By Analiese Paik
Each Earth Day I feel obligated to bring awareness to the important role each of us plays in protecting the environment and preserving our ability to feed ourselves sustainably. Today, it’s in the form a list of ways you can say “I love you” to Mother Earth. Imagine the impact on our town, county, state and country if each citizen were to commit to doing just one or 2 items on the list below. How many do you already do? Which will you start doing? Please comment at the end and share any additional ideas. Happy Earth Day!
- Buy a bottle of organic wine and share it with some friends. You’ll find a nice list of suggestions at the bottom of this article. Chat about your favorite local farmer and how much you love their CSA program, or your local farmers’ market. Consider it outreach!
- Pledge to stop throwing away plastic bags that your food comes in. Designate a bag in your house as the “bag bag”; put it in a convenient place (near recycling maybe) and fill it all week. Drop the contents in the receptacle at your local Whole Foods Market the next time you are in the area.
- Ditch the bottled water. You’ll save money! Buy each member of the family a stainless steel thermos, then fill them with filtered tap water and pack them in the car whenever you go out. If you’re a seltzer drinker, invest in a Soda Stream maker. You’ll never have to buy and lug bottles (glass or plastic) back and forth to the store again and you’ll lower your environmental impact considerably. Plus, it’s a lot of fun to make homemade seltzer!
- Shop area farmers’ markets to support our local food shed and enjoy eating locally in season. When you stop to think about it, most of us eat the same 10 vegetables over and over. Why not add some flavor and nutrient diversity to your diet? Farmers’ markets will begin opening in May. Please consult our 2013 Guide to Farmers’ Markets for hours and locations.
- Stop wasting food! Almost 40 percent of the food produced in the US is wasted, from the farmers’ fields to our plates. Cut down on food waste by not overbuying, practicing “use it or freeze it”, and by committing to having “Clean out the Refrigerator Night” once a week. Consult our guide to reducing food waste for more ideas.
- Buy organic, Fair Trade coffee and tea for home preparation and make a mental (or SmartPhone note) of our recommendations for enjoying a Sustainable Cup o’ Joe while on the go. Even small buying choices like these can make a significant impact over time. Fair Trade or Direct Trade products ensure that farms employ sustainable growing practices and workers are treated fairly (no slave or child labor) and paid a market wage.
- Sign up for a CSA. C’mon I know you’ve been mulling over the pros and cons. Is it worth it? Will I get too much food? What if I get something I don’t like or don’t know how to cook? It’s definitely worth it because you’re buying up front, directly from the farmer, and that warrants a discount. If you get more food than you can eat, give some away or blanch and freeze it. If you get something you absolutely are certain you won’t eat, swap it with someone else at pick up. Your farmer will send recipes or post them on their Facebook page to inspire you to cook with new vegetables.
- Compost your food waste! Coffee grounds, tea bags, fruit and vegetable peels, wilted and spoiled fruits vegetables and herbs all go into the pile along with leaves and grass clippings. The worms will find it and turn it into compost for our garden (free!). Food that goes into landfills cannot decompose. Instead it produces methane gas, a known greenhouse gas that contributes to global warming and climate change.
- Choose only sustainable seafood. Do not eat Atlantic (US or Canadian) cod, haddock or yellowtail flounder regardless of how it’s caught. Cod has long been depleted and Georges Bank and Gulf of Maine fisheries are considered important conservation stocks according to Seafood Watch. Eat less fish overall by replacing those meals with sustainably grown lentils, beans, tofu, and other plant-based proteins. Buy only sustainable seafood, both at retail and in restaurants, by consulting the Seafood Watch mobile app. Locally farmed shellfish and small fish like anchovies, sardines, and mackerel are among the best choices.
- Make your beef grass-fed and resolve to eat less meat. Factory farmed meat is routinely administered hormones, antibiotics and fed GMOs, which takes a heavy toll on the environment. Consult our Guide to Grass-Fed Beef for area resources.