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2 Sustainable Eating Habits: Good For You, Good for the Earth

Posted November 22, 2022

The following is a guest blog by John Fodi, a Laudato Si’ Action Platform participant and contributor, whose beautiful Laudato Si’ reflection can be found here.

John is passionate about simple living from a faith perspective, as well as volunteer ecological stewardship, each resulting in concrete actions in direct service of two Laudato Si’ Goals: Adoption of Sustainable Lifestyles and Response to the Cry of the Earth.

“Reading Laudato Si’ has moved me to reflect more deeply upon what it means to love my neighbor,” says John. “To love my neighbor is to promote his or her welfare and avoid doing harm. If I degrade the biosphere that sustains life on this planet, I am not loving my neighbor.”

Below, John offers 12 sustainable eating habits that are good for you and good for the earth.

Eat Plants Rather Than Animals

A plant-based diet is more efficient than one of foods derived from animals. In some countries, grains and pulses (crops harvested solely as dry grains) are grown to feed livestock. These crops could feed more people than the animals that eat them. Farm animals also generate significant quantities of pollutants such as methane—a greenhouse gas—and manure.

Hunt Your Meat, Fish For Fish

If one chooses to eat meat, a more environmentally friendly way to obtain it is to hunt wild game—adhering, of course, to all applicable rules and regulations in your area. Hunting is additionally beneficial when game species are overpopulated and inflicting ecological damage, as is the case with white-tailed deer in my home state of Michigan in the United States.

Buy Organic

Organic agriculture is less harmful to people and wildlife than conventional farming, which employs synthetic pesticides and fertilizers often derived from petroleum—a fossil fuel that contributes to polluting emissions, especially carbon dioxide, a dangerous greenhouse gas.

Read The Label

In the United States, packaged foods have labels listing their ingredients and, sometimes, their geographic origin. Reading the label can help determine if a particular item should be purchased or rejected.

Buy Locally

If a particular item cannot be grown in one’s own region, try and find a similar locally-grown item. If that’s not possible, perhaps it’s best to do without it.

Buy In Bulk

Non-perishable foods can sometimes be purchased in bulk. This not only saves money but also often minimizes packaging. In some stores, one is able to both provide and reuse his or her own shopping containers.

Keep It Simple

Unprocessed foods are best. When buying processed foods, try to choose those with relatively few, easily identifiable ingredients. Each ingredient that goes into a processed food must itself be manufactured with a certain amount of resource extraction, energy use, and pollution.

Purchase From Conscientious Producers

Some producers, in addition to farming organically, also employ other sustainable practices, such as growing coffee under an intact forest canopy rather than clearing standing forest. Others employ fair labor practices or donate a percentage of their profits to environmental or social causes. Such producers usually seek the certification of a second party to validate their claims. Purchasing from these producers helps them to continue their good work.

Grow It Yourself

If you have a little idle land, access to a community garden, or even a few large pots, you can grow some of your own produce.

Forage

Some foods are free for the taking. Here in southern Michigan, one can find a variety of nuts, berries, tubers, and mushrooms growing in the wild. Be sure the landowner has no objections before taking any. Caution: be certain of the identity of what you collect; some plants and mushrooms are poisonous.

Waste Not

To avoid waste from spoilage, purchase only as much readily spoilable food as you intend to eat over your shopping interval, and prepare only as much as you intend to eat for a given meal. If you are able to maintain a compost pile, use this for disposing of any food scraps and plant wastes—e.g., potato skins, apple cores, etc. If you have access to recycling, always recycle bottles, tubs, jars, and cans. These should be rinsed clean. But rather than sending the rinse water down the drain, save it and use it to cook something else. The same can be done with the water that vegetables are boiled in or steamed over.

Schedule Your Cooking Strategically

Cooking in a warm and cozy kitchen can be pleasant during the winter, but oppressive during hot weather. Fans and air conditioning are helpful, but they consume a lot of energy. If possible, do your extended cooking early in the morning with all the windows open to vent the heat as much as possible. Close the windows when the outside temperature exceeds that inside.