April 22 is Earth Day, which makes it a great time of the year to advocate for Earth friendly or ecologically sustainable alternatives. What does it mean to be ecologically sustainable? Essentially, being ecologically sustainable is to ensure your actions are not negatively affecting the Earth and its ability to maintain the natural resources that we as humans, rely on. Of course, there will always be a time when an Earth friendly alternative is not feasible. However, every little step towards a more ecologically sustainable lifestyle counts!
Limit Your Use of Plastics!
Although plastics are extremely convenient in the kitchen, there are many other materials that can be used in place of plastic and are much easier on the environment. A great way to start eliminated plastics is to opt out of plastic bags at the grocery store. Instead, invest in some durable, cloth re-usable bags. Cloth re-usable bags are much more durable than a plastic grocery bag, they are easier to carry for longer periods of time, and if something leaks inside of it, they are easy to toss in the washing machine to clean.
Another simple way to reduce plastics in the kitchen is by transitioning from plastic food storage containers to glass. Glass containers prove to be a larger initial investment however, you will be amazed with how much longer they will last. They are also great for re-heating food as they are typically microwave and oven safe and will maintain their shape when heated.
If you have already made the transition to re-usable grocery bags and glass food storage containers, the next step for you is to reduce your plastic food wrap use. Plastic food wrap is one of those kitchen staples that can be used numerous times in a day without even realizing.
Eat Local Food!
Eating local isn’t only good for the local economy, it is good for the environment! When you eat locally sourced foods you are eliminating the transportation that is necessary in food imports. This in turn, eliminates a large amount of pollutants being released into the atmosphere during the transportation of imported goods.
Local foods can be found at local farmers markets. However, many retail grocery stores are starting to source locally produced foods when they are in season. Local, smaller scale producers often follow more sustainable farming practices than the big brand, commercialized farmers who follow practices such as mono-cropping and use harsh agricultural chemicals and pesticides. These chemicals and pesticides not only get introduced into the atmosphere when sprayed, mono-cropping can be detrimental to the soil integrity and to the health of local pollinators such as bees.
A great way to reduce food waist and thus, improve your ecological footprint, is to plan your grocery shopping trip ahead of time. All it takes is a few minutes a week to sit down and get a rough idea of all the ingredients you will be needing for the week. You can take this one step further by sitting down and planning out the meals you will be preparing. By creating a list of ingredients to purchase at the grocery store, you have a guide to follow and you are less likely to walk out of the grocery store with more groceries than you can consume in a week when compared to shopping without a list. By narrowing down your groceries to the ingredients that you are planning to use, you can reduce a lot of wasted food.
Eat More Pulses!
There has been a lot of media attention lately on the environmental benefits of following a plant-based diet. Unfortunately, consuming a strict plant-based diet is not feasible or desirable for many people. However, increasing the amount of plant-based foods such as pulses in your diet will not only provide you with nutritional benefits it can also be beneficial to the environment. Pulses crops such as chickpeas, lentils and green peas grow in ecologically sustainable conditions. These crops require a minimal amount of water resources in comparison to other vegetative crops. A unique characteristic of pulse plants is their ability to perform nitrogen fixation. This is a process that re-introduces nitrogen from the atmosphere back into the soil. Nitrogen is a beneficial component of soil that is often depleted from soils that undergo mono-cropping or are not properly cared for. By increasing your pulse consumption, you are benefiting the environment.
Heather Deck BScAHN, RD