Graphic by Tara Steinmetz

Graphic by Tara Steinmetz

 

MAKE ROOM FOR SUSTAINABILITY IN YOUR DIET THIS EARTH DAY

By Maddy Johnson

4 · 22 · 2019

 

Not to be dramatic, but if you’re feeling helpless when it comes to the fate of our planet (understandable in this day and age…), you’re not alone.  I mean, I do my best: I recycle, I take short showers, I walk instead of Uber. That being said, it doesn’t feel like enough as each new day brings a frightening headline surrounding the fate of our planet.

I’m not alone in my feelings of helplessness, which can lead many to be discouraged from living a smarter, more sustainable life. Yes, recycling, composting, and walking more are great for the environment.  But it’s time to try something a little less conventional: sustainable eating.

In a quest to find out how a quick change to my diet could lead me to a more eco-friendly life, I turned to my nutritionist Christina Scribner, who then referred me to her friend and colleague Nanna Meyer.  Meyer, an RD who previously worked with Olympic and Collegiate athletes, now focuses primarily on sustainability.

Here is an overview of one of Meyer’s very informative articles on sustainable eating:

Support your local farmers.

Supporting your local farmers not only supports your neighbors, but it supports the planet.  Good rule of thumb: the farther your food has to travel, the worse for the environment (think planes and cars spewing greenhouse gases).  This may translate into a more seasonal menu, but this shouldn’t necessarily be seen as a bad thing. It may mean not eating strawberries and watermelon in the dead of winter.  But you know what? It gives you a chance to explore what else is out there, what is growing and thriving now, allowing you to give foods you don’t normally eat a chance.

Learn to love leftovers.

So, I’ll be real: I’m not a huge leftovers person.  But I’m going to learn to love leftovers because it reduces food waste, which is good for the environment.  Meyer recommends storing leftovers “in the fridge slightly below 40 degrees F (not exceeding 3-4 days) or frozen for later consumption.”

Start small.

Bigger doesn’t always mean better.  Although it can be cheaper to buy in bulk, it oftentimes isn’t sustainable.  So start small. Buy what you know you’re going to eat. Meyer advises that “Having a plan or grocery list will reduce shopping.”  Going in with a plan will help to ensure less food waste.

Eat less meat.

It’s no secret that the agricultural industry is terrible for the environment.  It pollutes the planet and contributes to climate change. According to the World Wildlife Organization, “the agricultural sector consumes about 69% of the planet’s fresh water.”  And as The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) contends, “ the livestock sector alone is responsible for 18% of all greenhouse gas production.”

I’m not necessarily telling you to go vegan, but simply to be more mindful of your meat consumption.  As in, you don’t need to eat meat three times a day or even every day. This can definitely be an adjustment, especially if you grew up in a meat-loving household, but it can incentivize diversity and more plant-based creativity in the kitchen.

Eat whole foods.

In essence, this means eating less packaged and processed foods.  Meyer advises “screening the periphery in the grocery.” Packaged and processed foods contribute more to the carbon footprint than whole foods.

Though Nanna Meyer’s article wasn’t the first time I’d heard of the deplorable practices of the agricultural industry, it introduced me to the idea of seasonal eating and gave me some much needed reminders: whole foods are not only good for you, but for the environment, and that food waste adds up, so only buy what you need.  My hope is that, in the next couple of years, sustainable eating will be implemented into people’s daily routines, just like recycling and taking short showers.