More than three-quarters of Americans claim to be eco-friendly, yet when they consider their lifestyle a quarter of residents realize they do very little or nothing to protect the planet. It’s tough to remember to bring grocery cloth bags to the grocery store, and installing solar panels seems like a lot of work. But what if you knew that some simple dietary changes could have a big impact on the environment? Read on to discover the easy ways your plate could help the planet.
Embrace Meat-Free Monday
The environmental case for adopting a vegetarian or vegan diet is pretty compelling, but this change can be tough for the committed carnivores around the country. A much simpler approach is to experiment with a meat-free diet one day a week.
If everyone in the United States left meat off of their plate once a week, we’d save 100 billion gallons of water, which is enough to serve all the homes in New England for nearly four months. We’d also save 1.5 billion pounds of crops, which could feed the state of New Mexico for a year rather than hungry livestock. It would also reduce our country’s carbon dioxide emissions by 1.2 million tons, which is as much as France produces.
Vegetable rich pastas, soups, risottos, and salads taste so delicious, you probably won’t even miss your steak! Try experimenting with a range of mushrooms if you’re craving the earthiness of meat.
Choose a Non-Salt Water Softener
Water is one of the most commonly used elements in the kitchen, a base for stocks, sauces, soups, and beverages. However, more than 85 percent of American households have hard water, which can clog pipes and leave unsightly residue. Many households install a water softener to solve this problem, but many of these units also take a toll on the planet. To reduce the environmental impact, consider a non-salt water softener instead.
The waste water created by conventional water softeners is rich in chloride, which can harm plants and wildlife. A typical water softener can easily generate 600 gallons of waste water every year, so the impact of this refuse can’t be underestimated. The carbon footprint created transporting heavy bags of salt to the units should also concern sustainably-minded consumers.
Non-salt water softeners treat the water supply without stripping it of beneficial minerals including calcium and magnesium. That makes them a smarter choice for your health, your pipes, and the planet.
Eat Local Produce
A study by Toronto’s Food Share found the average North American meal contains ingredients from five different countries, which adds up to some serious food miles. Research suggests most American food travels almost 1,500 miles before it’s consumed. Compare that with a meal created from meat, fruit, and vegetables bought from the local farmers’ market. Altogether, that locally-sourced dish’s ingredients have traveled just 60 miles to get to your plate.
The importation of food is now the largest component of air freight, which generates more pollutants than any other form of transportation. The carbon footprint gets even larger when you consider the need for extended refrigeration and packaging.
So bypass the supermarket and start visiting your local farmers’ market instead. The produce you’ll find here is much fresher and more delicious. Your market purchases also support the planet and your region’s farmers.
Choose Whole Foods
Health professionals have encouraged us to steer clear of processed foods and choose whole foods for decades, but eco-warriors have a new reason to heed their advice. These foods also take a real toll on the planet. Food production and supply accounts for 19 percent of America’s energy use. The bulk of this energy is used producing and packaging convenient, yet unhealthy, processed foods.
So steer clear of the frozen food and confectionary aisles and spend more time loading up your kart with whole foods like fruits and vegetables, rice, and oats. Cooking from scratch takes a bit more effort than microwaving ready meals, but the planet, and your waistline, will thank you for it.
You are what you eat, but the planet is too. Make these simple dietary changes to show your support for the environment.