You go the extra mile to sort your recycling and turn off the lights before leaving a room. You try to be a good planetary steward — but could your noshing habits affect your carbon footprint? They can, but snacking smart can help you save the earth.
Food waste doesn’t break down well in anaerobic landfill conditions, contributing to methane islands that make a huge climate change impact. This greenhouse gas is heavier than carbon.
Fortunately, improving a few habits can let you have your goodies and protect the planet, too. Here’s how to snack to save the earth.
1. Keep Your Goodies Fresh
What’s the problem with scraping those potato peels into the trash and shipping them to the landfill? After all, they’re organic materials that will decompose, right?
Unfortunately, science isn’t that simple. Most such scraps end up encased in plastic garbage bags and crushed under tremendous weight, which prevents the normal decay process. As a result, food waste that isn’t composted produces methane, a greenhouse gas 80 times more powerful than carbon dioxide over a 20-year timescale.
One frequent cause of food waste occurs when it goes bad or packaging becomes infested with ants. Fortunately, you can address both issues with a one-two punch: the right containers. When you arrive home from shopping, take chips and cereals out of their original packaging, recycle what you can, and place them in hard plastic or glass canisters to seal out air and pests.
This tip might entail a small initial expenditure for the containers, but it saves money in the long run. People throw up to 40% of the food they purchase in the garbage, and reducing that waste is good for the planet and your wallet.
2. Frequent Your Farmer’s Market
If you aren’t buying your fruits and vegetables from the farmer’s market, you’re probably wasting money even if you eat everything you bring home. Your local vendors don’t have huge overhead costs like corporate agribusiness, including fleets of trucks to carry their goods across the country. The products you’ll find at the market come from nearby farms, meaning it’s fresher and more nutritious — produce begins losing its nutrients only three days after harvest.
You’ve also done the planet a kindness. Less shipping equals fewer emissions. Furthermore, many such vendors use organic techniques that preserve the soil quality, and you can talk to them about their methods. They’re sure to know more about how their food is grown than the produce manager at the supermarket.
You could have extra budgetary luck if your farmer’s market only meets once or twice a week. Go at the end of the day — many vendors prefer to sell remaining goods at a discount than take them home to rot.
3. DIY Healthy Treats
What’s an easy way to avoid packaging waste altogether? You can DIY snacks made from ingredients you buy in bulk, filling reusable cheesecloth bags instead of plastic. It’s perfect for families whose members have food sensitivities or follow specific dietary restrictions. For example, these easy-to-make vegan granola bars are the ideal breakfast or lunch and also please the gluten-free crowd:
*1 ½ cups organic gluten-free oats (most are, but check the label for possible cross-contamination)
*1 cup almonds
*1 cup dates
*2 ounces dried cranberries or raisins
*¼ cup agave or maple syrup
*¼ cup peanut, almond or hazelnut butter
*1 tablespoon flax seeds
*1 tablespoon pepitas or pumpkin seeds
*1 tablespoon coconut flakes
Toast the almonds and oats in a shallow baking pan at 350° while you blend the dates and dried fruit until they form a sticky ball. Blend in the toasted oats and almonds, then add the remaining ingredients and mix. Line the baking pan with waxed paper, spread the mixture evenly and chill in the freezer for 20 minutes before cutting.
4. Pay Attention to Packaging
You might not always have the time for homemade goodies if you’re a busy mom. Fair enough — but pay attention to the packaging when you purchase commercial snacks.
You’ll do best if you check with your local sorting center on their recycling rules first. For example, many won’t accept cardboard with plastic “windows.” Most facilities only accept numbers one and two plastics, although some will take number five. If you see something wrapped in a three, four, six or seven, you can bet it will end up in a landfill.
5. Save the Seeds When You Can
Finally, gardening can provide a nearly endless supply of organic fruits and veggies for snacking, but the hobby can cost a pretty penny to the uninitiated. How can you get started if you have no extra cash at month’s end and suffer flashbacks of spending $100 at the nursery only to produce a single tomato?
The simplest method is to start with the produce you already eat. Species like green beans, cucumbers, tomatoes and peppers make it a snap to save their seeds and sprout them — for free.
Work with what you have. Yes — it’s fabulous if that’s an Aerogarden, specialized seedling starter cups and soil formulations. However, have you looked at a forest lately? Plants galore erupt from everyday dirt with no fancy gadgets, so play around with different DIY methods until you succeed. You can have fun repurposing old soup cans into seedling cups, even giving out your treasures as gifts to friends who share your interest in a sustainable lifestyle.
Snack to Save the Earth
Food waste contributes to global warming. Who isn’t guilty of dumping their scraps in the bin? However, changing your habits can help preserve the planet.
Use the above tips to snack to save the earth. You’ll save money while living more sustainably and noshing on healthier ingredients.