Earth Day-dreaming

sunflower:turbine fieldI was lucky enough to speak with students while presenting at the Youth Climate Summit at Columbia University this week, making Earth Week 2018 that much more meaningful for me. The topic of the presentation was Food Production/Food Waste & the Effect on our Climate. I’m always encouraged and invigorated by these talks with students. Our youth are more tuned in to the environment than we realize. They understand that our current path is not sustainable – and they are not hopeless. They get it and they are coming up with solutions! In honor of Earth Day 2018, let’s all take steps to safeguard the next generation’s future on this planet by making common sense adjustments that have a big impact.

Easy Adjustments for a more Sustainable Life

Re-Think Your Plate

cattleOur animal agriculture system and appetite for meat is unsustainable. Farm animal waste and gas are responsible for 51 percent of greenhouse gas emissions from the agriculture sector. And the primary driver for deforestation worldwide is to clear land for cattle. Paleo, Keto and other high protein diets are popular, but they demand a steep price of the environment. By replacing just half of your daily meat diet with a plant-based one, you will reduce your water/carbon footprint by up to 30 percent. Going vegetarian or vegan cuts that same foot-print in half. Animal proteins have a tremendous impact on our increasingly precious resources – air and water. Did you know that a single hamburger requires over 700 gal. of water and produces 6.8 lbs. of carbon emissions? Meatless Mondays are a start, but if Americans replace a beef diet for a plant-based diet – we could nearly meet our 2020 Greenhouse-Gas emission goals.

You may not realize that some of your favorite plant-based foods are packed with protein:

Hummusbrussel sprouts

Quinoa

Tofu

Peanut Butter

Edamame

ALL Beans!

Wild Rice

Bananas

Soy milk

Almond Butter

Oatmeal

Protein-packed veggies:  broccoli – spinach – asparagus – potatoes – sweet potatoes – brussel sprouts – artichokes – mushrooms – kale – peas – corn

All food has a water/carbon footprint. This list of 10 foods represents what the water and mileage equivalents are per pound: Screen Shot 2018-04-22 at 10.32.35 PM

Get Organized To Prevent Food Waste

Food Waste2A recent food waste study reports that Americans create one pound of food waste per person/per day on average. For the country’s population, that works out to be 118,880,500,000 pounds per year! This figure is particularly troubling when you consider that 80 to 90 percent of consumable water goes to animal agriculture and 75 percent of arable land is used to grow feed for animals intended for consumption. Beyond the resource cost to grow that wasted food, once dumped into landfills, food waste generates methane gas – which is 21 times more heat producing in the environment than carbon dioxide.

When it comes right down to it, individual food waste is ultimately the result of poor planning. By being organized about the meals you plan to create around the food you buy, the odds are good that less will get tossed out. A three to five day plan for that whole, roast chicken or fresh vegetables is helpful not only for your wallet, but for the planet.

Skip the Straw

Screen Shot 2018-04-22 at 6.55.55 PMThe world is beginning to take  notice of the 8.3 billion plastic straws lining the earth’s coastlines. In fact, the U.S. alone has a 500,000,000 plastic straw habit. Daily. The capture and recycling rate on straws is abysmal. Prime Minister Theresa May recently announced  plans to ban plastic straws, stirrers and plastic-stemmed cotton swabs in the U.K.. Marcus Eriksen of 5 Gyres www.5gyres.org categorizes straws, plastic bags, and cups as the “smog of microplastics” in their effect on our oceans and marine life.Screen Shot 2018-04-22 at 9.25.37 PM

Start your own ban. If you must sip from a straw, pick up some paper ones or a reusable stainless steel or glass option. And you can request “no straw” with your drink order. There are restaurants and bars that provide them only on request or have stopped supplying them entirely and report no significant complaints. In fact, it’s only been in the last 20 years that straws began automatically appearing with every cold beverage. The waste generated by this minimally used convenience item is staggering. So #stopsucking! and be part of the solution.

Plastic Packaging

Just as with the ubiquitous plastic straw, much of the plastic packaging that we consume is unnecessary. Once you take a look at your trash after source separating out your recyclables and food waste, you’ll find mostly soft plastics. I challenge you to shop with an eye for food products that are packaged in paper and glass. Both of these materials are recyclable, but more importantly, they are not toxic to the environment.  Avoid taking plastic produce bags in the fruit/veggie section, and pass on a bag at checkout all together when picking up small items at the shops on the way home. Chances are the bag you are already carrying can handle those items. Reusable bags are light and require very little space. Invest in a few and tuck them into all your favorite bags, purses and coat pockets so that you’ll always have one on hand.

Our Individual Footprint

Lauren Shepard

Lauren Shepard

It’s time that we step up and acknowledge our contribution to the degradation of our environment in terms of the daily choices we make. Zero-waste is an intimidating term for most of us, but I encourage you to check out these inspiring zero-waste blogs. Think of each step as progress and do what you can. I like Lauren Shepard’s (Trash is for Tossers) quote : “attempting to go zero-waste all at once is like trying to lose 40 pounds in a day”. The goal is to identify the waste items that are easy to eliminate, and grow from there.

FlowerIconTinyI’ve featured Kathryn Kellogg’s Going Zero Waste, which continues to be very worth following.

FlowerIconTinyWasteland Rebel features Zero Waste bulk stores around the world on a recent post.

FlowerIconTinyZero Waste Guy offers an educated response from Environmentalist Jonathan Levy.

FlowerIconTiny

Bea Johnson

Bea Johnson

The grand-mama of them all, Zero Waste Home offers Bea Johnson’s perspective. Bea pretty much put the term zero-waste on the map with her 2013 Book, Zero Waste Home.

These zero-waste blogs are powerful! While still on a zero-waste high from reviewing them, I walked away from the olive oil spray  at the grocery. I was about to grab two – when it dawned on me that I had existed for weeks without it. I simply poured the olive oil directly in the pan. No big deal. Sure, the can is recyclable, but the plastic cap and nozzle are more problematic now that China has put a moratorium on accepting our scrap materials. I moved on to the pasta, and opted for the slightly more expensive (organic) brand in a paper bag rather than one packaged in plastic. We can each take more responsibility in our purchasing/food choices and the environmental footprint we create.

Tags: , , , ,

About the Author

Here at Jenny Green Jeans, by sharing success stories and easy-to- implement tips, I hope to inspire and empower you to continue to make sustainable choices in your life and watch how far the impact goes. Contact me with any questions or suggestions you may have.

Post a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Top