From when I was a very young girl, I have been conscious of my impact on the environment. I learned from my mom, who was taking her reusable grocery bags to the grocery store WAY before it was cool, being dubbed the “bag lady,” a label she wore proudly. We always recycled everything we could, and as I got older and learned more and more about how our choices impact the Earth, I’ve learned to reduce and reuse as well. When I went into my Masters Program for Nutrition and Integrative Health I kept seeing the pattern again and again: what is better for our bodies is also better for the planet. And it makes sense – we are a part of nature, we are nurtured by it as we nurture it. The more we hurt ourselves, the more we hurt the planet, the more we hurt ourselves, and the cycle continues. In honor of Earth Month, I have put together a list of changes you can make to better your health and that of the planet.
Studies are showing us that organic fruits and vegetables are higher in phytonutrients than non-organic foods which means more anti-inflammatory fighting power. The health of the soil is super important in the development of nutrients in our food. We know that glyphosate, the main ingredient in Round-Up, works as an antibiotic in the ground and on plants, and it works as an antibiotic in your gut too. Your microbiome and the biome of the soil are both negatively affected by the spraying of this chemical. The more we as consumers refuse to eat food grown with glyphosate and refuse to buy Round-Up, the bigger our impact will be. Head over to the EWG website to support their work in getting glyphosate banned.
The US throws out about 40% of the food it produces. Almost HALF of all food is thrown away. Much of this waste occurs before the food is even brought to you, the consumer. If a fruit or vegetable is deemed “ugly” then it is thrown away before ever making it to market. Whoever decided only “perfect” produce could be sold in stores did a huge disservice to the planet, as well as the farmers who produce our food. When you eat locally, either through a CSA or Farmers Market, you are helping to reduce this per-consumer waste and support families living in your community. Ordering from services such as imperfect foods and misfits market also helps reduce waste.
Concerned that your local farms aren’t labeled “USDA organic?” Rest a little easier knowing that the USDA certification is very expensive, so smaller farmers often are unable to get it, and may still use organic practices. Additionally, farms that grow a variety of produce, not just one crop, need less chemicals overall.
Bring Your Own
Instead of buying cans of beans, opt to bring your own container (I use mason jars) to fill in the bulk section of grocery stores. Aluminum cans are coated in plastic, exposing you to hormone disrupting chemicals. Even if the can is BPA free, it contains another form of BP-, which is also toxic. Bringing your own jars (or reusable bags) reduced your exposure to plastics AND reduces the resources you are consuming. Just head to the customer service desk of any store with a bulk section and have them weigh your container and write the tare weight on it before you head to the aisles. Buying beans in bulk like this will also require you to soak them overnight, which can make them more digestible for many people by reducing the phytate content.
Plant Your Own
We can all grow something at our own homes that can reduce the fossil fuels used to transport foods and the packaging used to sell it. Herbs do not need a lot of space and are easy to grow, even for those who don’t consider themselves to have a “green thumb.” Consider the herbs you use most often in your dishes and you’ll have an endless supply all summer! I also cut the excess at the end of the growing season and place on cooling racks in my house for about a week, until they are dried out then store them in glass jars for winter use.
Everyone starts somewhere on their journey to better health and treating the planet better. Start with something small that feels manageable to you and grow from there. Not everyone can do everything, but we can all do something.