Nutrition-wise blog

What are you doing to keep the earth healthy?

By Jennifer K. Nelson, R.D., L.D. April 9, 2016

April 22 is Earth Day. It's a day to focus on our environment and what we can do individually — and collectively — to make it healthy.

First celebrated in the U.S. in 1970, Earth Day was created to draw attention to the environment and create awareness of our responsibilities. On April 22, 1970, 20 million Americans marched in the streets to protest against environmental ignorance and pollution.

Forty-five years later, Earth Day has gone worldwide. It's the largest secular observance in the world, celebrated by more than 1 billion people every year. The Earth Day Network includes more than 50,000 partners in 196 countries.

Earth Day is credited with many achievements. These include establishment of U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and passage of the Clean Air, Clean Water and Endangered Species acts. Global achievements include the first United Nations (U.N.) Earth Summit and numerous multinational environmental treaties.

Last year, 196 countries signed the Paris Agreement, an agreement to work together to address climate change. Fittingly, the official signing ceremony will be this April 22.

Earth Day also gives the opportunity for each of us to make small changes that collectively have major impact. In fact, five of the eight recommendations from the Earth Day Network's "Billion Acts of Green" campaign relate directly to individual food choices and practices.

Here are the categories and ideas you might try in recognition of Earth Day. I encourage you to try one — or come up with your own ideas — and to make your best effort to sustain it.

  • Eat less meat. Go meatless on Mondays. Cut portion sizes of meat by one-half. Purchase grass-fed meat.
  • Buy local produce. Frequent your local farmers market for produce or shop at stores that buy from local farmers. Purchase only what you need. Whenever possible, eat peels and use leftovers in salads and soups. Become a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) member.
  • Start composting. Fruit and vegetable scraps, coffee grounds and tea leaves are food items that can be composted and returned to refresh soil with nutrients.
  • Stop using disposable plastic. Stop using plastic single-serve items (individually wrapped snack items, single-serve coffee maker "cups"). Instead of plastic bags, use recycled paper or cloth bags. Ask the butcher to wrap your meat in butcher paper — not plastic. Recycle whatever plastic you do use.
  • Reduce your footprint. Also known as your carbon footprint, it's the impact you have on the planet. You can reduce your footprint by traveling less (for example, by grocery shopping less frequently), conserving water, and replacing energy-inefficient appliances with energy-efficient ones. Look for the Energy Star label.

In case you're curious, the other categories are: End junk mail, recycle your e-waste and sign the climate petition at www.change.org. All are great initiatives.

As a nutritionist, I am dedicated to aligning our food choices with health of our bodies — and our environment. The two go hand in hand. What good would it do us if we achieved healthy bodies yet we have surroundings so polluted that they are toxic? What will we do if our environment can no longer grow enough healthy food?

What will you choose to do on Earth Day — and beyond?

April 09, 2016