Many of us are open to buying food from companies and countries that are committed to protecting the environment. But even though we want to be more socially responsible, life happens. We’re rushed by the time we arrive at the supermarket. We’re hungry. We just don’t have the time to read every ingredient on the nutrition label. Here’s the good news: There are simple shortcuts you can take that will green up your grocery cart.

What’s “sustainable”, anyway?
Sustainable foods are healthy for the environment, wildlife and our bodies. Sustainable food producers care about their workers’ standard of living. Sustainable is about minimizing the carbon footprint, and maximizing food security.

How are five ways to eat more sustainably

  1. 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 that’s five times larger than Australia.
  2. Buy wild-caught U.S. 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.  
  3. Look for palm oil on the label. Ninety 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.  
  4. 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.
  5. Grow your own garden. 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.

Now what to do with all that good food? Check out the easy fusion recipes in the Back to Basics cookbook, available on Amazon. All proceeds go to the Malaysia Palm Oil Wildlife Conservation Fund, which supports biodiversity and wildlife conservation efforts.

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