Tomorrow is the 41st Earth Day. And today, Mike Sweeney, executive director of The Nature Conservancy in California, wrote a fantastic blog post — for the San Francisco Chronicle’s City Brights blog — on a question we can all relate to: what to eat?
For Sweeney, Earth Day starts in the kitchen. He writes, “As consumers, we have amazing power. The pen may be mightier than the sword, but the credit card makes them both cower in fear. Three times a day, and sometimes more, most Americans make a very important decision: what to eat”
In fact, the average American spent $6,100 on food in 2009. That’s a $1.9 TRILLION industry. And yet, most of us have no idea how our food got from, as Sweeney puts, “a field to our fork.” Of course, Sweeney also points out that now we’ve got locavores, ecotarians, and food patriots who are helping to improve our understanding. But how to eat healthy and sustainably can still be very confusing.
So, in time for Earth Day, Sweeney offers five tips for healthy, sustainable, Earth-friendly eating:
Eat Smart. Shoppers are bombarded with information and labels like “grass-fed,” “organic,” and “cage-free.” It’s hard to connect slogans with reality, so we have decoded all those food labels for you so you can make truly informed decisions.
Eat Local and in Season. And in California, that’s actually really easy. The Bay Area is home to more than 60 farmers’ markets, many of them running year round. The food is often tastier because it has been allowed to ripen longer than food from out of the area, and it didn’t travel as far–meaning fewer greenhouse gas emissions.
Eat Responsibly. As great as California is, some of life’s greatest pleasures, like chocolate and coffee, just cannot be grown here. But your dollars can be spent both ecologically and compassionately. When you choose “shade-grown” coffee you help preserve the rich variety of plants and animals whose habitat has been damaged by clearing land for agriculture. And when you get that chocolate craving, look for the “fair-trade” label. It means the chocolate was farmed and manufactured using sustainable methods and without child labor. It may not make dessert completely guilt free–but it helps.
Eat Sustainably. There’s an app for that. The Monterey Bay Aquarium’s respected Seafood Watch Program is available for Android and iPhone users alike and offers on-the-go access to sustainable seafood choices while shopping or dining.
Eat Out. Literally. Tomorrow, the Conservancy will be sponsoring “Picnic for the Planet,” a celebration of the planet where we live, the food it provides and the people with whom we share it. If you can’t make it tomorrow, then find a day in the near future to pack a picnic, gather friends and family in a city park and take advantage of the incredible natural wonders that we have here in the Bay Area.
Matt Barrett is marketing manager for climate change at The Nature Conservancy
Photo by Flickr user NatalieMaynor (Farmers’ Market)
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