One of the biggest things you can do to support and encourage responsibly raised food is to vote with your wallet. You may be patronizing CSAs and farmers’ markets for local produce, buying organic brands from your supermarket, and studying nutrition labels for evils like high fructose corn syrup and artificial preservatives. But if you’re eating in restaurants blissfully ignorant of where the food on your plate comes from, then you might be undermining your efforts.
Choose the food you eat in restaurants just as wisely as what you choose to eat at home, and your choices will be more likely to influence the foodservice community to change their ways and offer more environmentally friendly choices on their menus. Plus, with restaurants, being green goes beyond the food they serve — restaurants can, and should, be conservative with energy usage, use eco-responsible construction methods, and treat their staff fairly.
Do a little research on the restaurants in your area, or before you travel to other cities, to find businesses that care about the environment. These tips will help you make the best choices:
Have you ever caught yourself, mid-bite into a juicy burger (veggie, beef or buffalo) loaded with all the fixings, and stopped to consider where it all came from? Like, how did your home-grown tomato end up nestled next to an avocado from California, topped upon a patty of ground beef processed in Kansas?
I love harvest time. What more savory feast for the senses is there than a Saturday morning stroll through the local farmers market in September? Here in Boulder, Colo., I love gathering a basketful of Palisade peaches, pungent peppers, fresh-picked organic salad greens, and a big, sweet Rocky Ford cantaloupe (the melon equivalent of a vine-ripe heirloom tomato versus a pale January supermarket variety). And soon, I’ll add a jug of cloudy, fresh-pressed apple cider.
I don’t have to tell most of you, it’s still freezing in most parts of the country (here in Atlanta we got an unprecedented snowstorm last weekend!) but believe it or not, now is the time to start thinking about where your summer produce will come from.
Are carrots and turnips getting a bit old? What to eat?! It sure is tempting to reach for artichokes and avocados instead, but out-of-season produce is an extravagance because it is so energy-intensive to transport to your kitchen.
Just because most of my frozen veggies are eco doesn’t make them the most environmentally friendly food choice.
For those of us trying our best to eat seasonally, this is the most challenging time of year. The farmers’ markets are closed down until spring in most parts of the country (here in Sweden, too), and the backyard garden looks like a cemetery of plant stakes.
Ever since my book The Virtuous Consumer, about how to make purchases that are healthier for people and the planet, was released a bit more than a year ago, I’ve been receiving strange confessions. “I don’t recycle,” said one guy at a cocktail party. “I love to take really long, really hot showers,” revealed a friend. “I refuse to use recycled toilet paper,” scoffed another.
I recently entertained some friends and, when complimented on the meal, made reference to “My farmer …” My friend Allison held up her hand to stop me mid-sentence. “Wait a minute,” she said. “… Your farmer?”