A growing number of studies and experts suggest that eating “green” is important for the health of our bodies and the planet. Rather than completely revamping your diet, there are many small changes that you can make that can have a positive impact on the planet. Knowing and avoiding foods that have an especially large negative environmental impact can help reduce your environmental “food-print.” So, here’s a list of five unsustainable foods and their healthier, more environmentally friendly counterparts to help you become a more environmentally conscious consumer.
Foods containing high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) are especially bad for the environment. Not only does consumption of HFCS increase the likelihood of obesity and health problems, but production is extremely energy intensive. According to the USDA, consumption of foods containing HFCS has increased dramatically from recent decades. Almost 12% of all corn farmed is manufactured into HFCS. Due to the high demand for corn and corn products in our nation, production and harvesting of corn is generally done using conventional methods with more concern for yield than sustainability. Corn used to produce HFCS is farmed in such a way that it depletes the soil of nutrients and uses up to 33% more fuel than other farming practices. HFCS seems to be everywhere in our stores, in everything from a loaf of bread to soda. As an alternative to HFCS try consuming foods that contain only real sugar. While a large amount of any sugar isn’t the best for your body, raw sugar is healthier for the environment. If you still have a craving for sweets, try some fresh fruit instead, and replace soda with water in a reusable bottle. Not only will you reduce your impact on the environment dramatically, water is great for feeling good and staying fit!
Seafood listed in the “avoid” column on the Seafood Watch list. The two biggest environmental culprits on this list are shrimp and tuna because of the impact that harvesting these animals has on the rest of the ecosystem. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, 1 kilogram of shrimp typically harms two to five kilograms of other species in its overall production. Figures like this suggest huge negative impacts on the biodiversity of our ocean. In addition, tuna meat often has a very high concentration of mercury. Mercury concentrations in tuna are normally attributed to biomagnification of the pollutant through the food chain. Since tuna eat other fish, they absorb the mercury that is present in the tissues of their prey, leading to greater contamination. Try searching for spot prawns instead of shrimp in the grocery store. Instead of tuna, try
Factory farmed beef. If you have seen the film Food, Inc. then you understand why factory farmed beef is so bad for the environment. If you haven’t, you can check it out at the local library. Industrial meat production usually occurs in a system called concentrated animal feeding operations, or CAFOS. According to the EPA, sites such as these are the leading source of pollutants in the environment. In addition, these animals are normally fed corn, which their bodiless environmentally damaging fish such as rainbow trout, striped bass or farmed mussels and oysters, all listed as best choices on Monterrey Bay Aquarium’s seafood watch list for our region.
es are not designed to ingest. Instead, try looking for grass fed beef in a grocery st
ore or local meat from a farmer’s market or local CSA (Community Supported Agriculture).
Corn is mass produced to feed both humans and livestock. Due to the high demand for corn, chemical fertilizers are typically used on the large scale farms. Runoff from fertilizer into rivers has contributed to the massive dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico; an area so depleted of oxygen and nutrients that almost no life can survive. In addition, according to the USDA, 88% of the corn planted in the United States in 2011 was genetically modified. Not all corn is harmful to the environment, however. Sweet corn is a more environmentally friendly option because it is not farmed as extensively. The best option would be finding local or organic sweet corn, or even better, grow your own.
Lamb. Even though lamb is not consumed as frequently as other meats, it still makes our top 5 list because of a massive carbon footprint, which is double that of beef. Consuming 4 oz. of conventionally farmed lamb is approximately equivalent to driving a car for seven miles. Instead of having lamb for a holiday or special occasion, try grass fed chicken or local rabbit. Chicken and rabbit have a much lower carbon footprint than lamb. For an even more sustainable route, make sure your meat is grass fed and was raised locally. Or, go the vegetarian route and get your protein from beans, peas, local pecans, and other nuts, all of which have a lower carbon footprint than lamb. gen and nutrients that almost no life can survive. In addition, according to the USDA, 88% of the corn planted in the United States in 2011 was genetically modified. Not all corn is harmful to the environment, however. Sweet corn is a more environmentally friendly option because it is not farmed as extensively. The best option would be finding local or organic sweet corn, or even better, grow your own.-Gillian Small