Top 10 Ways To Eat Sustainably
Chris Vogliano RDN, MS, LDN
Clinical Research Associate at Arivale, 2016 Unilever Agent of Change.
We all want to play our part in saving the planet, so here are the top 10 ways to make your mealtimes more sustainable.
1. TRY PLANT-BASED VERSIONS OF YOUR FAVORITE PROTEINS
Eating less meat is an environmentally responsible way to save money and the planet. The carbon footprint of a vegetarian diet is between 25-40% smaller than that of a meat-eater’s diet. Choosing plant-based protein options such as lentils, beans, tofu, or quinoa can pack a protein punch that’s easy on your wallet. Check out meatlessmonday.com for alternatives to your favorite dishes.
2. THINK CRITICALLY ABOUT PACKAGING
While foods have varying impacts on the environment, so do the packages they come in. Single-serve food items are usually more expensive, and leave behind a trail of packaging waste. Try buying foods in bulk, such as nuts, beans, and whole grains. Some companies have transformed their packaging to dramatically reduce waste. For instance, Lipton® tea packets are now foil wrapped in bulk to save on packaging as well as protect the delicious flavor of the tea.
3. CHOOSE RESPONSIBLY SOURCED INGREDIENTS
Knowing where your products come from, and if their ingredients are sourced responsibly, is a great way to make sure you’re buying a high quality product that is sustainable and ethical. Consider buying meats from a local butcher, choosing dairy products with no added growth hormones such as Breyers® Natural Vanilla ice cream , or choosing brands and products that include cage-free eggs, like Hellmann’s® mayonnaise.
4. DON’T BITE OFF MORE THAN YOU CAN CHEW
We’ve all been there. Shopping or dining out while hungry can result in buying too many groceries or ordering too much food. This can be both costly on your wallet, as well as the environment. Food waste is the single largest component of our garbage. In fact, nearly 40% of food in America ends up wasted or thrown out in a landfill . Try planning your meals for the week to better estimate your exact needs. Also, try to not shop while hungry, as this will likely increase your impulse purchases. Buying only the food you’ll eat is a budget-friendly approach to reducing your environmental footprint.
5. WRITE THE DATE
Keep a permanent marker by your fridge and pantry, and write the date on which you opened the product to remember when it was first used. This simple tactic can be the saving grace between tossing safe food too soon. This technique also works well for frozen foods.
6. SAVE—AND ACTUALLY EAT— LEFTOVERS
Leftovers are inevitable. They come in many forms, shapes, and sizes, and are often forgotten about in the back of our fridges. Whether it’s a leftover sandwich from your favorite deli, or extra pasta from a family dinner—it all adds up. Eating leftovers will save you money and reduce your footprint. Be sure to eat leftovers within 3-4 days. Freezing leftovers is always an option, too. Have leftover Hellmann’s® Spinach & Almond Crusted Chicken from lunch yesterday? Add it on top of your favorite mix of veggies for a flavorful, nutritious salad for the next day.
7. EXPIRATION DATES ARE NOT ALWAYS EXPIRATION DATES
We commonly say the phrase “that food is expired,” when in fact many foods don’t actually have the word ‘expired’ written on them. The vast majority of foods say “sell by, use by, best if used by,” etc. These dates are not always indicators of safety, but are placed on the foods by manufacturers to indicate peak quality . After this date, some products may decline in flavor, texture, or color—but are not necessarily unsafe to eat. When in doubt, refer to the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) guidance on food product dating and shelf life.
8. SPICE UP THAT EXTRA PRODUCE
We all have leftover produce laying around that’s about to reach its end. Before it spoils, use it! Add your leftover veggies to Knorr® Rice Sides™ with your preferred protein (such as beans, tofu or chicken), and transform it into a delicious and nutritious meal. Just follow three simple steps: Knorr® Sides + Protein + Veggies = Main Meal.
9. DONATE EXCESS FOOD
Research shows that 1 in 7 Americans are considered to be food insecure , so diverting unwanted or wasted food from the landfill to hungry people can be extremely valuable. In the private sector, retailers, hospitals and restaurants can save money on their disposal costs, as well as write the donations off on their taxes— saving both types of green, the environment and money. Individuals can also contribute to their local food banks, which commonly accept fresh produce, canned foods, and dairy and juice within their expiration date. Check out feedingamerica.org for more information.
10. THERE’S AN APP FOR THAT!
Download an app to help you reduce your footprint such as the USDA FoodKeeper app, aimed to help reduce food waste. This app helps you determine best storage practices, leftover guidelines, and other tricks to keeping food around as long as possible. Ample Harvest is another app that helps those with extra garden produce to donate to their local food bank or pantry.
This resource was originally created in 2016 by Chris Vogliano RDN, MS, LDN, founder of Ethical Food Warrior and a Unilever Agent of Change. Chris Vogliano was compensated for his time and services.