Here are 26 top Earth Day nutrition tips to try to help improve our planet – with simple changes to your habits. The theme for Earth Day this year is “Invest in Our Planet”. I hope these ideas may help you form lasting habits toward improving the climate crisis, waste, and sustainability for a healthier planet.
Our daily habits from food choices, shopping, cooking, and more can make a difference. This includes decreasing food and packaging waste that goes to landfills, greenhouse gas produced, transportation choices, and saving energy and water.
Earth Day Nutrition Choices
- One major change that can make a positive difference is to cut back or eliminate eating beef. Beef results in much more land being used and greenhouse gasses being produced than growing plant protein foods.
According to this report from the University of Illinois about meat consumption, the average American ate 264 pounds of meat in 2021. This was mainly chicken, beef, and pork. This report also states that 40% of domestic corn and 60% of soybeans are used to feed animals.
2. Choosing plant proteins instead of meats can help people cut help decrease greenhouse gasses, water use, and move toward a healthy dietary pattern such as Mediterranean, plant-based, or vegan.
Switching a food normally made with meat to a vegetarian version can be an easy way to get started. Here is an easy pasta meal to try:
Earth Day is a great time to try a meatless or vegan meal!
3. Look for local food where possible. This saves the energy needed to transport food. try local farmer’s markets, farms, CSAs (Community Supported Agriculture), and supermarkets that carry local produce. Farmers’ Market Tips for the Best Produce
4. Include organic foods if feasible: Organically grown food are produced without the use of synthetic pesticides. This helps to preserve the composition of the soil and prevent exposure to toxic chemicals by agricultural workers and wildlife (source: Importance of Organic Agriculture, USDA).
Organic foods are more labor-intensive to grow and typically cost more. The “Dirty Dozen” list from the Environmental Working Group can help prioritize which foods are more likely to contain pesticide residues.
5. Try growing some of your own food. Here are some resources for getting started with container gardening and indoor hydroponic gardening if you are short on outdoor space.
Preventing Food Waste
Did you know that globally, an estimated 14% of food is wasted before it is harvested, and another 17% of food is wasted by consumers (source: We Can All Help Reduce Food and Waste, United Nations)?
This is important because 3.1 billion people do not have enough healthy food. Plus, this food waste is a significant contributor to greenhouse gas emissions.
6. Use up fruit: Do you have fruit that is getting overripe? Either freeze it or use it now in recipes like these frozen desserts:
7. Save vegetable scraps in the freezer to use in broth. This can help you make soups and sauces taste better, and retain some flavor and nutrients from the vegetables. Here’s how:
Go Green by Preventing Plastic Waste
Plastic is a problem for our environment because very little is recycled: only about 9% per earthday.com. It can hurt marine life and also enter the food supply through seafood. According to this source, about half of the plastic created is intended for single use.
8. Reduce: try to find ways to buy less plastic. For example, spaghetti sauce could come in glass or plastic bottles. salad dressing may come in a glass bottle or a plastic bottle, or you can make your own too, like this fresh tomato lime dressing:
-It takes more plastic and energy to recycle. Remember: Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle – and try to follow this order. The first priority should be to reduce waste, then reuse things, and finally, recycle – because we can’t count on plastic actually being recycled.
9. Choose looseleaf tea brewed in a tea ball or tea bags made from cloth tea bags. A recent study from McGill University found that tea bags made with plastic release nano- and micro-plastics into tea.
10. Use a reusable stainless steel drinking bottle instead of buying plastic water bottles. Plastic water bottles are responsible for a tremendous amount of waste: 25 million tons in 2021 according to CNN. This is an easy step to take to be part of the solution!
11. Don’t buy foods packaged in plastic when possible. Did you know you can even make your own yogurt? Look for glass or recyclable cartons.
-If there is something that you need and can’t find in a glass container, see if you can buy a larger container of it so that there will be less wasted plastic.
12. Take reusable grocery bags into stores. I like to keep mine in the car so they are already available. Some municipalities are banning plastic bags in stores now (locally Philadelphia, Newtown, PA), which is a good step.
13. Try not to buy water, flavored water, premade tea, or soda. Did you know that the average American uses 13 bottles of water per month (source: Reusable Water Bottle Market)?
You can make your own flavored water with slices of strawberry, kiwi, oranges, cucumber, sprigs of mint, and more for refreshing, tasty drinks. I like to bring a reusable stainless steel water bottle with me to meetings where there will be bottled water so I don’t need to use them.
14. Reuse – if you have plastic food containers, consider how you can reuse them before they are recycled. Many are not supposed to be used for food storage again. However, they could be used for other purposes, like organizing drawers and craft supplies or starting seeds.
15. Recycle – check which items and especially which types of plastic your municipality or trash company recycles. Check the container if you do buy something plastic: plastic containers labeled 1 and 2 are more likely to be recyclable than other numbers according to this guide from Tufts University.
In some communities, you may need to drop these off at a recycling facility. Try to avoid “wishcycling” or trying to recycle everything possible. If items aren’t recycled at the plant, this causes difficulty with their machinery and increases the cost of recycling.
16. Try glass food storage containers instead of plastic: glass ones last longer and are less likely to stain. The disadvantages are that they are breakable and heavier. They may work for you for some uses. I have some that can go between the oven and freezer too (but should not go directly from one to the other). Generally, the lids are made with part or all plastic.
17. Pack lunch and snack foods in reusable containers instead of plastic bags.
18. Bring a ceramic or travel mug and silverware to work meetings to help cut down on coated paper, styrofoam cups, and disposable plasticware. Keep extras in your desk drawer for meetings or in case you forget anything in your lunch.
Preventing Paper Waste
19. Try using cloth napkins instead of paper napkins. You can also sew a roll of reusable paper towels from fleece or just use more cloth towels in place of paper towels.
20. Try homemade foods instead of takeout. I bake fresh pizza about once a week. This alone saves waste from the cardboard box and the fuel to pick up or have the pizza delivered (not to mention, you can make it with your own healthy ingredients, like Cheesy Vegan Pizza with 00 Flour. And here are 10 Tips for Zero Waste Take-Out.
Saving Energy in the Kitchen
21. Preheating the oven: while most recipes will say to preheat the oven before you start preparing the ingredients, this can waste energy. It may make sense to turn on the oven when you are in the middle of getting the recipe ready to bake.
For instance, it takes my oven 12 minutes to reach 350 degrees F. So if I can put a recipe together in less than that, I will turn it on before. If I am making cookies or muffins or something that takes longer than 12 minutes, I may turn it on when I am mixing the batter or portioning the cookies and muffins.
22. When using your oven, try to cook several things at once.
23. When boiling water for cooking, place a lid on your pot at first so it reaches the boiling point faster.
24. Consider keeping a list of what you have on each freezer shelf – this can help you know what you have for planning meals and making a shopping list, without having to open the door too often to search for things. It can also help you rotate your inventory and prevent food waste.
25. Try to combine errands to save gas (or electric) with your vehicle. Can you stop at the store on your way home from work? And consider what you can grow at home so you don’t need to shop as often.
Using Renewable Energy
26. If you have options for electricity suppliers, you can choose renewable energy sources. Then, see if you can use electric appliances instead of a gas stove, for example, a slow cooker, Instant Pot, panini maker, indoor electric grill, or electric skillet. Pennsylvania residents can compare suppliers at PAPowerswitch.com.
Here’s an easy Instant Pot recipe using plant protein from lentils:
Have you tried any of these Earth Day nutrition tips? Please let me know in the comments: