Six Steps to a Greener Diet

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When did eating become so complicated? How do we sort our way through hundred mile diets and the dilemmas of omnivores? Should I feel terrible for eating California lemons in Canada?  

Everyone needs to eat but the act has evolved from necessity to complexity. Humans have developed an unhealthy relationship with food. As we struggle to embrace environmentally-responsible lifestyles, that relationship with food becomes even more complex. 

It’s enough stress to give anyone heartburn, but here are some simple suggestions to nurture your inner green foodie: 

1. Seek the local advantage.
If you can get fresh local produce in your community you are doing yourself and the planet a world of good—minimal transportation, minimal greenhouse gas emissions, minimal preservatives (and probably pesticides), and maximum flavor and nutrition. 

2. Eat your veggies … and fruit.
Mom was right, and there is no denying it. To paraphrase healthy eating pioneer and Fit for Life author Harvey Diamond, those scientific discoveries of health enhancing nutrients are never found in pork chops. Arguably, a vegetarian diet is easier on the planet and the body, as long as you eat a balanced diet to get all the nutrients you need. Meat, dairy, and grain production take more energy then they return and consume large tracts of land. Experiment by introducing more produce into your diet and try to go for a few days without meat.  

3. Cut out take-out.
If you have to order it through a clown’s mouth, eat it out of a waxed paper wrapper, or wait thirty minutes before it’s free, it is not a green food choice. The planet and your digestive tract will thank you for reducing or eliminating your fast-food consumption.  

4. Small meal = small energy. 
If you are heating up leftovers or a small meal, consider an energy efficient option to the stove or oven. A small electric grill or toaster oven will likely use less energy for the same task. As your large kitchen appliances wear out, consider recycling options, as well as replacement with Energy Star or other energy efficient models. 

5. If you can’t eat it, compost it.
Don’t let your food waste enter the landfill. Most food (meat and heavily processed and packaged foods being obvious exceptions) can be returned to the earth with minimal effort. Composting can be a great learning experience for kids as well. Don’t have a composter? Click here to read about how to create one whether you have a big back yard or not. 

6. Become food informed.
If people knew the history behind the food on their plate, it would change the modern American diet. We accept livestock bloated on antibiotics, pesticide-laden vegetables, depleted fish stocks on the verge of collapse and a grand experiment to genetically modify crop after crop. Fortunately, there are greener alternatives for meat and fish lovers, as well as recognized practices for sustainable and organic food harvesting. Ask your grocer and the owner of your favorite restaurant about their food suppliers. You deserve to know what you are eating and the impact it may be having on you and the planet.

By Curtis Cook is the Executive Director of the Clayoquot Biosphere Trust, President of Ecotactix and Founder of the Executive Centre for the Ecology Economy 

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