This post was written by Heinen’s partner, Halle Snavely.
As a child, I celebrated Earth Day by planting trees with my kindergarten class, but as I’ve grown up and become more knowledgeable about environmental issues, I’ve realized that there are innumerable ways to celebrate this planet earth that we are lucky enough to call home. My favorite way to celebrate? With food, of course!
This may seem obvious, but it’s worth noting that your food does not originate on the grocery store shelf. A lot happens before it reaches the store and lands in your grocery cart. Most important is the part where it actually grows in the soil, under the sun and is tended by a farmer.
This idyllic farm scene used to be the norm, but as our food system became more industrialized following WWII, the way we farm became an increasing source of harm for the environment.
Today, our food system is sometimes the victim of environmental issues and sometimes the cause of them. For example, by some estimates, our food is up to 50% less nutritious today than it was in 1950 due to soil depletion and aggressive use of pesticides like Roundup. The droughts in California also make for an uncertain future in the state that produces the vast majority of food for the entire country.
The good news is, we have the power to influence which way the pendulum swings by buying foods that support the environment rather than harm it. Below are a few ways you can celebrate Earth Day with your food choices.
Buy Local when Possible. Local food is fresher and often of higher quality. It also travels a shorter distance between the farm and the grocery store and spends less time sitting in storage or being passed between hands during transit. Plus, knowing the farmer brings peace of mind of knowing how your food was produced. Heinen’s goes above and beyond to source local produce as much as possible and has built trusting, longstanding relationships with local farmers that meet their rigorous quality standards.
Meat is Not the Enemy. Meat has unfortunately gained a reputation of being bad for the environment, but according to numerous studies, when raised properly, meat actually has a positive environmental impact. Most grass-fed and pasture-raised meats would fall into this category. Heinen’s has an extensive selection of grass-fed and pasture-raised meat options, and goes the extra mile to build relationships with farmers and ranchers that focus on raising animals in an environmentally responsible way.
Buy Organic when you Can. There is a lot of confusion on this topic, so here’s the quick rundown. Organic food is better for the environment because it uses fewer toxic pesticides than conventional food. While it can be more expensive, that isn’t always the case. That said, if price is a consideration when you’re shopping for produce, make sure you’re informed on organics. Use the Environmental Working Group’s Clean 15 and Dirty Dozen lists to learn which types of produce consistently test for high levels of pesticides and which don’t. The produce included on the Clean 15 list are generally fine to buy conventional, as they have consistently tested for low levels of pesticides. For the products on the dirty dozen list, prioritize organic if it is available, as those have consistently tested for high levels of pesticides. The EWG just released their 2022 lists, so make sure to check them out.
Buy Oat Milk if you Avoid Dairy. Oat milk is the superstar that blows all the other plant-based milks off the charts on eco-friendly metrics. It uses the least amount of water, less land and it has an impressive nutritional profile. Oats are a cover crop (plants that are intended to cover soil rather than be harvested), and 50-90% have historically been used for animal feed prior to the oat milk explosion. Needless to say, there is no need to worry about putting stress on the supply chain. Plus, unlike many of its plant-based milk counterparts, oat milk is incredibly thick like real milk, and it froths, making it ideal for lattes.
So, feel free to plant a tree this Earth Day, but remember, the earth deserves our attention more than once a year. If you’re looking to make more earth friendly decisions, your food choices are a great place to start!