At this point, most people understand how to incorporate the fundamentals of an environmentally friendly lifestyle into their daily routine. For example, many people would opt for a ceramic mug if offered, or at least a recyclable paper cup, when ordering their morning latté at the local coffee shop. Another trend that’s begun to permeate consumer’s food shopping habits is making more of an effort to obtain locally sources or seasonal produce when possible. After all, it’s good for your health and for the planet. But if this is all second nature to you at this point, and you’re looking to further reduce your environmental footprint, I have a great list of quick wins for you to add to your arsenal. You might not realize it, but many of the foods you eat and products you use are very resource intensive and can have a negative impact on the environment and your health.
Explore grains other than rice
A lot of households round out the dinner menu with a nice side of white or brown rice, and we certainly can’t blame them. Rice is tasty, cheap and calorically dense. But what you might not realize is that the production of rice requires a tremendous amount of agricultural input and the footprint of rice systems can be heavily taxing upon the earth in many parts of the world due to the enormous demand. Try switching things up with some delicious some amaranth pilaf, millet curry or another tasty whole grain like teff, which can have an almost chocolate-like flavor. Luckily, the transition away from rice doesn’t have to mean less flavor. In fact, some of the alternatives are quite savory and will offer a welcomed change of pace.
Break away from palm oils
Palm oil is another sneaky one because without most people realizing it, it’s everywhere. And it’s not just found in food either. Palm oil is used in everything from soap to makeup to peanut butter and cereal. The problem is that the way that it’s farmed is ridiculously unsustainable. The current production process involves burning down beautiful forests and a practice known as clear-cutting, putting land and even endangered animals at risk of total destruction. Fortunately, many food producers have found other yummy oils that work just as well, which is a win-win for consumers, manufacturers and the earth. When going for that next bag of potato chips, make sure they’re fried in something else‑-canola oil, avocado oil or coconut oil are all better options over palm.
Reconsider your meat choices
I’m certainly not about to tell you that you have to go vegan or vegetarian in order to be able to make an impact, but I can say with certainty that thoughtful choices are important here. Additionally, some of the most eco-friendly protein options are those derived from plant-based sources. I know that we are all used to picking up beef, pork, lamb and salmon on sale at the supermarket, but all these require large amounts of water, land, fuel, pesticides and fertilizer. If possible, lean more toward more sustainable proteins such as wild game or free-range poultry. These are often raised in not only better conditions, but also in a more sustainable fashion and on a much smaller scale. When you do go for the read meat, considering opting for the certified organic and grass fed route.
Ditch the non-stick
Cooking products like non-stick Teflon pans with finishes made of perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs) that leach toxins into cooked food are still prominent in many homes across the country. While it can be a long, and sometimes costly, process to replace all the cookware in your kitchen, it’s better to start small than never start at all. What we did in my home is took an inventory of all the Teflon and non-stick items in the kitchen, and one by one replaced them ceramic or non-toxic version over the course of two years. If you can do this all in one go, that’s obviously preferable, but it’s important to remember that small, incremental changes can have a huge impact on the earth and the health of you and your family.
Like to indulge in a little alcohol? Go for a local beer
This is another one that tends to stir up a bit of a fuss but don’t shoot the messenger, folks. When looking at making a glass of wine vs. a pint of beer, it takes about 6x as much water when all is said and done. But there is a bright side: sustainable beer is much more convenient to source and buy. After all, I think it’s a safe bet that very few people reading this live on a vineyard, but most of us live in cities that are home to awesome craft breweries. Try seeking out a craft brewery that serves eco-friendly craft brews or celebrates innovation in water conservation and organic ingredients. You can even find many of these being sold in your local supermarket.
These are just a few areas of opportunity to reduce your footprint and increase your health. As you can see, many of the alternatives are tastier, better and more healthful options anyway. Don’t let old habits and lazy manufacturing processes stand in the way you starting to make a change, no matter how small.
This post is contributed by Remy Bernard – Owner and Editor at Miss Mamie’s Cupcakes. A baker, chef and writer, Remy started missmamiescupakes.com as a way to deepen and spread her passion for making delicious food.