8 Easy Ways to Eat More Sustainably
BY CHEF GERARD VIVERITO
In an agricultural environment wired for industrial-style efficiency and speed, shopping for sustainable food can feel like slogging through a cranberry bog in October. Here’s the good news: It’s really easy to green up your grocery cart. Here are some tips to help ease the burden and keep your conscience happy.
How can we eat more sustainably?
EAT LESS MEAT AND MORE BEANS
Peas, lentils, and other legumes are called nitrogen “fixers.” They convert inert gas from the atmosphere into the type of ammonia needed for plant food, reducing the need to use as much synthetic nitrogen fertilizer. Livestock is a major driver of deforestation and loss of biodiversity. Livestock requires about 3.9 billion hectares of land for grazing and to produce animal feed. That’s an area 5 times larger than Australia.
BUY EGGS, MEAT, AND DAIRY PRODUCTS FROM SUSTAINABLE FARMS
Many supermarkets now carry a selection of local, sustainably produced animal products. You may also be able to find many of these ingredients at local co-ops.
BUY WILD-CAUGHT US SEAFOOD
American fisheries have some of the most stringent ecological rules in the world. Be open to sampling different fish species. If we ate what the oceans were sustainably supplying instead of insisting on only a few preferred fish species, we would further cut down on over-fishing our waters.
LOOK FOR PALM OIL ON THE LABEL
Eighty percent of our palm oil comes from Malaysia, where it is sustainably grown and harvested. Palm oil has enabled Malaysia’s smallholders to earn more money and improve their standard of living. Plus palm oil production requires 7 to 10 times less land area than vegetable crops (such as soy and canola) to produce the same amount of oil. The Malaysian palm oil industry is also heavily involved with wildlife conservation. Other countries producing palm oil have yet to live up to Malaysia’s example.
SIGN UP FOR A COMMUNITY SUPPORTED AGRICULTURE PROGRAM (CSA)
We all know the advantages to buying local produce, but not everyone has time to visit a farmer’s market consistently. CSA members purchase a share of local farmers’ crops in return for part of their harvest. In many cases, the farmer will deliver your healthful food to a convenient predetermined location, often with cooking suggestions.
From a tiny window planter with your favorite herb to a sprawling community garden, there’s an option for everyone to experience the satisfaction of cultivating their own food. And nothing says “local” more than food grown in your own yard or neighborhood.
BUY DRY GOODS IN BULK
This cuts down on packaging for such things as flour, sugar, and cereal grains and enables you to buy just what your family will consume. Most supermarkets now have dry good bins.
BUY IN-SEASON PRODUCE
In most cases, you’ll get better tasting and fresher produce. Buying seasonally also reduces the need for food to be trucked in from across the country. Right now, winter squashes and crisp apples are at their peak.
There are now several online grocery retailers that deliver local, organic, and natural products directly to your front porch. This makes it super easy to find and purchase sustainable foods. With this technology, it’s like being able to shop at your nearest farmer’s market from the convenience of your desk or phone.
Check out these recipes provide by Chef Viverito:
Not sure what to do with all that fresh sustainable food? Check out the easy fusion recipes in the Back to Basics: Culinary Delights with Palm Oil, by Ryan Khang. All proceeds go to the Malaysian Palm Oil Wildlife Conservation Fund, which supports biodiversity and wildlife conservation efforts.
Chef Gerard Viverito is a culinary instructor and the director of Culinary Education for Passionfish, an NGO non-profit organization dedicated to educating people around the globe on the issue of sustainability in the seas. He is also the operator of Saveur Fine Catering, a company whose beliefs and products center on local, sustainable, and organic foods. Chef Viverito has dedicated a large part of his career to honing his ability to add nutritional ingredients to dishes and gain healthful results without compromising on texture or taste.