Remember when Hybrid cars came on the scene and made the world hyper aware of our ‘Carbon Footprint’? That was nearly 20 years ago, believe it or not. During that time, society began focussing on reducing waste output and increasing efforts toward sustainability. Hybrid cars are great, but is there more to sustainable, clean living than just driving a Prius? Should we be making more basic, day-to-day choices that promote less waste and embody eco-friendly ideals? The answer is simple: HECK YES!! Perhaps the greatest impact we make on the environment revolves around our food choices- what we’re eating, what we’re using to eat it, and where we’re getting our food from all impact our earth. There are only 112 (as of Monday, Sept 9) days left in 2019, but don’t panic! There is still plenty of time to begin reducing your environmental footprint based solely on choices centered around food, 3 of which we will address specifically throughout this blog. Let’s get to it!
Avoid Packaged Snacks and Processed Foods
Step one in reducing our environmental footprint through food is a no brainer: discontinue purchasing processed food and avoid consumption of packaged snacks. It sounds simple, and it is, BUT unfortunately, simple does not always mean easy. Breaking up with the conveniently packaged packs of crackers, string cheese, baby carrots, apple slices, etc. can be especially difficult for mamas caring for constantly hungry little people while simultaneously juggling always being on the go. It’s A LOT, we get it! Like with most challenges we face, it helps to stay motivated when we focus on our ‘why’. Why is focussing on sustainability with food important? Why do the choices we make today impact the world tomorrow? Why is it our job to make a conscious effort to reduce single-use products and eliminate waste?
Hands down, the best and easiest way to begin ditching packaging and processing is to focus heavily on eating raw and eating local. Whether you cook on a gas stove or an electric stove, you’re still adding to your environmental footprint each time you turn it on to reheat or cook a meal. Every. Single. Time. Cooking less reduces your power usage, which is one of the largest parts in the footprint of the average American. Of course we can’t all eat only raw food all the time, especially with winter coming (what is winter without chili!). If you must heat food, the best option is to simmer on the lowest setting of your stovetop. Your next best option is to use the microwave, as it uses 50% less energy than the oven.
Purchase fresh vegetables, nuts and meat from the farmers market or your local butcher whenever possible. Buying local cuts down on packaging, especially styrofoam, and also ensures you’re getting the freshest, least chemically processed groceries, which is crucial when eating raw! As a mom, having snacks on hand constantly is a must. Buying celery, cucumbers, carrots, berries and apples from the local market makes it easy to stock the fridge for hungry kids (and hungry mamas too!) My best tip for limiting stove and oven use is to cook in bulk. This is a cinch to accomplish during the cooler months, and fall is quickly approaching! Simmer a large stockpot of your favorite soup, chili, or stew on low until cooked to perfection, freezer or refrigerate the leftovers, and reheat one bowl at a time in the microwave for footprint-free remainder of 2019!
Say NO to Bottled Water & Single Use Kitchen Waste
We’ve discussed in great detail the dangers of plastic and why all humans of all ages should be avoiding it at all costs. While we’re all making conscious efforts to become BFFs with our reusable glass bottles and stainless sippy cups for our kids (YAY!), there are often times that it seems nearly impossible to get by without the painfully common plastic, disposable water bottle. They’re everywhere! When you get to the gym and realize you’ve left your water at home, at birthday parties, tailgates and school functions, in the office at corporate lunch...what’s a gal to do? Say NO! We know the health risks of disposable plastic use. We “know” single use plastic is bad for the environment...but do we really know? (You may want to sit down for this.) Each and every single year, 2.5 million tons of carbon dioxide are released into the atmosphere just from bottling water. Additionally, it takes 17 million barrels of oil to produce one year’s worth of bottled water. To put those monumentally big numbers into perspective, that’s enough oil to fuel 1.3 million cars for the year or power 190,000 homes. WHOA! Need a little more fuel for your ‘why’? It’s estimated that you could save an extra $1,800 per year by drinking 8 glasses of water from your filter at home versus purchasing cases of plastic bottles at the store. Cha-ching!
In addition to permanently removing single use plastic bottles from our lives, eliminating the excessive kitchen waste in our homes is a surefire way to reduce your environmental footprint from food before 2020 rolls around. Let’s start where the day starts, first thing in the morning when we reach for mama-fuel ...coffee! Breakup with coffee pods and K-Cups and invest the few dollars into a reusable coffee pod. Similarly, discontinue purchasing coffee filters and make the shift to a reusable net filter for your traditional coffee pot. In combination with your reusable coffee pods and filters, it’s now time to start buying in bulk! Coffee, nuts, rice, beans, you name it. Purchase your dry pantry goods in bulk and store them in glass jars for ultimate, eco-friendly freshness. Between packing lunches, snacks on the go and even storing pre-cut veggies, ziploc sandwich baggy’s convenience are not worth their faults. By choosing plastic-free storage, we protect our children and our environment while simultaneously providing our children with the tools they need to grow, develop and thrive today, tomorrow and in the future.
If you’re not quite ready to fully commit to a zero waste lifestyle, be sure to avoid using and purchasing plastic and recycle, recycle, recycle whenever possible. Jars of baby food, cans of La Croix, paper towels, and so many more basic, day-to-day kitchen necessities can be recycled! We share a number of plastic free kitchen staples here, check it out and share any of your favorite plastic free kitchen items with us in the comments!
Yet another fool proof way to reduce your environmental footprint through food in the last 100ish days of 2019 is to C-O-M-P-O-S-T! Did anyone else read that to the tune of Aretha Franklin’s ‘Respect’? It’s the perfect song to remind us of the 5th concept in zero waste living: ROT.
Thankfully, we have two options when it comes to reusing kitchen food scraps, both of which will surely make a dent against our environmental footprint this year! By composting food waste instead of simply throwing it away, waste returns to the earth and does not make an environmental footprint at ALL! Composting is the epitome of going green. By returning organic matter to the soil through produce scraps like orange peels, apple cores, zucchini stems and countless others, we can provide our plants and gardens with natural, toxic-free fertilizer. As an added bonus, composting reduces landfill congestion and toxic overflow. Not sure if your kitchen scraps are composter compatible? Check out this extensive list and amazing resource from Small Footprint Family!
Our second option turns trash into treasure through regrowth. The following foods can all be regrown and reproduced from their leftover scraps: onions, garlic, celery, strawberries, lemons, pineapple and ginger. You can find full, detailed instructions on how to best regrow these kitchen scraps into fully grown produce in a truly insightful blog post from ‘Real Self-Suffieciency’ (linked above and below.) The downside to regrowth and composting? There isn’t one! So TRY IT!
You’ve Got This!
Reducing your environmental footprint through food before year’s end may not be effortless, but it is an absolutely 100% attainable goal! By avoiding processed and packaged foods, saying ‘no’ to single use plastics and integrating composting into you green living practices, you’ll be improving your ‘food footprint’ in no time at all. Finish 2019 with sustainability in mind and ‘become eco-friendly’ won’t even need to be on your 2020 New Years Resolution list! You’ve got this!!
Do you have any eco-friendly tips to share with us? Questions regarding why sustainable living is the right fit for everyone? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or email me directly!
Jess from The Penguinni Family
Email me! email@example.com
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