A woman walks through a garden with a basket of fresh vegetables
(Image credit: Valeriy_G)

The world is changing, and with it our habits. As we learn more about what the Earth is undergoing, we are also aware that these changes affect our lives and those of every organism on the planet. By making some alterations to how we behave and source our needs, we can have a beneficial impact and in some cases, reverse the damage human intervention has wrought. Sustainable, healthy eating is a good step that will provide the nutrients we need to thrive, while avoiding harnessing too much of our planet’s resources.

Wide scale food production and the transport of that food uses much of our fresh water, fuel, and is related to deforestation and pollution. Minimizing the impact we have on the earth via our eating choices is a smart way to do our part in sustaining the Earth. Eating sustainably is only one way we can make a positive impact on our global environmental crisis, but it's a smart and easy start.

Guide to Sustainable Eating

Sustainable eating habits may take some time to develop, but once undertaken, can be a positive change that can have a big impact. Such a change can reflect one’s values and influence those around us. The key to eating sustainably is making reflective choices. Reducing our consumption of animal products, which cause an increase in harmful gas emissions, can be a small part of the alterations.

The cost of raising our food animals, the often deplorable conditions in which they live, the transport and processing costs, and the amount of water and food consumption required are all reasons to at least consider going meatless a few times a week. Such a low key adaptation can minimize the unhealthy impact livestock have on soil, air, and water. A plant based diet still offers all the nutrients we need if the plant pairings provide protein. Nuts and legumes are high in proteins and may actually benefit the soil health rather than depleting it of nutrients and destroying its composition.

Keep it Close

The cost to process and transport many of our foods also adds harmful emissions to the environment. Seeking local sources of food, or using the farm to table model, can minimize those concerns. Selecting organic foods grown locally has added benefits.

Organic foods do not rely upon herbicides and pesticides. These chemicals pollute the water table and wild waters. They also reduce soil erosion and energy use. As an added bonus, organic foods produced locally will be fresher and contain more nutrients. If meat is still on the menu, using local ranchers and producers of meat products supports the nearby communities and slows the consumption of fossil fuels. Opt for farm raised fish as a sustainable option. Farm raised fish reduces the impact on wild fish populations, contributing to a healthier ecosystem.

Other Factors in Sustainable Eating

Choosing sustainable foods also involves other considerations. Outside of locality, growing practices, and processing damage, the way a product is packaged can make a large impact globally. Annually, the world produces 400 million tons of plastic. Plastic does not biodegrade efficiently and will remain in landfills and pollute the oceans. Select products that are in biodegradable and recycled packaging wherever possible.

Another factor is waste. In the U.S. we throw out 119 billion pounds of food every year. Consider using slightly damaged foods that are still edible. A ripe tomato with a small scar on it will still taste as good as a perfect tomato with no blemishes. By far the easiest way to eat sustainably is to minimize food waste. In the home, make use of the food in the refrigerator by using meal plans that will guide you through eating up items that will perish. Small steps like this will have a big global impact over time.

Bonnie L. Grant

Bonnie Grant is a professional landscaper with a Certification in Urban Gardening. She has been gardening and writing for 15 years. A former professional chef, she has a passion for edible landscaping.