By this point in history, you’ve probably learned how to make a nutritious, healthy dinner. Start off with some local, healthy, fresh greens, feature a small portion of organic, locally produced, lean meat, and then stuff an enormous pizza in your freezer for later when you’re sad and starving. Or maybe just—make those greens taste great.
You might know how to make joyless vitamins taste like high-class fat, but making a meal that’s actually good for the environment is a whole other feat altogether. One of the biggest polluters in America isn’t your local coal plant or highway factory—it’s your neighborhood farm, pumping out more greenhouse gases than any other industry in the country. And most of those gases come from processing meat: close to eight tons, or 22 percent of total emissions, originate in meat alone. Eating one burger is environmentally equivalent to driving a 3,000 pound car 10 miles. Fantastic.
Want to make a meal that not only tastes delicious, but is actually healthy both for you and the world around you? Here’s what we recommend.
Shop at the right places.
Shopping organically doesn’t matter as much as shopping locally. Ideally, you’d be able to satisfy both needs, but organic foods sometimes come from tens of thousands of miles away: exacting a huge price in terms of gas emissions. Check your local farmer’s market, consider joining a CSA, (Community Supported Agriculture), and if you only have access to a large-scale supermarket, take a look and see where your produce is coming from. Don’t be afraid to place pressure on your local grocery—consumers have huge voting power.
Unless it came from down the block, nix your meats.
As discussed above, it’s next to impossible, given the size and scale of our factory farms, to produce meat that’s not only free of disease, but free of externalities. Grass-fed beef produces the least amount of greenhouse gas, but that meat often travels from afar. Your safest best is to probably skip the meats in favor of some green, or even carbohydrate-y, deliciousness.
Buy in season.
It’s January, you live in New York, and you feel a big hankering for kiwi. Chances are that kiwi probably travelled tens of thousands of miles in a gas-guzzling airplane just to get to your mostly indifferent stomach. Find fruits and vegetables that match the season and the salad and maybe the dishware.
Energy that would have otherwise been spent on cooking carrots can now be spent on eating them. Everybody wins. Except for the carrot.
Make a lot of it.
Over 40 percent, or, approximately $165 billion dollars worth of food in America is never eaten, at an outrageously huge cost to the environment. Simplest solution? Double the amount you make and then—using all of your inner strength—eat it.
Grow it in your backyard.
The closest grocery store might be miles away, but the closest farm could be your grassy backyard. Cut down on travel time and eat shockingly local, all within striking distance of your bed. Or, if you live in a metropolitan area and have more of a “fire escape” backyard, consider joining your local community garden (or nagging a community garden friend).
The best trick of all? Make something you won’t hate.
If there’s one thing we can learn from barely verbal toddlers, it’s that if our bodies don’t like something—they will reject it. The more food we waste by not eating (or by putting it in the freezer in cute little bags and “pretending to eat later”), the greater the cost to our environment. Sometimes, the secret to eating right is summoning all your strength, mustering all your courage, and just eating what you like.