So, it’s Earth Day once again. Newspapers and magazines, television, Twitter and Facebook, all offer great advice on how to love and preserve the planet, from exotic wilderness vacations to rebates for returning empty printer ink cartridges… from buying $300 eco-friendly silk dresses to (also timely!) college graduation gowns made from recycled pop bottles.
To honor the day, there are also uplifting, hopeful articles from major media outlets like CNN, cheering you up with headlines like “Earth Day 2016: We’re not as doomed as you think” (Well, um, yay.)
Never being ones to enslave ourselves to the latest trends, we are choosing a different (and, naturally, food-related) path to celebrating.
For Earth Day 2016, we’re working on creating a much bigger bottom.
A bigger bottom of the food pyramid, that is.
Eat low. Doctors, nutritionists, and the USDA exhort us to “eat low” on the food pyramid – the “base” layers of edible plants: grains and cereals, fruits and vegetables. Experts recommend that we eat 6 – 11 (small) servings of grains every day, and about as many servings of vegetables and fruits.
This week, we’re shining the spotlight on those basic, plant-based food groups. We’re featuring delicious samples and recipes that combine an unusual mix of ingredients to produce surprising flavors — which, by the way are vegan.
Part-time veg. Adding more plant-based dishes to your day-to-day cooking (broadening the bottom of your food pyramid, as it were) is good for you, even if you are a “part-time” vegetarian or vegan: folks who leave out animal products (even occasionally) often have low rates of obesity, and on average weigh less than meat eaters. Vegetarian diets on the whole are linked to lower BMIs, reduced risks of type II diabetes and lower incidents of cardiovascular disease. Another plus: increased consumption of fruits and vegetables lower rates of certain cancers, especially colon cancer.
But what does eating grains, fruits and veggies have to do with Earth Day? Eating low on the food chain (or at the bottom of the food pyramid, if you prefer) is also good for the planet.
Beyond cow flatulence. Cows, a key (and delicious) source of animal protein in the American diet, are ruminants, and as part of their digestive process, they release 70 – 120 kilograms of methane, a greenhouse gas (that is thought to contribute to global warming), every year. The food system (not just cattle, but industrial ag overall) is, by some counts, responsible for a quarter of greenhouse gas emissions. But there’s more to it than that:
Eating more plant-based foods is a great way to reduce your “carbon footprint.” It works like this: crops and water required to feed livestock animals we eat (or take milk or eggs from) take a toll on the planet. In some places, the land used to grow those crops, and graze the livestock, contributes to deforestation, and the loss of habitat for other animals.
On the other hand, a plant-based diet requires only one third of the land needed to support a meat and dairy diet.
Does this mean we’re giving up meat and cutting out dairy? Oh, heavens, no. We’re just taking an opportunity on this Earth Day to think about what it means to be an omnivore. And we’re brainstorming ways to add more plant-based recipes to complement the meats, cheeses, ice creams, and omelettes we love.
Like we said in our Earth Day newsletter, four years ago, “Observing Earth Day may not single-handedly turn you into an environmentalist with a tiny house and a smart car, [just like buying tasty ingredients from us won’t magically cook you a delicious dinner]. But it might be a thoughtful [and delicious!] step in that direction.”