Two years ago in the September 2010 issue of beijingkids, I wrote about reducing your carbon footprint by simply not eating meat once a week. It takes 68 times more energy to produce beef than to produce an equivalent amount of potatoes, so eating vegetarian one day a week is more than just an empty gesture. You can make a real difference.
The Meatless Monday movement has taken off since its launch in 2003, and you can find supporters worldwide. For many families, it is a sustainable and fun way of doing something good for the planet’s health as well as for their own. In fact, it has been touted as a more effective effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions than my second suggestion of eating locally-grown food. If you switch from energy-intensive bottled water to filtered tap water, you can make a considerable impact.
To add brownie points to your good planetary citizen karma bank, here are a few more suggestions:
- Buy fruits and vegetables that are in season. If you see blueberries at the market in winter, they’ve probably been flown to Beijing from somewhere in the southern hemisphere. In late winter and early spring here, you are better off getting your dose of antioxidants from local strawberries grown in the many organic hot houses in the northern suburbs of Beijing.
- Second, drop processed foods altogether – or as much as you can. Nutritionally speaking, processed foods are one of the greatest contributors to modern day health risks such as heart disease and obesity. Environmentally, processing foods requires trucking in the raw materials and energy to produce, package and distribute them.
- What if you’re already doing all of the above? Sometimes a little kitchen DIY can also benefit your health and the environment. Try freezing your locally-grown, organic chicken carcasses and using them for stock. When making the broth, add a spoonful of vinegar to it, simmer for a few hours to leach important minerals out of the bones and into the broth. Pour the finished broth into a wide-rimmed bowl or pan to cool before putting it into the fridge or freezing it in ice cube trays. You can then pop a cube or two into your favorite dishes for flavoring, and save money and energy that would otherwise go into canned or packaged broth.
- Finally, remember to close the door between the kitchen and your air-conditioned living area this summer, and think before you open the fridge door. It will save even more energy.
What you choose to eat and drink has the greatest impact on the planet’s resources; even small steps can add up.