1. Eat More Chocolate
Fair-trade and organic, that is. We love Equal Exchange’s sustainable and green philosophy—and their 71 percent cacao Very Dark Chocolate Bar (equalexchange.coop).
2. Boil Once, Cook Twice
Use the residual heat from pasta water to poach shrimp. After you’ve removed the noodles, add shrimp, put the lid on, and turn off the flame. Toss the cooked shrimp and pasta in olive oil.
3. Fill Up Your Freezer
A freezer full of food uses less energy than an empty one.
4. Don’t Read The Omnivore’s Dilemma
If you have, good for you, and thanks for helping push the Michael Pollan book into its umpteenth printing; we love it. But if you’re pressed for time, read Pollan’s much shorter In Defense of Food, which nicely encapsulates his philosophy. Check it out from the library, and save a tree. If you can’t wait for a copy to become available, order a used one on amazon.com. The books go for about ten bucks.
5. Make a Bison Burger
One of the best ways to save a species is, ironically, to eat it. Heritage turkeys are a prime example. Or take the bison: By the late 1800s, only about 1,000 of them remained. Now, thanks in part to a rise in bison consumption, their population has reached 450,000. Get the recipe for Bison Burgers with Cabernet Onions and Wisconsin Cheddar.
6. Ask Your Farmer These Questions
Is your farm certified organic? If not, do you use organic practices? (Earning organic certification is a lengthy and costly process that some family farmers can’t afford.) If your farm is not organic, do you use non-synthetic pesticides? If you do use pesticides, do you practice minimal spraying?
If your farmer answers yes to any of these questions, then you’re likely buying from someone who is conscientious about the impact of his or her agricultural practices.
7. Don’t Open That Door
Every time you peek in the oven, it loses 25 to 50 degrees Fahrenheit.
8. Buy a Side of Beef
An increasing number of foodie carnivores are ordering grass-fed beef straight from local farmers. Here’s why: The practice directly supports local farmers with a vested interest in taking care of the environment. Unlike grain and corn feed, grass requires no fossil fuel for transport. The regrowth of grazed grass removes carbon monoxide from the air. See our tip How to Buy a Side a Beef.
9. Cook More Often
You’ll avoid much of the packaging and preservatives of processed foods.
10. Roast a Whole Chicken
Less processing and less packaging mean less waste. Use the leftover bones to make your own stock (and save a can). Get the recipe for Special Sunday Roast Chicken pictured above.
11. Become a Human Food Processor
Use less electricity by getting handier with your knife. It’s meditative, it’s exercise, and it’ll make you a better cook. Watch our videos on “How to Improve Your Knife Skills”.
12. Eat Alaskan Wild Salmon
There’s arguably only one place that takes care of its salmon stocks in a truly sustainable way: Alaska. And because it’s all wild-caught, it’s purer in flavor than farm-raised salmon (which is fed pigment and antibiotics). It’s also higher in omega-3 fatty acids. To find out where to buy it online, go to wildpacificsalmon.com.
13. Savor Sardines
America’s other favorite fish, canned tuna, needs a break. Troll-caught albacore tuna is the better bet, but if you’re looking for an altogether different canned replacement, check out sardines, which aren’t at all in danger of being overfished and contain less mercury than tuna. And if you think sardines are fishy, try Bela-Olhão brand from Portugal, which are sweet and not the least bit funky. Order online at mybela.com.
14. Get the Scoop
In the bulk bin section of the market, not only are the nuts, grains, and other dry items free of excessive packaging, they’re also minimally processed (which also means less manipulated by fossil-fuel-consuming machines). With the freedom to scoop a little or a lot, you’ll buy only what you need.
15. Plant an Heirloom Vegetable Garden
Heirloom seeds are non-hybrid traditional vegetables that have not been genetically modified. Web retailer heirloomseeds.com has more than 1,100 varieties.
16. Learn How to Read a Carrot…
…or rather, the label for a carrot, a chicken, or a can of coffee. Here, learn a few terms—and how green they are. See our tip How to Read a Produce Label.
17. Buy Barramundi
Funny name. Fabulous taste. U.S. barramundi is a sustainably raised fish with rich white flesh. Get the recipe for Roasted Farm-Raised Barramundi with Fennel and Orange pictured above.
18. Be Your Own Barista
You’ve heard about how kicking the daily take-out coffee habit can have a big impact on your budget and contribution to landfill. To ensure that your coffee is as good as possible for you, the world, and your wallet, follow some basic rules to become your own barista—and get better coffee.
- Buy fair-trade organic coffee. For a list of companies that import 100 percent fair-trade, sustainably grown coffee, go to globalexchange.org.
- Use a French press coffee maker, which pro baristas favor for home brew. Check out the 12-cup Chambord ($50; bodum.com).
- Take your coffee to go with a good portable mug, like the 360° LiquiSeal Travel Mug from Oxo ($13; oxo.com).
19. Treasure Your Trash
Recycling your take-out containers is a given. Even better, wash and save the sturdier ones to store leftovers or transport your homemade lunch.
20. Make Stock…
…with whatever veggies you have left in the vegetable bin. Watch our video on Making Vegetable Stock.
21. Make Your Own Cereal
It will dramatically cut down on packaging, especially if you buy the ingredients in bulk. Get the recipe for Quick Omega-3 Granola pictured above.
22. Join a CSA
C stands for Community, S for Supported, and A for Agriculture. Which just about says it all. A community (you and some others) supports (by buying food) agriculture (direct from farmers). On a regular basis, boxes of fresh fruits and vegetables (or even meat, eggs, or flowers) from local farms are delivered to you or a pickup location. To find a CSA, go to localharvest.org/csa/.
23. Eat American Cheese
American-made cheese is some of the best in the world. It’s produced by craftspeople who treat cheesemaking as an art and take care of the land as well as their livestock. To make sure this is the case, eat the kind that’s categorized as either artisan or farmstead. Artisan means it’s made in small batches, with special attention to the traditional art of cheesemaking. Farmstead means the cheese is made with milk that comes from the farmer’s own flock or herd. Visit the American Cheese Society for more information and read our interview with cheesemonger Anna Saxelby.
24. Text Fishphone
When you’re at the fish counter trying to decide what to buy for dinner, use your cell phone to text seafood conservation group Blue Ocean Institute’s FishPhone service. Text 30644 and enter FISH, followed by the name of the fish you want to buy. You’ll receive a text telling you if the variety is good for you and the world.
25. Veg Out
Vegetables require less energy and water to grow and produce no greenhouse gases, so they’re a far more efficient food source than domesticated livestock. Get the recipe for Lima Beans with Wild Mushrooms and Chard pictured above.
26. Turn Off the Light…
…when you leave the kitchen.
28. Start Composting Tonight
Start cutting your landfill production by as much as two-thirds right now by putting your vegetable scraps in a bowl tonight, instead of the garbage or the sink disposal. Then go online and order a composter.
- Several days later, when the bin arrives, throw in that bowl of scraps. Several weeks later, when you’ve got some compost, mulch your garden, top off a potted plant, or give it to a friend with a garden.
- Target’s Garden Compost Bin is a no-nonsense, easy-to-use system ($160 at target.com).
- If you want a high-volume composter with a twist, buy a Tumbleweed Composter, which has a handle that you turn regularly to tumble the compost—no pitchfork required ($180 at amazon.com).
29. Eat Grass-Fed Beef
Cows are meant to graze on grass. A corn-based diet actually makes them sick, so they need to be routinely treated with antibiotics. Taking cows out of the feedlot also solves the waste-management problem and helps improve the fertility of the soil. Get the recipe for Grass-Fed Steaks with Kalamata-Olive Chimichurri pictured above.
30. Become an Urban Forager
Fallenfruit.org is the Web site of an urban artist-activist collective in Los Angeles that keeps track of the city’s fruiting plants and trees (if they’re on or overhanging public spaces) and puts their locations on free, downloadable maps. If there are figs falling on Melrose or lemons on Sunset, the Web site will let the city know.
31. Eat Sustainable Shrimp
Farm-raised shrimp from overseas is often pumped full of artificial feed and antibiotics and raised in ponds that pollute the water. American shrimp, farmed or wild, is more sustainable. Get the recipe for Shrimp and Fingerlings in Tomato Broth pictured above.
32. Eat Free Food
You’d be surprised how much food gets thrown away, even at farmers’ markets. Once you’ve befriended a farmer (see item No. 6), ask if there are any beet greens or fennel tops left over. You can blanch and sauté beet greens or bake them into a gratin. Fennel tops make good broth, and carrot tops are beloved by pet rabbits the world over.
33. Get Blasted
Sign up for the weekly e-mail blast from Heritage Foods USA (heritagefoodsusa.com), a company dedicated to preserving native American livestock, including heirloom pigs, turkeys, and chickens raised in a sustainable manner.
34. Eat Sustainable Sushi
You shouldn’t be eating the prized and overfished bluefin tuna, but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a sushi feast. The Monterey Bay Aquarium has produced a sustainable-seafood sushi guide. Download it at seafoodwatch.org.
35. Become a Locavore
Locavores eat only food that has been grown or produced near their homes, which supports their community and cuts down on their carbon footprint. The 100-milers regard that distance as a fair radius, as it allows for some variety in their diet. Use the mapping tool at 100milediet.org/get-started/map to calculate your own eat-local 100-mile radius.
36. Bike to the Market
A bike ride to the farmers’ market is a statement of solidarity with the inherent earth-friendliness of locally grown food. In the spirit of sustainability, buy a vintage bike from Craigslist or eBay.
37. Support Your Local Green Restaurant
Find neighborhood restaurants, bakeries, butcher shops, and markets that serve fresh, sustainable, organic food at eatwellguide.org.
38. Go Bento
You’ll never feel guilty about throwing away a brown bag after lunch if you buy a stainless steel lunch box, such as the kind used throughout Asia. Grassrootsstore.com sells a nice two-compartment model for $28.
39. Eat More Tofu
Eating soy can help conserve water. Livestock require water for growing what they eat, for drinking, and for cleaning up after them. If you replace one pound of beef with tofu each month, you’ll save 20,000 gallons a year. Get the recipe for Panang Tofu Curry pictured above.
40. Stop Whistling
When making tea, bring the water just to a boil. Not only does the whistle point mean the water is so hot that it will likely scald the tea, but reaching that point unnecessarily uses BTUs, which add up over time. Every little bit does count.
41. Use Your Dishwasher
But in a smart way: only when full and well organized. Studies have shown that an electric dishwasher can typically outperform a human being in water efficiency. Energy Star-rated dishwashers are an even better choice.
42. Bag It
Any old plastic bag will work as a shopping bag until it breaks, but it doesn’t hurt to find a well-scaled bag that you actually like carrying around. The Organic EcoSystem For One from Ecobags, which comes with five different types of totes, is made of organic cotton ($25; ecobags.com).
43. Mix Your Drinks
We’ll never give up the bottle… wine, that is. But consider working boxed wine into your regular rotation—it generates half as many carbon-dioxide emissions in transport, and has recently risen in quality. Already popular in Europe, Australia, and New Zealand, boxed wine is gaining ground here. Three Thieves California wines come in recyclable one-liter “Bandit” Tetra Paks (threethieves.com).
44. Take the Leftovers
Sure, the restaurant will probably wrap the leftovers up in paper or plastic, but more fossil fuels went into the production of your chicken piccata than into the production of that doggie bag (some people go so far as to tote a freezer bag in their purse, but that’s really a lifestyle choice that’s up to you). Take the whole thing to work the next day for lunch, and all will be right with the world.
45. Pack Your Own Lunch
It’s a simple way to greatly reduce your consumption of take-out and processed foods. Get the recipe for Hummus and Feta Sandwiches on Whole Grain Bread pictured above.
46. Support Your Local Winemaker
With wineries in every state in the union, a local winemaker is never far away. You’re already familiar with the major growing regions of Washington, California, and Oregon, but some of the wines produced in other parts of the country are worth checking out. Here are a few of our favorite wineries in places considered off the beaten path.
- North Fork, Long Island, New York
- Finger Lakes region, New York
Red Newt Cellars
Black Star Farms
- New Mexico
47. Read Fritz Haeg’s Edible Estates
To open your mind about what a garden (or, for that matter, front lawn) can be, read this book, which calls for America’s fallow lawns to be turned into productive vegetable gardens. It includes case studies, plans, and photographs of lawns that were transformed as part of Haeg’s ongoing art project ($16; amazon.com).
48. Keep the Greens
Beet greens are the most nutritious part of the plant, but they often just get dumped in the trash. Instead, use them as you would spinach or kale. Get the recipe for Farfalle with Golden Beets, Beet Greens, and Pine Nuts pictured above.
49. Plan Your Paper Use
Scale down your paper towel use (and buy only recycled brands) and scale up your cloth dish towel use for drying vegetables and cleaning up minor spills. Save paper towels for potential cross-contamination spills, like eggs or raw meat and poultry.
Mü Kitchen makes colorful dish towels from a mix of organic bamboo and cotton. Go to mukitchen.com for retailers.
50. Recycle your issues of Bon Appétit
…by passing it along to a friend, of course.