10 Ways to a Cleaner World - dummies

By Jonathan Wright, Linda Larsen

Eating clean not only helps make you healthier and improve your life; it can also help improve the world. When you buy lower on the food chain by buying whole foods, you avoid packaged and processed foods that take a lot of energy to produce. And you’re not contributing to the facilities and transport methods that cause pollution. The amount of garbage you produce will be less, too, because there will be less to throw away.

Here are ten ways you can help the environment by eating clean.

Every little bit helps. If you aren’t completely avoiding processed and packaged food, any changes you make will help. And when more people start the eating clean lifestyle, the changes can be dramatic!

Buying local and hyper-local

The local food movement has been growing since the 1970s. When you buy your food from local, independent farmers and businesses, you support your local town economy. This helps reduce the environmental impact of your diet because less transportation is needed, which means less pollution and wild animal habitat loss. In addition, you’ll help create more good jobs in your community.

In addition, buying locally produced and sourced foods means the food you eat will contain more nutrients. Most produce sold in the United States is picked about a week before you buy it and travels 1,500 miles. During that time, nutrients are depleted.

Buying hyper-local means you do most of your shopping in your own neighborhood, and help farmers and businesses connect into a well-defined community.

Community supported agriculture (CSA) is a great way to buy local. You pay a fixed amount to a local farmer at the beginning of a season, and then you’re entitled to take some of the harvest home during the growing season.

Supporting sustainability

Sustainability is the ability to endure and prosper over a long period of time. Long-lived ecosystems that are healthy and pollution-free benefit everyone. Buildings, farms, and communities that are sustainable help future generations by minimizing their environmental impact. With a little research and comparison-shopping, you can support sustainability with every purchase you make.

Sustainable crops are grown differently from conventional crops. Multiple species are planted on the same land every crop cycle, which minimizes soil depletion and increases yields. Farmers don’t have to use as many pesticides and herbicides because this type of farming can reduce insect infestation and discourage weeds.

Sustainable crops may be higher in nutrients. Crops grown on industrial farms are bred for high yield and fast growth instead of nutrient content, and animals raised for meat are bred for fast growth. These factors may reduce the macronutrients and micronutrients available in produce and meat.

Spending money on the best food

If you’re like most people, you’re concerned about budgets, overspending, and getting the most for your money. By eating clean, you may find your budget improving along with your health!

When you want to get the most for your money, buying foods low on the food chain — such as fresh tomatoes instead of canned tomatoes, dried beans for homemade soup instead of canned soup, or fresh spinach instead of frozen spinach — can help your budget and your health. Whenever food is processed, nutrients are lost and cost is added.

Factory farms and antibiotic resistance

Not only is staying away from any meat or produce produced by factory farms a good idea nutritionally, but it’s better for the health of everyone in the world. On many factory farms, livestock crowded into filthy stalls are given subtherapeutic doses of antibiotics to prevent disease and to spur growth.

The FDA and USDA have asked manufacturers of veterinary drugs to stop labeling them for the use of disease prevention, but the antibiotics can still be used for growth promotion. It’s possible that those drugs get into the meat, and then into you when you eat that steak.

Large feedlots also contribute to air and water pollution, and indirectly to food poisoning outbreaks. Runoff from these farms, which can contain pathogenic bacteria, gets into the groundwater and pollutes it. When that water is used to irrigate farm fields, crops can become contaminated and cause foodborne illness outbreaks.

The USDA estimates that confined farm animals generate more than 450 million tons of manure every year. And these facilities generate huge amounts of greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change. Factory farms contribute 37 percent of methane emissions into the environment. That gas has 20 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide.

Raw foods caution

Whole foods are good for you, and gentle cooking methods such as the slow cooker may be best, but eating raw (uncooked) foods can be problematic, especially if you have a serious health condition or are at risk for food poisoning. Outbreaks of foodborne illness have been linked to everything from ice cream to spinach to ground beef.

In fact, the FDA says that the food that causes the most food poisoning outbreaks is fresh produce. The problem is that bacteria are only killed when food is heated to 160 degrees.

Eating some foods raw is good for you, but you’ll get more nutrients out of other foods when they’re cooked. For instance, your body can absorb more vitamin A precursor from carrots when they’re cooked. When mushrooms are cooked, potassium is more available.

Anyone who follows a raw food diet could be lacking in vitamin B12, which can cause anemia and damage to the nervous system. Meat is one of the best sources of this vitamin. If you’re eating a raw diet, you shouldn’t be eating meat, which means you may be deficient in vitamin B12. Check with your doctor and ask about supplementation if you’re interested in this plan.

Your own garden

Growing your own food is rewarding, inexpensive, and really the best way to ensure that your food is as fresh as possible. If you have a backyard garden, you won’t be contributing to pollution through food transportation or packaging, and you’re living the ultimate local lifestyle!

Try to get your family involved when you plant a garden. You don’t have to have a huge plot of land to grow a significant part of your diet in the summer. A few raised beds or half a dozen large pots can provide lots of tomatoes, bell peppers, herbs, peas, beans, and fruit throughout the growing season.

Reducing waste

Another great way to help the planet is to reduce the waste you produce. Challenge each other to find ways to reuse materials and avoid one-use containers. You can

  • Bring your own reusable bags to the store.
  • Use a thermos for water instead of buying bottles.
  • Use reusable containers for leftovers instead of plastic, wax paper, and foil.
  • Use kitchen towels that you keep scrupulously clean instead of paper towels.
  • Shop in bulk when you buy products such as dried beans, flour, or seasonings.
  • Keep track of food in your fridge and freezer to avoid waste. Americans throw away at least 15 percent of the food they buy because it goes bad before they can use it.

Recycling and composting

Recycling and composting have been part of the green environmental movement for decades. In many communities, glass, metal, plastic, and paper must be recycled, or you’ll pay a fine.

Reducing the amount that you throw away helps protect the Earth. Always recycle everything you can and make a conscious effort to use less.

Backyard composting is a great way to help reduce waste. You can compost by buying a composting bin or making one from untreated wood. Mix dry leaves, twigs, and straw with kitchen scraps and grass clippings. Wet the pile just until it’s damp. Turn the compost with a large fork to help speed decomposition and eliminate odors. Don’t compost meat, bones, whole eggs, or dairy products.

Buying organic

Organic foods can be cleaner for your body in terms of fewer pesticides and herbicides. Buying organic can also help the environment because you’re encouraging farmers to work without harmful chemicals.

Organic farming keeps these chemicals, which are persistent and can last for years in the soil, out of the environment. When you’re shopping, look for the organic seal which indicates the food is certified organic by the USDA. Foods produced without harmful chemicals will be labeled 100 percent organic. Foods with the label “made with organic ingredients” means at least 70 percent of the ingredients are organic. But beware of the term natural, which may only mean that the food doesn’t have artificial ingredients or added colors.

One herbicide, Roundup, contains a compound called glyphosate that scientists believed did not harm animals. The chemical affects the shikimate pathway in plants, which is missing in mammals. But the bacteria in your guts use the shikimate pathway, so glyphosate will harm animals and people.

Conserving water

Clean drinking water is a resource necessary to life, but that resource is threatened by pollution and waste. You can make a difference by how you use it. You can

  • Turn off the water while you brush your teeth and take shorter showers.
  • Drink filtered tap water instead of buying bottled water.
  • Save rain water in barrels if your community allows it, and use it to water your gardens or wash your car.
  • Only use the dishwasher and clothes washer when they’re fully loaded, and make sure those appliances are efficient.
  • While running the water and waiting for it to get hot, capture the cold water and use it for cleaning or watering plants.