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7 tips for eco-friendly eating on Earth Day

by Kelly McMath

From farming to transportation to processing and packaging, the amount of energy and emissions used to put food on our tables is hard on the environment. Try these seven eco-friendly eating tips to make a positive environmental impact and reduce your eco-footprint.

Choose organic or natural foods
One of the most popular eco-friendly eating habits is eating all-natural, organic foods.

"100% organic" means that the product contains only organic ingredients,
"organic" products contain at least 95 - 99% organic ingredients (by weight),
"made with organic ingredients" means that the product contains 70 - 94% organic ingredients, and
"all-natural" foods do not contain any artificial ingredients, colours or flavours and are minimally processed.

If you find organic produce a bank-breaker, choose fruits and vegetables that have been grown without chemical fertilizers or pesticides. Runoff from chemical fertilizers pollutes streams, rivers, and groundwater, and pesticides are dangerous to human health and poison the animals and ecosystems in and around sprayed agricultural fields.

Buy local
The origin of your food is important. Food can travel more than 5,000 kilometres from the farm to your plate, so food grown closer to home will have fewer transportation emissions associated with it.

You can find local food at farmer’s markets, and most grocery stores will carry a selection, though it’s often limited. If you want to see more local food in your grocery stores, speak to the store manager or contact the store’s head office. It will help them understand that the demand – and market - is there.

Sustainable seafood
Fish comprise the world’s largest wild food harvest and more than 120 million people globally are dependent on fish and seafood for both income and food, particularly in developing countries. Fish populations have been on a sharp decline due to over-fishing, and the world’s marine ecosystems are being impacted due to catch methods that can catch non-targeted species and dredge the sea floor.

Choosing sustainable seafood is a simple and effective way you can help promote healthy oceans and healthy humans.
Eat locally caught or farmed seafood that shows up on the green or yellow lists on seafood guides.
Avoid purchasing red-listed seafood and encourage your grocer to stop carrying these items.
Ask your fish store or server about the seafood they sell, and let them know you want to buy products produced from environmentally friendly sources.

Minimal processing and packaging
Avoid processed or over-packaged foods by shopping the perimeter of your grocery store for fresh items such as fruits and vegetables, bread, and dairy, and avoid the conveniently packaged fresh fruits and vegetables. Selecting your fruits and vegetables individually gives you greater quality control and ensures you buy only what you need.

Minimize food waste
Close to half of all food produced worldwide is wasted. It’s discarded in processing, transport, supermarkets and kitchens.

When people discard food, all the resources used to grow, ship and produce that food are discarded too, including massive volumes of water. The amount of water loss from food waste in the US alone is like leaving a tap running and pouring 40 trillion litres of water down the drain.

Most food waste won't happen if you take the time to plan better and sharpen your food storage skills. Buy only what you need, and eat what you have.

Compost food scraps
Composting food scraps can turn almost half of your kitchen waste into plant food. It’s a cheap and environmentally friendly way to feed your plants without the use of chemical fertilizers, and helps keep the soil naturally moist, minimizing the need to water.

You don’t need a big property or even a backyard to compost kitchen scraps. You can have a small compost container in an apartment or on a balcony using a container and worms.

If you don’t have a green thumb and don’t need compost for your own use, compost anyway and share it with neighbours who have lawns or gardens, or donate it to community garden projects.

Eat meat-free
Meat production is a major contributor to climate change. It’s estimated that livestock production accounts for 70 percent of all agricultural land and 26 percent of the land surface of the planet, and livestock account for a large share of greenhouse gases – almost 18 percent. That’s more than the world's transportation sector.

Reducing the amount of meat you consume can make a big difference. Consider going “meat-free” once a week. That small change can create habits that will make a lasting positive impact to both your health and the environment.

Making changes for the benefit of the environment is more than just reducing, reusing and recycling. It’s recognizing the role humans play in the world as a whole – and by respecting that role and being responsible, we can help promote a healthy planet for generations to come.

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