- Buy only what you need. It’s all about efficiency. More than 30 percent of the United States’ food goes to waste. Eat your leftovers or freeze what you can’t consume right away. If you find you overbought, share with your neighbors or donate the items to a local food shelf.
- Choose products with less packaging. Stroll past the individually wrapped packaged snacks. Drink more tap water. Spread Nutella on apples or whole-grain crackers instead of stocking the cabinets with bags of fruit snacks or chips. You will produce less waste, and consume more essential vitamins and minerals.
- Use cooking oils that require less land to produce. For example, genetically modified crops such as corn, soy and canola require as much as 10 times more land than palm oil. As our world population increases, the edible oil demand could easily lead to more deforestation. Thankfully, a large percentage of the nutritious palm oil in our U.S. food supply comes from Malaysia, where it is certified as sustainably produced. Plus, while those other oil crop fields are routinely plowed under, oil palm trees produce fruit for up to 30 years. So, the lush oil palm plantations provide stable homes for wildlife. Fun fact: In Malaysia, barn owls and snakes are used to control the pest populations, enabling farmers to reduce the use of harmful chemical pesticides.
- Go meatless at least once a week. Not only is a plant-based diet healthy but livestock is the largest driver of deforestation in the world. The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) have even made beef cattle the emphasis of its deforestation campaign. Livestock accounts for 71 percent of agricultural land, or 30 percent of land surface on the planet, according to a FAO report. While less significant, soybeans, pigs and poultry, and corn are causes of deforestation according to a Climate Focus report.
- Buy only US-caught seafood. Ninety one percent of our seafood is imported. We don’t know how it was caught or what regulations were followed to protect our oceans. I serve as Director of Culinary Education for Passionfish, an NGO non-profit organization dedicated to educating people around the globe on the issue of sustainability in the seas. One of the most important questions you can ask at the supermarket or fish market is the country of origin. The American seafood industry generally has better sustainability practices than those of other countries.
This year’s Earth Day theme is “Protect our Species”. Some of the best solutions for protecting our wildlife and their habitats are to support the global use of certified sustainable products, such as Malaysian palm oil, buying local to help keep nearby farmlands from becoming paved shopping malls, and choosing American seafood to help protect the health of our oceans.
Author Biography: Chef Gerard Viverito, The Sustainable Chef, is a culinary instructor as the Director of Culinary Education for Passionfish, a NGO non-profit organization dedicated to educating people around the globe on the issue of sustainability in the seas. He is also operator of Saveur Fine Catering, a company whose beliefs and products center on local, sustainable and organic foods. Chef Viverito’s pantry is loaded with items commonly overlooked in the supermarkets, yet he has a thorough understanding of them and a passion to teach others how to cook more healthfully.
In addition, Chef Viverito has dedicated a large part of his career to what he terms “functional cooking.” This is where he adds nutritional ingredients to dishes to gain healthful results. He is well known for his ability to lower the glycemic index value of food, add omega fatty acids, and whole proteins to dishes without compromising the texture or taste. He appears regularly on radio and television programs demonstrating this as well as consulting clients on their dietary needs. www.ChefGerard.com