There are lots of ways to give back to good old Mother Earth in honor of Earth Day: planting a tree, starting a garden, working to clean up a local park. But so many of us are so busy that it can be hard to devote the time it seems to take... and yet, there are so many ways you can change up your routine right at home to celebrate Earth Day.
Here are 9 conscious eating habits you can change in time for Earth Day to make your living a little bit more sustainable. Some are small, and some require a little more commitment, but all are easy enough for even the busiest of us.
1. Go Veg... At Least Part Time
Meatless Monday is a regular in your household, and you've perfected a handful of vegetarian favorites, but could you be going vegetarian even more frequently? Studies show that the environmental effects of eating even just one pound of veggies in place of meat are enormous, thus the popularity of Meatless Monday to take small steps towards this goal.
But the rise of part-time vegetarianism is showing omnivores that eating meatless doesn't have to be restricted to Mondays. If Meatless Monday is already part of your weekly routine, try having a Meatless Wednesday too. Just be sure to include plant proteins in your meatless meals.
2. Make Your Meat Choices Responsibly
If you're not looking to make the full jump to vegetarian, that's okay too, but be sure that your meat is coming from a responsible source. Consider joining a meat collective or meat share to take advantage of whole animal butchering, and get close to the source. Befriend your local butcher or producer to ensure that the meat you're buying and preparing for your family is as organic and earth-friendly as possible.
3. Jump on the Locavore Bandwagon
You've probably already committed to eating more locally, but give yourself a challenge this Earth Day, and commit to eating ultra local.
Ultra local cooperatives are bringing food production and processing even closer, reducing the distance the food travels from origins to the dinner table. And if you take additional steps towards ensuring the distance from the store to your home is covered sustainably, for example by doing your shopping via bike, you'll be moving even more local.
4. Make Smart Substitutions
You don't have to give up your favorite foods in honor of Earth Day, but you can make some smart substitutions. The environmental impact of dairy production, for example, means that even if you're sourcing your cheese and milk locally, it might be time to take a step back, at least on occasion. Luckily, there are many ways to replace cheese and sour cream in your favorite dishes. One of our favorites is the humble avocado, which can be used to make anything from smoothies to onion dip to ice cream.
The same goes for eggs, which, while greener than most animal proteins, are not the greenest choice you can make. Substitute other leavening and binding agents for eggs while baking to reduce your carbon footprint.
5. Stay Seasonal and Get to Know New Ingredients
If you've already chosen to eat lots of veg and stay local, you're likely already eating seasonally, but making a conscious effort to eat seasonally is another important way to keep the earth happy.
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Seasonality changes depending on where you live, so take a look at a guide to regional seasonality like this one from Epicurious or this one from Sustainable Table. Both can help you see what's in season near you and help you plan some tasty recipes to celebrate Earth Day. To make this even easier, choose one new seasonal ingredient a week and incorporate it into one or two of your weekly meals. This will help you get to know new ingredients and create a concrete goal that's easy to meet when it comes to eating more seasonally.
6. Cook At Home 5 Times Per Week
We get it -- sometimes the last thing you want to do at the end of a long day is make dinner. But cooking at home isn't just better for your health; it's better for the environment. The environmental impact of home cooking consists of many different factors, including increased processing and storage of restaurant foods (including walk-in fridges and freezers), increased transport (of the food and of the diners!) and, of course, the attention that you as the cook can pay to where your ingredients are sourced.
7. Put Up Some Preserves
It's not quite the season for canning most things in many regions of the States, but don't reduce your idea of preserving to summer jams and homemade tomato sauce. Winter home canning is just as rewarding and allows you to take full advantage not only of winter produce but of this green preservation method. Put up some homemade giardiniera or pickled beets and keep them in the cupboard for when a craving hits this summer and winter veggies are no longer in season. It goes both ways!
8. Choose Sustainable Fish
You've probably been hearing about overfishing for quite some time, but by choosing sustainable fish instead of swearing off fish altogether, you can curb the problem of overfishing. The secret is in small fish like mackerel and sardines, which are forage fish or fish that are eaten by larger species. Get to know these fish and try to cook them once a week -- choose Nordic recipes, which tend to naturally feature these flavorful fish.
9. Choose Sustainable Restaurants
We promised you simplicity, and we meant it. Sometimes, you don't have time to cook, you don't have time to seek out the best local ingredients. We get it -- but that doesn't mean it's time to give up and surrender to industrial, processed food. Instead, choose to support a sustainable restaurant.
While very little can beat educated cooking at home, more and more restaurants are working towards sustainability in their kitchens, and it's important to support them as best we can.
An association for sustainable restaurants has already been started in the UK, and in the States, several sites like Eat Well Guide and the Green Restaurant Association allow diners to make educated choices when they decide to dine out.
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