10 Easy Ways to Eat More Sustainably
You don't have to live on a farm to eat local and sustainable food
6. Speaking of waste, don’t do it! Make food from scratch.
We’re not talking about how your mom used to say "Eat everything on your plate; there are starving kids in Africa." You can save that food for later if you’ve eaten enough. But she had a point about wasting good food — you probably do it more often than you realize. How long have those beans been in your pantry? Use them! Try to use as much as you have in the kitchen before restocking to avoid wasting food once it spoils.
And believe it or not, those packaged products you buy in the grocery aren’t made by magic. You can make them too. OK, not chicken, obviously. But you don’t need Betty Crocker to bake a birthday cake. Mayonnaise, jelly, potato (or veggie!) chips, mustard, peanut butter, dried fruits, bread, and even Nutella can be made from scratch at home. Find out how here.
7. Grow your own herbs and/or produce — and learn how to compost!
If you’re skipping over this one because you don’t have a backyard, not so fast! We’ve got the best guide to gardening in the "concrete jungle" for all you urban dwellers, so no excuses! You can grow anything from a little rosemary and thyme to tomatoes, pepper, and kale (think of the kale chips!).
Before you trash your leftovers, know this: It’s logical to assume that your tossed food scraps will end up rotting away and turning to dust in a landfill, but that’s usually not the case. Even the most compostable products can remain intact inside landfills because by design, landfills are meant to bury trash so that it is isolated from groundwater, kept dry, and will not make contact with the air. And according to the Environmental Protection Agency, yard trimmings and food scraps make up about 27 percent of what we throw away.
All you need to do to is let nature do its thing — save the scraps and compost them. If you don’t have a backyard, we once again have you covered. We know decomposing food in your apartment doesn’t sound too appealing, but there are (non-stinky and non-gross) solutions. Find out how to make it work with our guide to indoor composting.
8. Buy products with less packaging and reuse packaging.
Individually wrapped mozzarella sticks are definitely convenient — we won’t argue with you there. But it’s about time we stop looking for the tiniest bit of added convenience and instead focus on the environmental impact we could have by putting in the littlest amount of extra effort — meaning you’re perfectly capable of packing our own lunch and snacks before you head to work. It will take you 30 seconds to a minute more than it would take to throw that individually wrapped snack in your (reusable) lunch bag.
Instead of buying a little bit here and there, buy in bulk as much as possible. Rather than purchasing a can of black beans, buy a big bag that can last you weeks or a month. Choose products with recyclable packaging. If this isn’t an option in some cases, reuse the packaging. Those plastic containers that held last night’s spinach can be used to store leftovers. The mayo jars can be used to hold your homemade jam — since you’re making things from scratch now (see number six).
And make sure you use those grocery totes that you keep forgetting to bring to the market so you don’t have to carry groceries home with plastic bags. (Just don’t forget to wash them. Find out what you need to know about grocery tote safety here.)
9. Buy fair-trade products.
The production of some foods — such as coffee, tea, and chocolate — is often environmentally destructive and can involve tearing down rainforests for plantations, as well as excessive air and water pollution.
Fair-trade-certified products are required to follow economically fair and environmentally responsible standards, including sustainable production. Go to FairTradeUSA.org for more information and to find fair-trade-certified products.
10. Drink tap water.
We need H2O to hydrate our bodies — so why not make sure it’s free and eco-friendly? According to the EPA, 30 millions tons of plastic were thrown away in 2010, and 13 millions tons of that plastic came from single-use plastics like water bottles.
Those recyclable PET bottles are wonderful, but the fact is that not enough people bother to recycle them. According to an article published in the Environmental Research Letters journal, more than 5.6 billion pounds of PET bottles and jars were available for recycling in 2007, but only 1.4 billion pounds of PET were actually recycled.
And the production of water bottles takes a toll on the environment as well. Approximately 1.5 million barrels of oil go into the manufacturing of a year’s worth of water bottles for American consumption, according to the Earth Policy Institute. Not to mention shipping! The transportation of water from Italy, France, and Fiji to New York alone results in 4,000 tons of annual carbon dioxide emissions, according to O magazine.
While marketers of water bottle brands may swear to you that it’s healthier than tap water, there’s no evidence to support this claim. So use a glass and hit up the faucet. You’ll save energy and money!
— Melissa Valliant, HellaWella
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