"Our planet is headed for disaster. We need to learn how to work with nature, rather than against it." - David Attenborough: A Life On Our Planet (Netflix documentary)
If you haven't seen David Attenborough's 2020 documentary yet, it is both horrifying at what we've done to our planet, and hopeful that all of those currently living on Earth will make conscious choices today to change their habits for the benefit of our children and grandchildren.
There are things we can do that will have major impacts like voting for representatives who make commitments to the environment, reducing our air travel, and using less plastics.
Other efforts are easier:
How We Eat Can Influence the Environment
We all eat.
We all have a responsibility to eat responsibly.
This means reducing food waste and buying less (not "no," but "less") food that has a large carbon footprint.
Here are 5 things you can do this week to reduce landfill waste and carbon emissions from food:
Plan Your Meals for the Week.
By planning your meals, you know what ingredients you need to buy and what you already have on hand. Make a list and bring it to the grocery store. Purchase only what you know you're going to eat before it spoils.
Store Leftover Food.
It's ok to stop eating when you're content. In fact, that's the right choice for your physical health, mindful eating practices, and weight maintenance. Even if there's a measly pile of food left on your plate, it's ok to stop. You can refrigerate whatever little bit remains and pair it with something from another food group for lunch the next day. You can also freeze it for a snack later in the month.
Use Food Scraps and Produce That is Starting to Turn.
Below you'll find an infographic on how to use your food scraps. For produce that spoils quickly, consider these ideas:
Wash, dry, and remove the stems of your strawberries. Pop them in the freezer to use in smoothies, baked goods, sauces, and jams.
Turn cabbage into sauerkraut by slicing it and massaging it with non-iodized salt. Pop it in a jar with garlic, a water-filled baggie on top, and a lid for at least 2 weeks.
Use old asparagus in this 20 minute Asparagus Cream Soup.
Use fruit to make juices and sugar-free popsicles or ice cubes.
Citrus slices can be dried and used for potpourri.
Watermelon rinds can be pickled while the watermelon itself can be carved or used to hold a refreshing beverage at an outdoor party.
Old bread can be used to make breadcrumbs and croutons.
Reducing food waste limits what goes into the landfill. Alternatively, you can freeze your scraps until you are ready to start a compost or donate your scraps to a community compost.
Donate Non-Perishables You Won't Eat.
Sometimes the spouse brings home a can of food that you know you'll never open, or a friend drops off a box of goodies that don't fit within your eating patterns. If you know the food won't get eaten, almost every community has a drop-off location for non-perishable food to feed those in need.
Take the 5 minutes to do an internet search and find a drop-off location. Put the food by the front door so you remember to take it next time you leave the house.
If the food is perishable, is there a friend, family member, or office break-room that will be happy to have your unwanted items? Maybe the NextDoor app can help you find a neighbor who is interested.
Go Meatless at least One Full Day per Week.
Meatless Monday is not just for tree-hugging flexitarians. Going meatless once a week can help your cholesterol, blood pressure, and digestive system.
It can also save the planet.
Livestock production creates more greenhouse gases than the entire transportation sector – all the cars, trucks, planes, and trains in the world. Skipping one serving of beef every Monday for a year saves the equivalent emissions to driving 348 miles in a car. (1)
Going meatless doesn't mean you need to reduce your intake of food- you can add plant proteins to replace the meat or poultry on your plate. Think beans, nuts, seed or nut butters, edamame, or falafel. Here are some easy meatless dinner ideas.
Store food in glass containers.
By storing food in glass containers, we can cut back on disposable plastic wrap and foil, save money, prevent harmful effects of microplastics, and help our food last longer.
Understand best buy vs. expiration dates.
If a food food isn't expired, you can still eat it even if it's past the "Best By" date. This will allow you to hold on to food longer so it doesn't end up in the landfill. Generally, "Best By" means when a food will be freshest and taste best, but it's still safe to eat it until its expiration date.
In honor of Earth Day, each of us can commit to small steps to help slow down the current trajectory of the planet. What action will you take this week?
Need more ideas? Check out these ideas that you can implement today to do your part to save the Earth.
(1) MondayCampaigns.org. (2021). The benefits of meatless Monday. Grace Communications Foundation. https://www.mondaycampaigns.org/meatless-monday/benefits