5 Easy Ways to Eat More Sustainably at Home

By Alice Carbone Tench
|
April 4, 2022
fresh vegetables on a wood table

As a young girl growing up in a small, Italian town, I was able to experience firsthand how eating and sourcing sustainable, local food can positively impact our communities. I believe that the meals we make at home should encourage versatility and ingredient swaps — when we’re more flexible this way, we can usually find ways to enjoy food that’s in season and locally accessible. By eating and shopping sustainably, we’re not only being good to the earth, we’re also giving ourselves a fun, creative way to be more in touch with where our food comes from. Luckily, sustainability doesn’t have to be expensive or difficult. Here are five (easy) ways you can make your food habits a little more sustainable.

1. Respect the seasons

Sometimes we forget the surprises the seasons bring with them: lots of new flavors and colors. When you go shopping for vegetables and fruit, look up what is in season in your area, as those products are most likely grown by local farmers.  Do you remember the magic, when you were a child, of waiting for the first cherry of the season as spring approached? That feeling is sacred and I wouldn’t change it for anything in the world. I think choosing seasonal produce helps us appreciate the cycle of the seasons, and as an added bonus, in-season produce is much better-tasting and often significantly less expensive than when it is out-of-season. 

2. Avoid throwing away food 

Think of different ways to consume all of your food in the fridge. You can always repurpose leftovers, such as using produce scraps for vegetable stocks; onion peels for an even richer, more golden broth; old pasta for a frittata; and old dry fruits for oatmeal.  

3. Buy only what you need 

I always look in my pantry and in the fridge before heading out on a grocery spree. I love the challenge of creating a delicious dish using what I have, instead of filling yet another cart with what I seem to want on a whim. This also prevents me from buying too much, which means I don’t have to throw food away if it goes bad.  

4. Choose local whenever possible

Whenever you can, opt for a local farmers market — sustainability also means community. Social media and the internet has enabled us to buy whatever we want from far away, which means that we can sometimes forget all the good our own land can give us. 

5. Read food labels 

Consider where your food comes from and what practices were used in the process. It can take a bit to get accustomed to reading food labels, but you can absolutely decipher certifications and USDA lingo. For example, you might notice your egg carton may say “cage-free,” “free-range,” or “pasture-raised,” which all mean different things. Cage-free means chickens are not in cages, but could still be in confined spaces indoors, whereas free-range means they have some outside access, and pasture-raised means the hens have regular access to outdoor space covered in vegetation or grass.   

Alice Carbone Tench is a writer, journalist, and cook. Her new cookbook Eating Again: The Recipes That Healed Me chronicles her recovery from bulimia and addiction through plant-based Italian recipes from her childhood to today.

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