It’s Earth Day today and the internet is celebrating Earth Day heroes, grocery stores are giving away trees, and over the weekend Earth Fairs took place in a lot of towns, introducing sustainable brands and products to consumers. In case you are wondering how all of this translates for you, may we offer five tips on how you can lead a more conscious lifestyle, one small habit at a time?
Earth Day takes place every year on April 22th and has been celebrated since 1970 – it is now happening in over 192 countries. While every country has their own ways for celebrating it, tailored to their situation and needs, the core of Earth Day remains the same: to increase awareness about environmental issues and to inspire people to respect every life on earth, while emphasizing serious concerns of pollution of air, soil and water.
We are excited to see how food has become more of a focus over the past years. The act of eating is an environmental act, because food is not grown on a grocery store shelf, but in a field, using many precious resources, and then distributed around the world. At Scrumptious Pantry we are working hard to give you foods that are sustainable from the ground up: starting with pure, unadulterated heirloom seeds (which are naturally non-GMO), working with sustainable family farms and then ensuring that the recipe is clean of fillers and additives – so that nothing comes between you and the authentic flavors of our heirloom foods.
But enough about us or Earth Day, let’s talk about five small habits that can make a big difference:
1. Eat your leftovers!
There is “ugly produce” that never makes it out of the field, there is the unsold food that is thrown away at the grocery stores and distribution centers, and then there is what we throw out in our homes because we bought too much or cooked too large a portion and the food either turns bad – or we just don’t want another bite of it.
On average, every American throws out 240lb of food per year. There is enough food wasted in the world, that we could feed four times as many people as are going hungry right now, worldwide.
Of course, much of this is a distribution problem that needs to be tackled on a political level. But you can start in your own home by being more conscious about the food you buy and the food you throw away: buy “ugly produce” (so called seconds) at the Farmers Market! Heirloom Tomatoes for example often have 20% seconds in the field alone, which many farmers don’t even bring to the market because they think consumers do not want them. Accept that in the evening, your baker might not have your favorite loaf anymore. A lot of waste stems from the fact that stores think they cannot run out of products before closing for the fear of alienating customers. So they overstock to be on the safe side. Also, don’t take expiration dates too seriously – except for fresh meat and dairy, those are best by dates only. Shelf stable food in cans and jars for example remains safe after the date. Manufacturers choose the date for maximum quality, as the product might change in color or texture. It is not a date that indicates a health risk. Use your leftovers, be creative in the kitchen! Turn them into omelette or a casserole. Can you make a soup? Or if you see you cooked too much, freeze some portions right away!
2. Use public transportation rather than your own car
According to the American Public Transportation Association, if one person changes from driving a 20-mile roundtrip commute to using public transportation, his/her CO2 emissions would cut down by 4,800 pounds per year, which means a 10 percent reduction in a two-car household’s carbon footprints. Plus, when you use public transportation, you will most probably walk a little more, too, which is good for your health and fitness. Even better of course is to bike!
Have you ever seen the mountains of trash in a landfill? We keep piling up the trash we throw away. According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, in 2010 we saved the equivalent of over 229 million barrels of oil by recycling and composting nearly 85 million tons of municipal solid waste. That’s a big number, and there is still room for improvement! Almost all recycling processes save energy compared to manufacturing from virgin materials. For example, up to 41 percent of an Aluminum can be recycled aluminum. That translates to a 95 percent energy saving compared to making a can from the virgin materials.
4. Use a tumbler cup
American used over 400 million cups a year, which means on average every one of us created about 23 pounds of waste every year in cups alone. Disposable coffee cups are usually made from styrofoam and paper. Both cups are cause of environmental contamination. Styrofoam cups take over 500 years to decompose. It just keeps piling up on our landfills. And do not be fooled by those paper cups – we cut down many trees to make paper cups, as recycling paper cannot be used to manufacture them. Use a tumbler cup – or better still a glass/mason jar – instead. Plus, some coffee store will give you a discount when you bring your own!
5. Bring your own bag
American use over 100 billion plastic bags in a year. Depending on the materials and the conditions, it can take up to 1000 years for them to decompose. So far, we are only recycling one percent of plastic bags. The easiest fix here is to bring reusable bags to the grocery store. Keep a couple of them folded up in your bag at all times (or in your car).
These are only five small habits with which you can make a big impact in your every day routine. And eating real food, of course!