Easy Ways to Eat Sustainably
Yes, I started watching Our Planet on Netflix last week and yes, I had to cover my eyes. It can be hard to feel like one person can make a difference in the face of crumbling glaciers, but everyone has a connection to the natural world — through food.
Food production makes up around a quarter of global greenhouse gas emissions every year. The more we consider sustainability when choosing what to eat and the sooner we start breaking our collective bad habits, the better for us and for the earth. And the walruses. Here are some easy changes you can make now.
1) Mix things up
Mega-crops cultivated to cheaply meet high demand year-round deplete the soil and require more water, pesticides, and fertilizer. Adding variety to your diet is not only good for you, it encourages farms to increase crop diversity, keeping soil healthy and crops naturally resilient. Check out World Wildlife Fund’s list of 50 foods to add to your rotation that are sustainable and nutritious. Some more easy swaps:
If you buy romaine every week, alternate with kale or spinach.
2) Make your Mondays meatless
Or Tuesdays. Or any day. It’s not news that animal products are the biggest contributor to food-related greenhouse gas emissions. While going vegan is not a realistic solution for everybody, taking meat off the menu even just one day a week can have an impact. Find some new plant-forward favorites:
Mushrooms are a savory swap for stir fries, sandwiches, and tacos.
Beans, lentils, and grains like quinoa add a satisfying amount of protein to pasta dishes and salads.
Tofu and cauliflower can be marinated or seasoned with your favorite spices.
Start by adding a vegetarian Dinner Kit to this week’s meal plan.
When you do eat animal products, responsibly raised fish and poultry have a smaller environmental impact than red meat — they require less water, land, and feed to raise per gram of protein they provide, and produce fewer greenhouse gasses than cows. To find a sustainable option for beef, look for pasture-raised and organic products, and producers like Stemple Creek Ranch that use livestock as part of a carbon farming system.
We also work with dairies focused on sustainability, but worldwide, dairy production is responsible for 3.6 percent of greenhouse gas emissions. Try non-dairy alternatives to cut back on everyday dairy products like milk, cheese, and yogurt. More on that below.
3) Eat more plants
Plants pull carbon from the air and are packed with nutrients. Eating plants is a more efficient use of resources than growing feed for animals first and then eating the animals.
Rethink your side dishes — fill your plate with hearty roasted sweet potatoes, nutrient-rich dark greens, protein-packed beans.
When you need a snack, instead of reaching for something packaged or processed, try a handful of nuts or pumpkin seeds.
For some seriously satisfying crunch: carrot sticks, cucumber slices, or radishes with hummus or just plain salt.
Try creamy oat milk in your coffee, or pea milk in your morning oatmeal. Check out more of our favorite non-dairy milk alternatives and how to use them.
Also, I would argue that this coconut milk dark chocolate ice cream is better than the cow milk stuff. Try it.
4) Buy organic and fair trade
Organic farms don’t use chemical pesticides or fertilizers that contribute to water pollution and greenhouse gasses. We prioritize working with local farms that give back to the environment by practicing soil regeneration and carbon farming whenever possible.
For products like chocolate, coffee, and bananas that are mass-produced across the globe, it can be difficult to get transparency around how they’re grown. By buying fair trade and organic certified products, you’re supporting businesses growing and producing in sustainable ways.
5) Eat local and seasonal
Seasonal produce is fresher and more nutritious because it can be grown locally, with less help from pesticides and fertilizer and fewer miles to travel to your plate. It hasn’t been picked before it’s ripe or bred to withstand storage and transport over flavor and nutrient content. A majority of the products on Good Eggs come from within 250 miles of our Hub, which means your food is absurdly fresh and your dollars stay local.
6) Cut down on food waste
When food is thrown away, all the energy that goes into growing, processing, packaging, and shipping it is wasted along with the calories and nutrients. That may not seem significant, but food waste actually accounts for 8 percent of global GHG emissions. Here are a few ways you can waste less food:
Plan your week’s meals and buy only what you need.
Prep and use fresh ingredients within the first few days, and freeze the rest for meals later in the week.
Use more of what you buy. Make sure you’re storing produce properly so it lasts longer, and think twice about what you’re throwing out. Beet, radish, and celery greens are super nutritious and often discarded. Use them in soups, sautees, or pesto!
Compost your food scraps. I keep a stash of the biodegradable produce bags from my Good Eggs orders under my sink for my compost bin.
NPR has more interesting tips for reducing food waste in your kitchen, including how to rescue wilted produce and check if eggs are still good to eat.
We’re lucky to live in the Bay Area — an intersection of technology and agriculture — during this pivotal moment in food. Small farms growing food the right way and innovations that make it easier and more accessible are our way forward to a more sustainable, resilient food system.
TL;DR — Diversify your diet, eat more plants (seasonal and organic whenever possible), eat less red meat and dairy, and meal plan to cut waste.