I love food. I love eating, I love cooking, and I love entertaining. But here’s the thing. I also love the Earth. And the more I learn about the way our eating habits negatively affect the Earth, the stronger I feel about things and the more vocal I want to be about changing those things. But here’s the other thing: people HATE when you’re vocal about stuff like this. And I get it. It’s hard stuff to talk about, it really is.
But the same hard stuff that can really offend some people who are really set in their ways is the stuff that’s most important to hear. It’s tough. So here’s what my goal is for the next six bullet points. Don’t get offended. Don’t call me “holier than thou” (although, if you feel like that, please do send me a note so we can talk. I’d love to chat with you!). Just read through these six (very easy, very reasonable) ways to eat more sustainably, try to understand where I’m coming from as a human living on a very fragile planet, and give them a try.
1. Shop Greener
At this point, if you’re still not taking your own grocery bags to the store, you’re dead to me. There are tons of adorable tote bags that you can throw in your backpack or purse and have ready for impromptu shopping trips, and if you’re making an intentional, well-planned trip to the store, pack the assortment of totes you’ve gotten for free at random networking events. No. Excuses.
Besides just using your own bags, though, you can green up your grocery run by packing reusable produce bags, shopping in the bulk aisle (with reusable containers!), buying local, and walking to the store. So many options!
2. Buy Local First, then Organic
Buying organic food was one of the first “sustainability trends” to take off nationwide. But here’s the thing: getting certified as an organic farm is a costly, intensive measure, and lots of local farms can’t afford that. Though they may be practicing organic farming, their produce isn’t marketed as such because it’s missing the stamp of approval. When you’re trying to do the right thing, it’s always best to ask the farmer or the produce manager at the store about the local produce to get to the bottom of this.
We’re privileged to be living in a city where we don’t need to think about what we’re throwing away. It simply goes into a trash can in the alley, gets picked up, and is whisked away to a dump that we don’t have to think about. But when you force yourself to think about what you’re throwing away, you start to notice how much of it you could be composting. Vegetable and fruit peels are obvious. But egg cartons, greasy pizza boxes, and paper towels? Not so obvious. Chicago doesn’t compost as a city just yet (although you should call and tell the city you’d like that), but there are plenty of services out there you can join to get started on composting. The Chopping Block composts in all of our kitchens!
If you’re lucky enough to have some green space, look into doing it yourself. It’s not rocket science. It’s just composting.
4. Get Creative with Your Food Waste
Are you throwing away your veggie scraps? Freeze them, then use them to make veggie broth at home. Are you tossing your carrot greens? Make ‘em into pesto instead. Almost done with that chunk of Parm? Throw it into a pot of soup. THE PASTABILITIES ARE ENDLESS.
The Chopping Block is offering a special class From Root to Stem on Wednesday, August 21 at 6pm at the Mart. Not only will you learn how to make the most out of the season's bounty and reduce food waste, you'll make a delicious meal that just happens to be gluten-free:
- Shaved Fennel and Broccoli Stem Salad with Preserved Lemon Vinaigrette and Feta Cheese
- Grilled Swiss Chard Stems with Mint Yogurt and Pistachio Gremolata
- Roasted Salmon with Beet Green Pesto and Beet, Celery Leaf-Orange Salad
- Grilled Flank Steak with Roasted Root Vegetables and Carrot Top Chimichurri
5. Eat Less Meat
You knew this was coming. I know it’s hard to hear. But seriously, people: we need to eat WAY less meat. Try doing no meat before six o’clock. Try doing no meat on Mondays. Try whatever, as long as you reduce your consumption. If you can’t go cold turkey (weak pun, but pun nonetheless), buy local, sustainably grown meat. Anything helps, especially when the world’s on fire. And, oh, look! The world’s on fire.