On Thursday April 23rd, the Dining Commons will be celebrating Earth Day. I look forward to Earth Day each year as it's a great time to stop and appreciate the place we live. I try to go outside and enjoy the beauty of the outdoors and to think about how I can contribute more to preserving our Earth. The dining commons are participating in Earth Day activities and in planning for the event I thought I would share some easy tips you can incorporate into your everyday life that are Green!
1. Eat whole food with less processing. In general, this is a great way to incorporate more earth friendly options into your diet. But it is also a good idea, from a nutritional perspective. As a Dietitian I encourage “whole foods” that are nutrient dense instead of just energy dense. To better understand this let me better define nutrient dense and energy dense. Nutrient dense foods provide nutrients for your body like fiber, vitamins and minerals in addition to calories protein and more. Energy dense foods, or high calorie foods, provide many calories with little value to your body.
Here is a great example of a whole food vs. an energy dense food. A potato (one ingredient) compared to instant mashed potatoes. The ingredients include: Idaho Potatoes with emulsifier (mono and diglycerides) and preservative (sodium acid phrophosphate, sodium bisulfite, citrix acid, mixed tocopherols).
Sounds too much like chemistry to me! So what does all that mean? From an environmental view, there are a lot more ingredients that are added and each item could potentially be coming from around the world. From a nutritional view, the processed food in this case has fat, sodium and other items added to it.
2. Choose seasonal produce. Generally, if you buy fruit and vegetables that are in season they tend to taste better and are generally less expensive to purchase. Also choosing local produce helps supports our local economy and decrease the amount of produce exported out of the county. Eating more local, seasonal food reduces the energy needed to grow and transport the food you eat.
3. Buy in bulk. Avoid extra waste from packaging. Buying in bulk can potentially be less expensive on a per item basis. Packaged food tends to require more transportation. And the packaging waste has to go somewhere- some of it can be recycled but other parts will go directly to the landfill.
4. Eat less animal foods, especially meat and dairy. The easiest way to reduce your water footprint is to eat less meat and dairy. The National geographic stated that on average a vegan person who doesn’t eat meat or dairy uses 600 gallons of water per day less than the average American diet. I am not saying become a vegan today – but as you can see meat and dairy require a lot of resources. And from a nutrition standpoint, there is strong evidence showing that red meat and processed meat consumption increases the risk of cancer.
5. Drink tap water and avoid buying bottled water. Not only is this better for the environment, but it is also cheaper as well. Consider always having a reusable water container with you instead of opening a bottle of water.
6. Try not to waste food. Try taking smaller portions and then going back for seconds if you are still hungry. Fortunately, at the dining commons your plate waste in the dining commons is made into compost.
You can make a difference; it’s your choice!