LIVING

Local Food And Less Cheese Can Help Make The World A Better Place

04/22/2014 07:36 EDT | Updated 04/22/2014 07:59 EDT
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Earth Day. Like New Year’s, it comes every year on the same day, April 22. For the uninitiated, it’s also the perfect time to begin adopting a few simple resolutions that will help you eat green and healthfully -- and drive up industry demand for organic, local and sustainably produced foods.

To officially kickstart your new lifestyle, or to reaffirm your existing commitment, host an Earth Dinner, suggest Earth Day organizers.

The basic tenets of an Earth Dinner should be that foods revolve around local, sustainable, and organic cuisine -- foods that “care for the planet,” they say.

Consumers are also encouraged to learn about the farmer who grew their carrots or the history of the recipe.

To help empower diners’ relationship with food, earthdinner.org provides ice breaker questions to pose around the dinner table that include asking people to share their earliest food memory, favorite comfort food or favorite recipe.

Meanwhile, the WWF also provides helpful suggestions on how to green your fridge and reduce your food impact on the planet. Here are a few highlights:

Reduce meat consumption

One of the most immediate ways to green up your diet is to reduce your consumption of meat. The raising, production and distribution of meat leaves a major carbon footprint -- think water, feed, pesticides, animal waste and land use.

Reduce cheese consumption

Vegetarians who eat a lot of cheese to compensate for the lack of meat, however, have nothing to be smug about. According to the Environmental Working Group, cheese generates the third-highest carbon emissions after lamb and beef. Try reducing your consumption.

Reduce food waste

According to the US Environmental Protection Agency, in 2012 more than 36 million tons of food from American households were thrown in the garbage. In the UK, Brits waste 30 percent of the food they buy. For perspective, that's like buying 10 shopping bags worth of groceries and chucking three bags directly in the garbage.

To avoid contributing to this shameful spiral of waste, WWF suggests planning your shopping and meals carefully. To avoid wasting foods, save chicken bones to make homemade stock, or compost leftovers.

Buy certified produce

Look for trusted certifications like MSC for fish, Fairtrade, and Rainforest Alliance labels, as well as sustainably sourced palm oil to eat guilt-free.

Buy local and seasonal produce

Eating with the seasons and what’s available is often tastier and cheaper. For instance, British tomatoes produced in the winter are likely grown in artificially heated greenhouses.

Reduce consumption of processed foods

Not only are they likely to be bad for you, but heavily processed foods are more resource-intensive to produce. Instead, discover the pleasure of cooking from scratch with seasonal, fresh ingredients.

Don’t become a food mile-counter

As the WWF points out, counting food miles has become a misguided philosophy. Foods grown in natural sunlight, for instance, may have a lower environmental impact than the same food grown less efficiently in winter. Likewise, many farmers in developing countries rely on exporting their goods for their livelihoods.

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