How to Eat More Sustainably to Help the Planet

Meaghan Weeden | November 25, 2020 | 5 min read

9 sustainable eating tips

There’s a lot of information out there about how to eat a healthy diet, and that’s great. But maybe you’re also wondering how to have a sustainable diet without giving up all of the dishes that you love. We know it can be confusing to figure out exactly what a sustainable diet is, so we’ve created a list to get you started!

Your diet is a deeply personal choice, and one that you ultimately have to make for yourself, But adopting a more sustainable diet can be both delicious and easy to follow.

To begin, let's clarify what, exactly, a sustainable diet is: it's vibrant, delicious, and good for your health and the planet. It's filled with local, seasonal, and plant-based meals. And it's kind to the planet because it supports sustainable farming practices and requires less resources to maintain. What you eat has a bigger impact on the environment than you may realize, and by greening up your plate (literally and otherwise), you can ensure that you're having a positive impact with every meal. 

Check Out Our 9 Sustainable Diet Tips

sustainable lunch friends

1. Eat More Plants

Fruits and vegetables are loaded with essential nutrients that we just can’t get elsewhere. They also generally have a much lower environmental impact than meat, dairy, and processed foods. Exceptions include fragile produce shipped thousands of miles, veggies (like hothouse tomatoes) that are grown in protected conditions, and resource-intensive foods like almonds and GMO soy.

fresh locally farmed greens

2. eat more variety

How we eat is harming the planet, and 75% of the global food supply comes from just 12 plants and 5 animal species. The lack of variety in our diets puts undue pressure on ecosystems AND reduces food security. So build colorful plates and enjoy a more nutritious, flavorful, and eco-friendly meal. And don’t be afraid to experiment with unique, locally available foods!

hands holding produce scraps for compost

3. Reduce your food waste

With 30% of the food produced getting wasted, it’s clear that food waste is a major problem around the world. In fact, if it was a country, it would be the 3rd largest emitter of greenhouse gases (after China and the U.S.). So try to buy only what you will eat before it goes bad, compost your scraps, and freeze or otherwise preserve anything that you won’t use right away. You can also find our tips on how to reduce waste beyond just your diet!

cute cow with freckled nose

4. EAT LESS ANIMAL PRODUCTS

With global meat consumption increasing by 500% between 1992 and 2016, the livestock industry alone generates a staggering 15% of our greenhouse gas emissions. Still feel like you need animal protein? Consider limiting your consumption of meat and dairy products to a few times a week and if possible choose more sustainable meats (like sustainably produced chicken instead of beef).

fresh local produce organic farmer

5. Eat Local and eat seasonally

Beyond having your own organic garden, the next best option is to support a local, sustainable farm. Just be sure to choose foods that are in-season, because the cost of storing them beyond their natural growing seasons can in some cases be higher than that of shipping foods that are in season somewhere else. Support local farmers and your local community!

whole grains bulk unprocessed form

6. Avoid Processed Foods

Aside from being bad for your health, processed foods require a lot of resources to break ingredients down and strip out most nutrients along the way. Even brown rice, which is inarguably better than white rice, sucks up a lot of water during production. So get in the habit of buying foods in their whole, unprocessed form, like buckwheat, quinoa, wild rice, unrefined barley, and wheat berries. 

sustainable seafood sardines

7. Choose Sustainably Sourced Seafood

Seafood is a great addition to a healthy diet, but high demand and poor management have led to overfishing of popular species like North Sea cod and wild Atlantic salmon. So get adventurous and try a delicious, sustainable alternative like barramundi, wild-caught sardines, and sustainably farmed shellfish. 

colorful vegan lentil burgers

8. Give Plant Proteins a Chance

Plant-based proteins like beans, pulses, and some grains, are much less resource-intensive than animal proteins like beef and chicken. They also tend to be heart healthier and easier to digest. The next time you make tacos or shepherds pie, try subbing lentils for the beef for a delicious, filling, and sustainable alternative!

bulk bags produce sustainable shopping

9. Buy in bulk

Proper food packaging, especially of meats and seafood, is important for food safety. But wherever possible, try to reduce the amount of packaged foods you buy. Think bulk fruits vs. individually packaged ones, bring reusable shopping and bulk bags to the store, and find products that use sustainable packaging materials.

We hope this list has gotten you excited about greening up your diet! Just want to plant a tree? Choose your region and plant today!

Plant Trees Where They're Needed Most
Plant Trees Where They're Needed Most
Plant Trees Where They're Needed Most
Plant Trees Where They're Needed Most
Plant Trees Where They're Needed Most
Plant Trees Where They're Needed Most
Plant Trees Where They're Needed Most
Plant Trees Where They're Needed Most
Plant Trees Where They're Needed Most
Plant Trees Where They're Needed Most
Plant Trees Where They're Needed Most
Plant Trees Where They're Needed Most

Plant Trees Where They're Needed Most

As the need for reforestation is global and ever-changing, we feature where trees are most needed now. For Treecember, we're planting trees that support a global forest fire recovery fund. Learn more

With your help, we will:

  • Reforest lands damaged by record-setting fires
  • Support healthy habitat for iconic biodiversity
  • Plant tree species that will help reduce future fire impact
  • This holiday season, we’re planting trees in areas around the world that have been severely affected by forest fires and aren't able to recover a healthy ecosystem on their own. The most common naturally-caused wildfires occur during droughts or dry weather, and under these circumstances, trees and other vegetation are converted to flammable fuel. Human-caused forest fires can be a result of various activities like unregulated slash and burn agriculture, equipment failure or engine sparks, and discarded cigarettes.

    After wildfires, reforestation is essential in areas where the fire intensity burned off available seed supply within the soil, and/or where there are not enough healthy trees still growing and producing new seeds nearby. Reforestation starts once professional assessments have been made to determine where human intervention would be the most ecologically beneficial. Help restore these vital ecosystems by planting a tree. 🌿
  • Every year, forest fires are increasing in size and severity, damaging vital ecosystems and creating a need for millions of trees. Some major consequences of forest fires include significant loss of wildlife, loss of vegetation, soil erosion, air pollution, and greenhouse gas emissions.

    With so much fire damage, reforestation is essential to catalyze the environmental recovery process. The trees are carefully planted to prevent invasive species from colonizing burn scars and restore quality habitat for native biodiversity. One Tree Planted is connecting with on-the-ground partners to establish viable reforestation projects when the recently affected regions are ready for planting. This fund will contribute to planting projects in British Columbia, Idaho, Ghana, Portugal, and beyond. Let's get to work! 🌲
  • A personalized tree certificate (see gallery) to say thanks for your donation. We'll also send you updates about this project, so you can track the impact your trees are having on the community and environment.
  • To maximize the impact of your donation, our partners on the ground will determine the most appropriate species of tree and shrubs. We only plant native tree species that will restore the local ecosystem, re-establish wildlife habitat, and reduce the likelihood of future fires.

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