Karen Fratti
November 24, 2017 12:00 pm
Comedy Central

Usually, when most of us think about healthy eating, we’re thinking about it in terms of our health. And there’s no shame in that! But our eating habits also affect the environment — for better and for worse. And this fact is garnering increasing attention from consumers.

Kate Geagan, a registered dietician and author of the book Go Green, Get Lean, told The Guardian that everything surrounding our diets and food production is connected. “Consumers aren’t just looking for what’s on the nutrition fact panel anymore — they have a whole list of other things they want to know about and how they define eating right,” she said.

And while many of us theoretically want to practice eating habits that are good for  the planet, sometimes it can seem hard in practice. However, there are actually many small, totally achievable things we can all do every day to make our consumption patterns more earth-friendly.

Read on to find out!

1It’s all about the package.

Of all the little tweaks you can make in your life, cutting down on plastic might have the biggest impact. If you have the option to buy produce or other staples without packaging, always go for it. According to the Ellen MacAthur Foundation, by 2050 the ocean will contain more plastic by weight than fish.

It also doesn’t hurt to bring your own reusable bags when grocery shopping.

2Cut back on cheese and meat.

If you have a vegetarian or vegan friend, you’ve likely heard a version of this before. As much as we may love tasty meats, there’s no denying that our current farm system is seriously bad for the planet. It comes down to what companies feed the animals, how we transport them, and how much gas the animals release into the atmosphere. Yep, burping cows and sheep, along with their manure, make up 15 percent of carbon emissions. If we were raising less animals to satiate our appetites, greenhouse gas in the atmosphere would decline.

A 2016 study found that moving to diets lower in meat can reduce the costs of climate change by almost 50 percent by 2050. And you don’t have to cut out meat entirely.  You can start with say, “Meatless Mondays” and go from there. Or if you usually eat meat at lunch and dinner, cut back to once a day. Small steps can make big changes much easier.

Likewise, making one pound of cheese produces about 11 pounds of carbon dioxide, which is the primary greenhouse gas that drives climate change. Going vegan a few days a week can help!

3Buy what you’ll actually eat — and no more.

At the end of the day, Americans throw out a staggering amount of food. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, 33 million tons of food ends up in landfills, making up about 14 percent of all solid waste per year.

4Eating in season really helps.

We all know that eating local helps, if only because we’re supporting local businesses. But it’s more than that — eating foods that are grown and produced locally means less chemicals, fuel, and overall emissions in the long run.

So when you can, shop at a farmer’s market or stick to produce that didn’t have to travel halfway around the world to get to your table. You don’t have to change all of your eating habits, but being mindful about what you consume can make all the difference.