By Julie Upton, RD
My maiden name is Walsh, which automatically made me somewhere between ¼ to ½ Irish (my mom was adopted). So, I’ve officially declared myself an Irish-American, and I’m here with a few tips for eating green this St. Patrick’s Day.
You may think I’m about to extoll the virtues of Irish soda bread, corn beef and cabbage, and drinking lots of beer. But no, I’m talking about “green” in terms of being eco-conscious.
Here are some steps I’m taking today—and most days—to make my American SUV-like diet more like a hybrid.
Eat lower on the food chain
Since plant-based foods require a fraction of the fossil fuel to produce compared to dairy, beef, poultry or seafood, I’m going meatless today. (I’m normally a flexitarian, and most days I’ll have a few ounces of lean poultry or fish.) If you can eat a meat and dairy-free diet at least once a week, that can have a big planetary payoff.
Nix bottle water
It takes tons of energy to produce plastic bottles, fill them, ship them around, so we can down them and send them to landfills. Use a BPA-free reusable bottle instead.
Eat more American-grown and produced foods
Start looking at labels: Are the pastas or pistachios you’re eating produced in the United States? Beginning yesterday, food companies are required to include the country of origin on their fresh meats, frozen and fresh fruits and vegetables, and other foods. The energy required to ship products into the country wastes precious energy—plus, it doesn’t support our country’s agriculture.
Choose more organics
Manufacturers of organic foods must meet USDA organic regulations, which do not allow for synthetic pesticides, bioengineered or irradiated ingredients, or animals that receive antibiotics or hormones. (The Union of Concerned Scientists report that 70% of total U.S. antibiotics are given to chicken, cows, and pigs for non-therapeutic purposes.) Although organic foods are not necessarily more nutritious (Some might be!), they are ecologically sound. If you’re concerned about the extra cost of organics, here’s a quick guide of when you should splurge and when you should save.
Ride a bike
Okay, this isn’t an eating tip, but it still ties in with healthy food shopping. The bicycle is the most energy-efficient form of transportation, so I’m gong to make an effort to use my bike (and a backpack) on trips to the post office and grocery store for small purchases. Bikes don’t emit exhaust, they’re easily built and repaired, require little space, and are affordable. Plus, you’ll work up an appetite—and won’t have to feel guilty about that celebratory Guinness. Erin Go Bragh!