Eco-Friendly Eating

by Kari Hartel, RD, LD
Program Coordinator, Cooking Matters, Operation Food Search

Earth Day is celebrated every year on April 22nd and always serves a good reminder that we need to be nourishing our bodies while also taking care of our planet. Of course, we shouldn’t be thinking about how our eating habits affect the world around us only in the month of April, but rather year-round. Let’s try to focus on making small changes every day that will ensure that our environment stays healthy. Here are some ways we can protect Mother Nature while eating foods that are both delicious and healthy.

Don’t Buy Plastic Bottled Water
Bottled water is extremely harmful to the environment. A lot of fossil fuels are used to manufacture plastic water bottles and they pollute our world. In America alone, we purchase 29 billion water bottles each year, using about 17 million barrels of crude oil. If we recycle all of those bottles, this would help prevent them from ending up in landfills or polluting our beautiful streams, lakes, rivers and oceans. However, only one out of every six water bottles is actually recycled, and the process of recycling takes energy. Instead, purchase a reusable water bottle and use water from the tap. Water from the faucet is safe (local governments regulate it) and is better for our bodies than sugary beverages.

Purchase Local Food
I hate to sound like a broken record, but the importance of buying locally cannot be overstated. If we purchase foods that have been grown or raised right here in St. Louis, we’re cutting down on our “food miles,” which is the distance our food must travel. We can reduce our carbon-footprint by purchasing food close to us, which supports our local farmers. Additionally, purchasing items at one of the many St. Louis area farmers’ markets will ensure that we’re getting an ample supply of fresh, colorful fruits, vegetables and other healthy foods.

Stick to Seasonal Stuff
If we purchase our produce according to when it’s in season, we’re doing our environment a favor. By purchasing produce during its peak season, we’ll not only save money because we don’t have to incur the cost of shipping, we’ll save our environment by cutting down on consumption of fossil fuels used to haul those fruits and vegetables from where they are in season to us here in St. Louis, where they may not be in season.

Purchase Sustainable Seafood
Seafood is good for us because it’s low in fat and the type of fat it does contain is the healthy kind (omega-3 fats). Choose sustainable seafood that isn’t overfished and won’t have the biodiversity of its habitat negatively affected. According to the Marine Stewardship Council, seek out fish and shellfish that come from a healthy population, are caught or farmed utilizing methods that won’t harm marine life and come from farms or fisheries that are managed responsibly.

This month, the Girl Scouts of Eastern Missouri are hosting April Showers, a personal-care item collection that will be distributed by Operation Food Search. Such items are important to health, hygiene and self-esteem. Please donate at Dierbergs Markets.

For more information on Operation Food Search, please call (314) 726-5355 or visit our web site www.operationfoodsearch.org.