, canning is a great economical option.
- Freeze, pickle and dry foods from your garden. Canning isn’t the only way to preserve foods. Try out these other methods for foods that aren’t designed for canning.
- Sew grocery and shopping bags. Most craft stores now sell a wide range of shopping bag fabrics that can help you create a useful and stylish bag.
Being green doesn’t just mean helping the earth but, as these tips will show, can also mean helping your health.
- Eat smaller portions. You’ll use less food and you’ll likely be healthier as well.
- Go simple. Don’t make dishes with a load of fancy ingredients that will only go to waste. Simple foods are often healthier and less wasteful anyway.
- Reduce your calorie intake. Studies have shown that it could increase your longevity, not to mention your grocery bill.
- Create meal plans. This will help ensure you’re getting the nutrition you need while also reducing food waste.
- Stop eating when you’re full. The leftovers can be had for lunch and your digestive system (and your overall health) will appreciate the smaller meals.
- Go for nutrient dense foods. You may be able to eat less if you eat better. These foods are often not only better for you but for the environment as well.
Here you’ll find a collection of things you should know when shopping for foods of all kinds that can turn your table into a more sustainable one.
- Find fair trade coffee. This will help ensure that it has been handled with consideration for the workers and the environment.
- Buy in bulk. Bulk foods use less packaging and can be cheaper, healthier and greener.
- Drink boxed wine. While boxed wines have the reputation of being, well, awful, these days that simply isn’t the case. Many great wines are found in boxes, which are better for the environment as they are not as fragile as their bottled counterparts.
- Look for other green alcohols. Wine, beer and other alcohols are all available in green or organic versions that can be found in just about any natural foods store.
- Avoid additives. They claim to add flavor and keep food fresher, but they also fill your body with chemicals you simply don’t need.
- Go for fresh every time. When you have the option to go for fresh foods, do it. They’re better for you.
- Lite or non-fat isn’t always better. Often, these are code words for a chemical concoction that you would be better served by avoiding.
- Buy the real deal. For instance, go for butter instead of margarine. Yes, it’s an animal product – but it can be better for the environment and your health when used in moderation. Of course, that also depends on the type of margarine, so do your research.
- Cut back on sweets and snacks. These are often heavily processed, packaged and advertised. Make your own instead if you’re really craving something.
- Get the whole-grain version. Most breads, pitas, tortillas and similar foods come in a whole grain version, so pick those up instead.
- Take a look at beverages. Even purportedly healthy beverages can be less than healthy when you look at the label. Be careful about the liquids you buy as well.
In Your Community
Check out some of these tips to help you get involved and share your enthusiasm for eating green.
- Share food with neighbors. If you’ve grown too much, get your neighbors involved in eating fresh by sharing food with them.
- Join a CSA. Community Supported Agriculture can be a great way to get vegetables and other produce for cheap.
- Work in a community garden. It can be a great way to meet people who share your interests, and you’ll get some great fruits of your labor to boot.
- Find support on the web. There are numerous websites out there that have communities that would be more than happy to share ways you can become a greener eater.
- Find friends who are green eaters. When you hang out with people who share your values, it will be easier to stick to them.
- Get involved. Get involved in community events that support and spread green eating.
- Educate yourself and others. Learning all you can about green eating initiatives and helping others to do the same can make a big difference.
- Take a class. Don’t know how to care for your garden or bake your own bread? It’s never too late to learn something new, so take a class.
- Volunteer. If there are organizations in your community that need help to run and find financing, get out there and volunteer.
- Save and share seeds. They can make great gifts to give to friends and family who would be interested in growing their own foods as well.