Friday, April 22, 2011

Earth Day Every Day

I’m always trying to be eco-conscious in my daily rounds, so I’m devoted to making every day Earth Day. But to celebrate this year’s actual Earth Day, I’d like to share some eco-conscious tips related to food purchasing, including some useful traceable labels and what they mean.

To honor our planet -- and in the spirit of making a difference in its health – I invite you to join me in an “eco-consciousness-raising movement.” As part of this movement, you believe that making eco-conscious choices does have a positive environmental impact, not just for today, but for future generations, so you are careful about what goes into your grocery cart and re-usable shopping bags. We each “vote with our fork” every day, and if, as often as possible, you cast your vote with these buzzwords in mind -- good, clean, fair, local, organic and sustainable – you will do well by for Mother Earth and of course, your personal well-being.

Tip #1: The latest catch …

Not all fish or fish harvesting practices are good for consumers or the environment. Some seafood can be contaminated with high levels of mercury and PCB’s (polychlorinated biphenyls) highly toxic industrial compounds. A lot of seafood varieties have been over-fished (remember the Orange Roughy craze?) or caught in ways that damage our oceans and marine life.

Eco-conscious guidelines for buying fish include: Buy small fish (they tend to be more plentiful), buy wild, buy American (U.S. guidelines are stricter) from local, trusted retailers; know how and where the fish was caught. The Marine Stewardship Council certifies seafood caught or raised in a sustainable, environmentally-friendly manner. Look for their blue certified sustainable sticker.

The Environmental Defense Fund has a comprehensive guide for the best and worst popular seafood choices – take a look,

Tip #2: Meat matters …

The Global Animal Partnership is a non-profit organization dedicated to improving the lives of farm animals raised for meat. Their 5-Step Animal Welfare Rating™ rates how chickens, cattle and pigs are raised. Ratings for other species (turkeys, lamb, and others) are currently in development. For high-quality meat and fowl from sources that raise and slaughter animals ethically and safely, look for their distinctive orange, gold and green 5-step labels.

Tip #3: Produce labels and what they reveal …

Do you know what the little sticker on produce means? It speeds up the scanning process at the checkout stand but it also reveals whether the produce is conventionally grown, genetically modified or organically grown.

A four-digit code means the item is conventionally grown, most likely with pesticides and fertilizers. A five-digit code starting with "8" means the produce is genetically modified. And a five-digit code starting with "9" means the produce was organically grown. So, if an apple has the code "6584" on the sticker, that apple would have been grown from unaltered seed with the possible use of fertilizers and pesticides. An apple labeled "86584" would be genetically altered. And an apple with a code reading "96584" would have been grown organically.

Tip #4: Before you go to check out …

Survey your grocery cart contents in terms of “clean and green.” Is it filled with food packaged in plastic containers? With boxed food whose ingredient labels are unfamiliar and even unpronounceable? With prepared, processed, mass-produced food? With out-of-season food that has traveled extensive distances? Are there items that could be replaced by fresh, organic, ethically-raised, fair-trade and sustainable foods from your local farmer’s market or other artisans? Make a note so that next time you shop, your purchases will be more eco-conscious – good for you, your family and Planet Earth.

Taste trumps everything else, so savor “clean and green” food choices, one bite-at-a time!