Sometimes I just get so caught up in my own obligations I forget the time to set aside and pay attention to larger events going on around me. Earth Day is a couple of days away and I totally forgot about it. Besides from paying attention to keeping this planet healthy and clean, my son was born around Earth Day. It should be a day I never forget. Of course, I never forget my son’s birthday but now that my life no longer revolves around the school calendar, these extra-curricular activities are easily forgotten.
Fortunately, there are friendly reminders directing me to the goings on outside my work bubble. Recently, I came upon an article from Fine Cooking with a list of recipes suitable for Earth Day celebrations and it got me wondering how many recipes on my website could I add to that list. Yet, because my blog includes recipes for all food groups and diets. At a quick glance I found 37 plant-based and environmentally friendly recipes out of 137 recipes on the blog. No dairy, eggs, cheese or animal proteins. If I add my fish recipes there are even more.
Earth Day Friendly Foods
What is Earth Day friendly food? Food made from plants that do not deplete our natural resources, pollute the environment, or contribute significantly to our greenhouse gas emissions. That is a tall order to fill because everything we grow, make and consume has an impact on the planet. Fortunately, there are farms that practice sustainable framing techniques with minimal impact on the environments. From my reading, I am a firm believer of buying local products from markets that source their products from local farms and venders, either livestock or plant-based food.
News to Me
From my reading and listening to Mark Bittman talk about food and the environment, I already knew anything related livestock and particularly to cattle, either beef or dairy contributes significant amounts of greenhouse gas emissions to our atmosphere. However, what I did not know about is rice. According to The Worlds Atlas, rice paddies are the “largest source of methane gas on earth.” Say whhat? Rice? Yes rice. Originally, I thought that distinction belonged to the cattle industry, but I was wrong. Carbon dioxide comes from microorganisms living in the rice paddies. As the world’s population grows, the more rice paddies there are, and hence more methane gas going into the atmosphere.
Unfortunately, I also read about how almonds significantly impact the water supply. This piece of information almost made me cry and struck a chord that goes back to my teenage years living in the San Francisco Bay Area. Whenever I buy a non-dairy milk, I buy almond milk. Unfortunately, growing almonds requires large amounts of water, and even more water to produce almond milk. (See The World Atlas link for reference). According to The World Atlas, a significant amount of the world’s almonds comes from California. Need I say more? That poor state goes in and out of droughts time and again. These droughts sometimes last for years at time.
While I was growing up in CA during the 70’s there was a terrible drought that lasted a couple of years. 40 years later I can still hear Mom pointing out all the wasted water and ways to reduce our water consumption. Sorry mom, I just did not know. Maybe, If I make almond milk at home, it will have less of an environmental impact.
Every Day is Earth Day
How do I manage eating environmentally responsibly on an omnivore diet? I buy locally whenever possible and within my budget, especially dairy and eggs. We eat beef maybe once a week at most, however we do eat a lot of chicken. Additionally, I buy fish that is considered a “Best Choice” or “Good Alternative” from Seafood Watch.
Fortunately, we live in an area that has local dairy farms so buying local milk is easy and affordable. Cows no matter where they live produce methane gas, but I believe there is fewer emissions because the milk does not travel as far. Grass fed cows are also better for the environment. I used to be good about making my yogurt from the local milk. Making yogurt is something that Is easy to fit into your schedule, but yogurt from a half-gallon of milk should get eaten within the week.
We are by no means perfect and have behaviors that would receive a “needs improvement” score on our report card. My pet peeve are plastic shopping bags. We often forget to use our reusable ones. Reducing the number of plastic bags, we recycle and use, is one of my goals for the year.
Additionally, after reading the 10 worst foods for the environment, I realize we should eat more plant-based meals then we already do.
How to Begin
I recommend starting small and work your way into doing more each year. Years ago, the first act I did was not buy water bottles and sports drinks. That action saved me a lot of money and reduced the number of plastic bottles in my recycle bin. I bought water bottles to reuse and bought powdered sports drinks and made the beverage in reusable water bottles. Side bar – My sons were swimmers, and drinks like Gatorade were essential to replenish their electrolytes after a day’s practice. However, I do not recommend the daily consumption of energy drinks for children under the age of 12 and who do not participate in rigorous and daily sports activities. These types of beverages are full of refined sugar and salt, as is all flavored drinks. Studies show a direct relationship between obesity and the liquid form of sugar.
Buy local whenever possible. Visit your local farmer’s market and buy your produce there. Even if the farmers are not certified organic, they possibly are practicing organic.
Remember the recycle symbol means, Reduce, Reuse and Recycle. Reduce your waste cutting back on the amount of containers you buy. Reuse containers whenever possible. Recycle by either re-purposing or taking recyclable items to the recycling depot.
This is just a sample of my plant-based and other environmentally friendly recipes on my blog. Most of my vegetable side dishes are plant-based or can easily be adapted by substituting olive oil for butter, non-dairy milk for cow’s milk, and eliminating the cheese in pesto.
Happy Earth Day everyone. Here is to a healthy life and a healthy planet.