Eating greenly is one of those things that can easily become confusing and muddled in its ideas or definitions. Do we really know, at the basis, what it means to “eat green”? Does it involve the food choices? The grocery shopping? The way we prepare it? Is it healthier and better for us? Better for the environment? More expensive? Less work? More work? Yes & no to all of the above? And how does organic tie into it all? Is it the end all, be all?
The simplest answer, is of course: Yes & No. But, let’s go deeper.
The Low Down on Organic
Perhaps the biggest trigger word associated with eco-friendly green eating is “organic.” But what exactly does that mean? If you want its official definition, according to the USDA, a food labeled organic means that it is produced in a means that does not use antibiotics, hormones, pesticides, irradiation or bioengineering.
In terms of you and your body personally, eating organic limits your intake and exposure to harmful chemicals that can be linked to any number of health issues, from headaches to cancer to depression. In terms of the land, organic farming reduces the amount of CO2 in the air, it generally uses less energy and water and it’s easier on the soil. And, even more, most organic food is locally distributed, cutting out the environmental impact of shipping foods across country and globe and racking up massive carbon footprints.
How to Start Organic, from Shopping on Up
When it comes to going green with food prior to eating, the very first goal is to use home grown. If there’s anything you can grow at home, whether it’s a few potted herb or tomato plants in your windowsills, or a large garden in the backyard, this is the very best place to start. It’s as green as you can go, and you will probably find it to be the best tasting too. After homegrown, comes local. Whenever and wherever possible, shop and support local – this goes for at home and on the road. You’ll be more likely to find organic, you’ll support the local distribution and not support flying in your produce from South America. Same goes for bigger items like meat and cheese and eggs. If you have a local farmer anywhere near you, try and take advantage of them. After that, you can make your choices from your local supermarkets who you want to support, who has the best offering of organic, and also of great importance: what you can afford.
Eco-Friendly Beyond Organic
Even though something is stamped organic, that’s not to say it’s the greenest choice for you. You’ll want to weigh things like, how far did it travel to get to you. For example: a homegrown, non-certified avocado from your neighbor next door is probably a much greener choice for you than a certified organic stamped avocado that was shipped in from Chile. And, just because a fruit is organic, does not mean it’s green. You’ll want to consider shopping seasonally, first and foremost. Do a check of what’s growing in right now locally and opt for those fruits and vegetables first.
The Rest of Green Shopping
Beyond the food you purchase, remember things like bringing your own bags to reduce waste, skipping both the paper and plastic offerings at the store. Bulk shop and shop less, meaning less trips to the store. Recycle your packaging when you can and try to purchase products that use recycled materials or at least come in recyclable containers. Skip individually packaged items when you can. It might seem convenient, but in the long run, it’s not. Buy bulk and divvy it up yourself.
Basic Green Food Prep – Plant Based & Less Cooking
When you think of preparing your food on the green level, think less cooking. Less prepared and more fresh. Obviously, the less energy it takes for you to prepare something, the greener it is. Eating more plant based food and less meat based will also automatically mean less waste. In fact, according to the PB&J campaign, just eating a plant based meal instead of animal based can mean a reduced carbon footprint equivalent to 2.5 pounds of CO2. Eat five plant based lunches in one month and you’ll conserve more water than you would if you switched to a low-flow shower head, and save up to 24 square feet of land from pesticide pollution, over-grazing and deforestation.
While the ideas behind eating green are worthy of filling books and books, remembering basics can help all of us on a daily basis. If you can imagine yourself eating a homegrown salad for at least one meal of every day, you’d take your eating a long ways in the green world!