Jessica Nelson, RDN, CPT, shares the right way to eat extra sustainably with seven easy suggestions.

When we discuss consuming sustainably, it’s necessary to first perceive what sure phrases on this house imply. From there, we’ll delve into the significance of consuming sustainably and the way to take action.

What is meals sustainability?

Food sustainability entails making use of practices within the manufacturing of plant and animal merchandise that concentrate on decreasing the depletion of pure sources and lessening their environmental affect.

From there, sustainable consuming is about lowering our meals waste by selecting nutritious meals that each profit our our bodies and assist out the atmosphere.

The Problem with Food Waste

Food waste can be an issue from an financial standpoint. Cumulatively, 30 to 40 % of the US meals provide goes to waste annually. This quantities to about 80 billion kilos of meals yearly, which is valued round a whopping $161 billion.

The meals provide chain—which consists of manufacturing, processing, transportation, retail, and consumption—has many situations that contribute to meals waste.

Some examples embrace:

  • spoils throughout transportation
  • poor storage
  • extra ordered stock
  • undesirable “ugly” produce

Then, after all, we’ve got the environmental considerations to account for. As meals decomposes in landfills, it emits greenhouse gases, which quantities to eight % of world greenhouse fuel emissions.

By rising consciousness of this international concern and taking motion, we will all work collectively to attenuate meals waste.

Food handlers packing up a shipping truck to deliver food to grocers, the process of which can lead to issues with food sustainability

How to Eat More Sustainably

Here’s a fast information to sustainable consuming, with seven suggestions you need to be capable to incorporate.

1. Eat Seasonally

Choosing recent produce when it’s in harvest is an effective way to cut back meals waste. Specifically, this meals sustainability tip:

  • helps out native farms
  • reduces spoilage throughout lengthy transports
  • ensures that the product is more energizing, tastier, and extra nutrient-dense

rule of thumb is to eat recent when in season, and eat frozen and/or canned in any other case.

To work out what’s in season primarily based on the place you reside, purchase produce at your native farmers market or try the Seasonal Food Guide to simply seek for in-season produce by state and month.

2. Store Produce Strategically

Proper produce storage is necessary to keep up freshness and assist your haul last more, each inside and out of doors the fridge. Simply put, this equates to fewer fruits and veggies that get tossed.

Here’s a fast information that will help you retailer produce like a professional.

Store in a Cool, Dry Place (Not in Fridge):

  • bananas
  • tomatoes
  • potatoes
  • mushrooms
  • eggplant
  • winter squash 

Store in Fridge:

  • apples
  • lemons and limes
  • asparagus (wrapped in a moist paper towel)
  • carrots
  • broccoli
  • inexperienced beans
  • grapes, blueberries, cherries, strawberries (in plastic baggage with vents)
  • lettuce (washed and dried earlier than storage)
  • most fruits and veggies

Store at Room Temperature:

  • garlic and onions
  • mangoes, avocado, plums, peaches, and pears (ripened in brown bag, then put in fridge)
  • pineapple (the other way up for one or two days, then saved in fridge)
  • kiwi
  • oranges
  • complete melons

Woman prepping storage containers with produce as an easy sustainable eating tip

3. Shop Local

Buying meals at a close-by farmers market is one of the simplest ways to entry regionally grown recent meals.

When it involves meals sustainability, buying regionally helps to cut back gas price and CO2 emissions throughout meals transport. (Bonus: There’s additionally a better number of choices, that means chances are you’ll be apt to attempt one thing new!)

Another perk is getting to talk on to the farmer, which is an effective way to study how your meals was grown. They may also share skilled tips about the right way to put together or retailer the meals.

To discover your native farmers market, try the UDSA’s Farmers Market Directory, the place you possibly can search by ZIP code.

From there, in the event you’re new to the farmers market, attempt to scale down your expectations of what produce ought to seem like. Misshapen “ugly” produce hardly will get bought, and grocery shops have even began to throw it out earlier than putting it on the cabinets. But simply because it’s ugly doesn’t imply that it’s not nutrient-dense or scrumptious!

There are a number of packages whose mission is to cut back ugly produce waste by providing direct-to-consumer supply. Companies like Misfits Market supply natural, sustainably sourced produce at considerably decrease costs than you’ll discover on the grocery retailer. Other sustainable produce supply companies embrace Hungry Harvest, Imperfect Foods, and Farmer Jones Farm.

4. Plan Before You Buy

Interested in saving cash and meals? Who wouldn’t be?

Planning your meals upfront helps to cut back impulse purchases and improve consciousness about how a lot meals is definitely essential for meals.

The US Environmental Protection Agency provides the Food: Too Good to Waste marketing campaign, which gives sources to cut back wasteful meals administration practices. Check out their Smart Shopping template to create a grocery buying listing for much less wasteful meal planning. Additionally, there are different useful handouts on prepping and storing meals, plus the right way to create an “eat first” part in your fridge.

Next, shopping for strategically not solely assists with sustainable consuming, but in addition realizing when to throw out your meals. A staggering 80 % of meals will get discarded earlier than it truly spoils, largely on account of misinterpreting meals expiration labels, comparable to:

  • “best by”
  • “use by”
  • “best before”
  • “sell by”

Such labels aren’t all the time one of the best indicators if meals has spoiled—and fairly frankly, they are often complicated! In truth, these phrases and dates aren’t unanimously regulated, and are sometimes solely suggestions set by the producer primarily based on meals high quality (and never when the meals will truly expire).

To assist shed some gentle on these complicated labels, the Grocery Manufacturers Association, the Food Marketing Institute, and Harvard University complied a report to assist simplify meals expiration labels whereas nonetheless capturing the standard and security of meals:

  • “Best If Used By” is all about high quality. The product might not style or carry out texturally as anticipated previous this date, nevertheless it’s nonetheless protected to devour.
  • “Use By” applies to merchandise which might be perishable and will have meals security considerations over time.

Lastly, you possibly can all the time use your senses and intestine intuition. Smelling, trying, and tasting meals earlier than tossing it are higher choices to find out when meals is previous its prime.

Chickpeas in bulk at the farmers market; this sustainable eating tip can save the environment and your money

5. Buy in Bulk

Buying meals in bulk portions is an effective way to save cash. It additionally helps scale back plastic waste, in addition to different meals trash that results in landfills.

According to the EPA, over 20 % of meals containers and packaging contribute to complete waste technology in landfills.

Some of one of the best meals to purchase in bulk embrace:

  • espresso
  • nuts and nut butters
  • oatmeal
  • dried fruit
  • sweet
  • beans and lentils
  • rice and quinoa
  • pasta

Fortunately, bulk shopping for is not restricted to the likes of Costco or Sam’s Club. For digital purchases, a very good place to begin is BulkFoods.com. Otherwise, try the Zero Waste Home app for a fast search of your space on the place to search out bulk meals retailers.

6. Eat Less meat

Eating extra plant-based meals helps sustainable consuming, as elevating livestock requires a number of pure sources comparable to water, grain, and land.

In addition, your complete cycle of getting meat to customers wastes vital quantities of power. It releases greenhouse fuel emissions throughout each stage of transporting, processing, packaging, advertising and marketing, promoting, buying, and even cooking. In truth, the depletion of pure sources and  inadequate power use contributes as much as 20 to 30 % of greenhouse fuel emissions and two thirds of water use.

Note: Carnivores don’t have to chop out meat utterly to learn the planet or their very own well being. A 2019 evaluate concluded that if Americans have been to switch 25 % of meat-based proteins to plant-based options and scale back the remainder of their total consumption of meat by 25 %, this would scale back CO2 emissions by 40 % and reduce water utilization by 10 %.

Illustrated chart of how certain foods impact the environment and heart health

Here are a number of easy tricks to scale back your meat consumption:

  • observe Meatless Mondays
  • plan out plant-based meals upfront
  • ask plant-based pals for his or her favourite meatless recipes
  • mix meat and plant-based proteins
  • intention to chop out processed meats (bacon, deli meat, sausages) first

7. Donate Excess Food

With 35 million folks within the US battling starvation and meals insecurity, allocating extra meals into the arms of those people is significant.

Try to donate further meals to meals banks, soup kitchens, homeless shelters, or different native organizations as a substitute of tossing these things out. Feeding America has a web-based meals financial institution search to find the closest one to you. USDA’s Hunger Free America is one other on-line meals help search choice.

You may also inquire along with your metropolis/county to study meals drives and different methods to donate meals in your group.

Then, different tricks to scale back or reuse extra meals embrace:

  • bringing reusable containers for leftovers when eating out
  • splitting meals with others at eating places
  • portioning much less at self-serve meals bars and buffets
  • profiting from your leftovers
  • giving animal-friendly meals scraps to your pet or livestock

Last however not least, composting is nice in your backyard and lowering meals waste. (Compostable meals scraps embrace egg shells, fruit and vegetable skins, espresso grounds, and nut shells.)

Donation box of fresh foods to help the environment and community

The Bottom Line

Sustainable consuming is a worthy life-style follow to concurrently encourage good well being and protect our planet.

By following a number of of the meals sustainability suggestions above, you may get your essential vitamins whereas additionally lowering your carbon footprint and even saving cash.

As all the time, progress is the primary objective as we discover ways to eat extra sustainably. It’s necessary that all of us do our half to cut back meals waste and assist defend the atmosphere.