Thursday, August 20, 2009

Green Eating Guide

Tips for making healthy food choices for you and the planet


The food choices that we make every day have a profound effect on the environment. From farm to fork, growing our food, processing it and transporting it all use tremendous amounts of energy, water and chemicals.

By making just a few small changes in our eating and buying habits, we can greatly reduce this impact. When we eat green, we help the environment by reducing global warming pollution -- and help ourselves by eating fresh and healthy food.

This guide offers advice for choosing climate-friendly food, buying organic and certified produce, watching your waste and eating locally. Use it to select food options that are good for you and the health of our environment.

Choose Climate-Friendly Food

The higher your food is on the food chain, the more energy that's required to produce it -- and the more global warming pollution it releases into the atmosphere.

Beef, for example, creates a great deal of pollution because cows produce methane, a potent global warming gas, and grains typically used to feed cattle consume large quantities of energy and chemicals. Worldwide, the destruction of forests for cattle ranching creates massive amounts of global warming pollution.


  • Add more fruits, vegetables and grains to your diet. Limit red meat consumption.
  • Buy fresh. Avoid frozen or extensively processed and packaged foods.

Buy Organic and Certified

Conventional agriculture, which is often dependent on the intensive use of chemicals such as fertilizer and pesticides, can have a negative impact on air, water and soil quality. Many widely used pesticides have been linked to an increased risk of cancer and reproductive problems.

But there are alternatives to conventional agriculture. Innovative farmers from coast to coast have adopted more sustainable farming systems, reducing the need for synthetic pesticides and fertilizers. By shopping for organic or other sustainably certified foods, you can support their efforts.

Logo: USDA Organic Label

The USDA Organic label ensures that a product contains at least 95 percent organic ingredients, while a variety of other eco-label certifications help consumers choose food produced with the environment in mind.


  • Buy organic and other sustainably certified foods. Visit Consumer Reports to find out what labels to look for.
  • For more about pesticides and produce, get advice from NRDC's Simple Steps.

Watch Your Waste

According to a recent study, the average American household wastes 14 percent of its food purchases. But it's not just the food that is being wasted -- all of the water and energy that went into producing, packaging and transporting the discarded food also goes to waste.

Most of this food waste ends up in landfills, where it releases methane pollution as it decomposes, further contributing to global warming.


  • Purchase only the amount of food that you are able to consume before it expires.
  • Compost your food waste. Get tips from NRDC's OnEarth magazine.

Eat Local Foods

Buying local is a good bet for reducing pollution and the energy used to transport, store and refrigerate food.

Most of the 270 million pounds of imported grapes that arrive in California every year have traveled 5,900 miles from Chile, for example. Throughout the course of the year, the cargo ships and trucks that transport them release 7,000 tons of global warming pollution into the air.

When all other factors are equal, choosing local food is good for the planet, good for your health and good for local farmers.


  • Shop at a local farmer's market or join a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) group. Find one near you at Local Harvest.
  • Consult NRDC's Eat Local guide to find out which fruits and vegetables are fresh near you and get great seasonal recipes.

Source link: NRDC