By: Meigan Freeman, UC Davis Healthy Aggies Nutrition Peer Counselor
As climate change rears its ugly head and California burns, you may be wondering what you, personally, can do to help our planet. Luckily, eating for the Earth and eating healthfully are often one and the same! I am going to lay out some easy tips you can take to eat for a healthy Earth and a healthier you, all at once. Remember, change is about small, personal, and realistic steps. Take what tips you can, and leave what doesn’t work for another day.
Tip #1 Buy in season. In these modern times where we produce year round, we are removed from the farming aspect of our food. Purchasing food out of season in your area often has a higher impact on Earth’s limited resources and buying in season has many perks. Often in-season produce is less expensive, has more nutrients, and better flavor! Purchasing fruits and veggies in season increases the likelihood that the produce is coming from a local farmer which decreases the carbon footprint to get to your grocery store. In-season produce in California right now (autumn) includes apples, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, celery, grapes, lemons, and more! Check out this resource to see what other food is in season all year round. Favorite fruit or vegetable not in season? Consider buying frozen for a less expensive alternative to produce that is trucked in from away.
Tip #2 Buy your kitchen utensils and tools from thrift shops. Have you visited your local thrift stores yet? Buying used items is a great way to reduce waste, reuse items, and it is budget friendly! I have found cute tea kettles, cups, plates, and silverware at thrift shops and the mismatch of items makes my kitchen eclectic.
Tip #3 Use your leftovers and kitchen scraps. Many of us living in apartment complexes do not have the option to compost, but we can still use our kitchen scraps for another meal. Consider saving potato peels, garlic and onion skins, mushrooms, carrot tops, and whatever else you use in a jar in the freezer. Once the jar is full, boil the scraps in water for an hour and strain out the veggie bits. The liquid you have left is a tasty homemade veggie broth, a perfect base for beans, soup, and any recipe that calls for broth!
Tip #4 Grow your own herbs. Growing herbs is so fun and satisfying. You can grow these near a window, in an old yogurt container or pot. You can buy herbs from most hardware or garden stores as seeds or full plants. As a bonus, the plant will look adorable on your window sill or table. Use the fresh herbs in anything you cook for extra flavor and you won’t need to buy expensive dried herbs as often.
Tip #5 Save your jars and plastic containers. Buying Tupperware is not necessary; have you noticed that almost everything we buy already comes in nice glass and plastic containers? Rather than throw them in recycling bins, wash and save them for your leftovers! You can also use them to store baking supplies, grains, and other ingredients.
These sustainable tips are hard to beat with their benefits to your health, by buying more nutritious in-season veggies; wallet by purchasing used appliances; and the Earth, by saving plastic and kitchen scraps for reuse. I hope these ideas have helped you think more about sustainable eating. Let us know in the comments what your favorite sustainable tip is!