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By now we’ve all heard the “Inconvenient Truth” about the problems facing today’s environment and we have become swamped with ways to save energy, from changing our light bulbs to using public transportation. Sometimes it may seem daunting, or even tiring, but “going green” is not going away. With Earth Day upon us this month, here are five easy ways to become a more environmentally-conscious cook and consumer.
Plant a garden.
Planting a garden is one of the easiest ways to ensure your food is healthy and eco-friendly. No chemicals or pesticides will be added that the gardener doesn’t know about, and the food won’t have to travel by gas-driven vehicle to reach the kitchen! Also buying seeds and harvesting the fruit saves money over buying the vegetables from a farmer’s market or grocery store. Even city dwellers can dabble in gardening with hanging tomato plants or container gardening, which is becoming increasing popular and easy.
Compost – it’s free!
One way to avoid chemically fertilizing that garden is to make your own organic compost. Compost is made from the decomposition of plants, paper products, leaves and most kitchen scraps, and is a healthy, nutrient-rich addition to any flower bed, garden, or potted plant. Landfills are overflowing and waste management is becoming increasingly difficult and costly. All that is needed to start a compost pile to aid in the reduction of this waste is a container, air, and garbage! Again, even city dwellers can join the movement, with specially designed compost containers, some that are small enough to keep under the sink. To learn more or to purchase a container, visit howtocompost.org or teracycle.net.
Eat the “right” fish.
Overpopulation and overfishing are some of the ocean’s greatest threats. While most Americans probably wouldn’t eat a dolphin, eating halibut, flounder, or atlantic cod probably doesn’t sound any alarms. But according to many environmental groups, it probably should. The Shedd Aquarium in Chicago, in association with aquariums across the country and with the support of the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation, has launched a program called “right bite.” The right bite program promotes eating only fish that are abundant, well managed and caught or farmed in environmentally friendly ways, and avoiding items that are caught or farmed in ways that injure marine life or the ecosystem. To get a copy of the seafood wallet card that will guide consumers in these choices, visit www.sheddaquarium.org/right_bite.
The benefits of shopping local include supporting the local economy, getting the freshest possible ingredients, and sometimes enjoying the atmosphere at an outdoor farmer’s market. But studies show that shopping local and buying in season, is also good for the environment. Rich Pirog of the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture reports that the average fresh food item on our dinner table travels 1,500 miles to get there. Buying locally produced food eliminates the need for all that fuel-guzzling transportation.
Go vegetarian – even if it’s only once in a while! Many leading environmental organizations, such as the National Audubon Society and the Sierra Club, are now establishing the link between eating meat and eco-disasters like climate change. But for the average consumer, lean meats supply protein, variety and, the big one – taste! Many people cannot imagine giving up meat completely, but according to Environmental Defense, if every American skipped just one meal of chicken per week and substituted vegetarian foods instead, the carbon dioxide savings would be the same as taking more than a half-million cars off U.S. roads. Going completely vegetarian or vegan would be even better. A report by the University of Chicago in 2006 found that adopting a vegan diet has a greater impact in the fight against global warming than switching to a hybrid car does. GoVeg.com, which advocates eating vegetarian whenever possible, describes meat’s far-reaching environmental factors further, from the waste of land, to the inefficiency of feeding and transporting livestock, to the effects of animal feces on the environment.
For more recipes, tips and time-saving kitchen strategies, visit www.thedinnerspin.com.