Learning How to Eat Sustainably

One of the easiest ways we have found to live more sustainably is to reduce our carbon footprint. Because the production of food has such a large carbon footprint, learning to eat sustainably is a great way to limit your impact on the earth. Here are some things we have learned that you too can put into practice in your household.

Reduce Waste

Millions of tones of food are thrown away in western countries every year. In the UK, it has been calculated that 330 kg of food is thrown out by every household each year. This rotting food accounts for 20 million tones of carbon dioxide gas each year. It is a similar story in other large, wealthy nations worldwide.

To reduce food waste, there are several simple strategies that you can employ:

  • Learn creative ways to use left-overs to make delicious and nutritious meals.
  • Store food correctly to reduce the amount of spoilage.
  • Shop wisely; only buy what you know can be consumed by your family within its use-by date.
  • Plan your menu and only buy what you need.
  • Learn new ways of preserving food for later use.

Shop Locally 

The best and freshest produce is purchased locally, from farmers’ markets, farm gates, CSA’s, roadside stalls or a friendly neighbor. Locally grown food has greatly reduced food miles and doesn’t need to be specially treated to have a long shelf life. A lot of locally produced food is also grown organically, so the food is better for you and the environment.

Choose packaged products that are produced as close to where you live as possible to limit the miles it has to travel. Support local industries wherever possible.

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Eat Organic Food 

Organic farming is a sustainable method of growing crops and grazing meat animals without the use of toxic chemicals. Traditional farming methods have developed that use large quantities of fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides, which have been shown to be present in the food we eat. These toxic chemicals kill off the good bacteria and insects along with the pests. The soils become so degraded that large quantities of artificial fertilizers, many based on petroleum, need to be added to make crops grow. Often growth hormones are added to force the plants and animals to achieve marketable size more quickly. Food grown organically is sustainable, non-toxic and produces better quality food.

Eat What is in Season 

We have come to expect to buy any type of fresh produce at any time of the year. This means that the food has to travel long distances to get to you, often from overseas. Varieties have to be selected that have a long shelf life to allow for the length of time between picking and purchase. Often quality and taste are sacrificed to obtain this long shelf life. By eating food that is in season, you are saving on storage and freight costs while eating the way nature intended.

Read Labels – know what you are eating 

Educate yourself by reading the labels on food packaging. You might be surprised by what is actually in many packaged foods. We were not meant to eat artificial colors, preservatives, flavors, enhancers and more. There is still a lot to be learnt about what effect these substances are having on our health but medical research is showing that many are bad for us.

Grow your Own 

Plant a vegetable garden to grow those foods that you can in your area. If you don’t have a garden, use pots on a balcony or sunny windowsill. I use pots and my garden does extremely well. Check out my harvest from this year by clicking here.

Remember, anything you grow is going to taste better and be more nutritious than anything you can buy in a store. Trade any surplus with neighbors or take it to a farmers’ market. You can’t grow everything you eat but every bit helps.

These tips have really helped us eat more sustainably and I hope they help you too.  Start small and make a few changes at a time. You don’t want to overwhelm yourself.  Remember, every small step is helping you move towards a more sustainable lifestyle.

So, do you eat sustainably? What are some ways you have learned how to cut down your carbon footprint?


Comments

Learning How to Eat Sustainably — 44 Comments

  1. I am reminded of a documentary made in the U.S., I believe the title was The 100 Mile Project. The participants had to eat only products that were made within 100 miles of their home. It was next to impossible for most families to stick with it as they could not adjust to the time required to make their meals from scratch, and the lack of fresh fruits and vegetables.

    • I saw a similar documentary. There was also a tv series that was done with families that lived in the interior of BC. I personally think these reality shows and documentaries only show the message they want to show. The 100 mile diet can be possible but it does take some effort and organization. I find it unwise to set extremes like this though. It is better to do all that can all of the time. For us, we eat as sustainable as we can. We put in an effort to buy as much local stuff as possible. We also grow as much as we can. Sure we do buy some imported stuff but we try to limit this. The point of this post is to bring awareness to how people are shopping.

  2. Great tips. I have been given more attention to reducing waste. Fortunately, I pretty much always read labels. The tip that I would find the hardest is eating only what’s in season. Sometimes my tummy wants what my tummy wants. Do you know what I mean?

    • Oh I know what you mean alright. I live in Canada where our growing season is a mere 4 months long. Then the deep freeze hits and the only local stuff you can get is root vegetables. It can get pretty boring. This is why I work really hard to stock up on as much seasonal stuff as I can when it is growing in the summer. Then we live off of it all winter.

  3. Great tips. We try to buy produce from farmer markets when they are in season. The farmer markets are getting more and more expensive though and we will probably need to find a more affordable alternative. We’ll also grow some veggies in the community garden this year. :)

    • The reason farmers markets are getting more expensive is because they are trying to compete with commercial farmers who don’t practice sustainable practices, aka “the big guns.” It is hard for one off farming families to make a living with that kind of competition. For me, we make the cost work in our budget because supporting good farming is important to us. I hope you find a suitable alternative.

  4. We used to belong to a CSA but it ended up not being worth it for us. Now we try and buy organically when we can and just eat a lot more fruits and veggies and less red meat. We hardly ever eat red meat now adays but i think it’s because we can’t afford it : P

  5. We try to eat sustainably … buying local and in season. We’re also vegan and plant-based foods have a lower carbon footprint than animal-based foods so that helps.

    BTW … on a slightly different subject. I’m hosting a “green” Meet & Greet on my site each Monday. It runs from Monday until Thursday so, if you get a chance, would love to introduce your blog to my readers. Here’s the linky:
    http://reducefootprints.blogspot.com/2012/01/meet-greet-monday.html
    If you don’t get a chance to link up before it closes tonight, it’ll appear again on Monday! :-)

  6. I never realized that fruits and vegetables grown with pesticides don’t retain the good bacteria we need. I’ll have to make a more concious effort to buy organic.

  7. Great tips Miss T. These are all smart tips and I am actively eating less meat as I take on the 10 pound challenge hosted by Newlyweds On A Budget. I had 4 sticks of cellery for lunch today, and felt great about it.

  8. Great article.

    I do try to eat sustainably, including organic, local, seasonal, etc. I try to do research as well to avoid things that *seem* healthy but are not.

    Throwing away food is of course a sad thing. I’m not sure I’d consider it a carbon dioxide problem, as plants absorb CO2 to grow food and then release it as they decompose, in a cycle. But still best to avoid waste.

  9. We toss out a lot less that most, what with the compost pile and the two vermicomposting bins. In fact, I’m thinking that I’ll have to add a third bin, those little buggers multiply so fast.

    • We are working on setting up a better composting station ourselves. We have three bins already and could use more. I love not generating a lot of waste. And yes, those worms do multiply fast. So neat though. Have you seen the documentary “dirt”. I think you would find it interesting.

  10. We pretty much follow all of the above with an exception of “grow your own.” We live in a condo. I know it is a pathetic excuse because we could’ve used our balcony to grow at least tomatoes. But we don’t! We were thinking about it. It is the thought that counts, right? :)

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