5@5 - Dine more sustainably for Earth Day and every day
April 20th, 2012
05:00 PM ET
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5@5 is a daily, food-related list from chefs, writers, political pundits, musicians, actors, and all manner of opinionated people from around the globe.

As Earth Day, April 22, approaches, we encourage you to consider how you can reduce your carbon footprint and live more sustainably.

When you dine at restaurants — which some of us do on a daily basis — it may seem hard to eat healthfully, let alone sustainably, but this isn't necessarily true.

Clean Plates founder and nutritionist Jared Koch has some suggestions to put sustainable dining within your reach.

Five Ways to Dine More Sustainably for Earth Day ... and Every Day: Jared Koch

1. Try to order meat from animals that were pastured, and choose seafood that was caught or farmed sustainably
"More and more restaurants are serving meat from pastured animals, that are often referred to as 'grass-fed.' Pastured animals get to go outside and munch on grass. It might not sound like a big deal, but it has a very beneficial effect on the surrounding environment (and the animals themselves).

Factory farmed animals are cooped up together and produce significantly more pollutants than pastured livestock that help fertilize the soil they graze upon and support new grass growth. Also, it takes a significant amount of fossil fuel to grow and deliver the grain used to feed livestock. Grass? You just need some rain.

As an added benefit to your health, pastured animals are also more likely to come from farms that don’t use hormones or antibiotics.

As I learned from the Seafood Program Director of the Blue Ocean Institute, both wild-caught and farmed fish can be ocean-friendly depending on the fishing and farming methods. But how can you tell while scanning a menu? Download the constantly updated Seafood Watch app from Monterey Bay Aquarium (it even has a sushi guide), or text the Blue Ocean Institute at 30644 with the message FISH and name of the fish in question; they’ll text you back with an assessment and more sustainable alternative (if necessary)."

2. Try a vegetarian or vegan dish (Yes, I'm talking to you, meat eaters)
"You don't need to be a vegetarian or vegan to be healthy or eat sustainably; simply ordering a vegetarian or vegan meal once in a while has a very positive environmental impact. In general, the less meat we consume, the lighter our carbon footprint. Who knows, you might even enjoy it and feel better afterward."

3. Select dishes with produce that is locally grown and organic (or at least pesticide-free)
"Local produce travels a shorter distance, retains more of its nutrients and tastes better. Organic farming practices support healthier soil and air, and ensure you won't ingest the pesticides used in conventional farming.

Soy products, corn and canola oil are very likely to contain GMOs (genetically modified organisms) unless they're organic, so be sure to investigate before you order."

4. Skip the bottled water
"American landfills are overflowing with single-use water bottles. Fortunately, some restaurants are starting to filter their own water now, which makes the choice easy. If you want to avoid tap water and insist on a bottle, try to make the most local choice possible: Choose bottled water from the U.S. instead of water shipped across the globe."

5. Don’t waste food
"Restaurant portions can be super-sized; while I don't want to encourage you to overeat and finish your plate, I do suggest you think twice before sending your leftovers to the trash. Food waste in the U.S. has become a big problem. It's increased the carbon footprint of trash delivery services and created excessive landfills that release large amounts of methane into the air.

If leftovers aren't for you, take your box and hand it to a homeless person on your way home, or leave the container on top of a trash bin for someone to find.

Don't forget: These small changes, made on a consistent basis, will have a positive impact not only for your personal health but the health of the planet too."

Is there someone you'd like to see in the hot seat? Let us know in the comments below and if we agree, we'll do our best to chase 'em down.

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Filed under: 5@5 • Earth Day • Environment • News • Sustainability • Think

soundoff (29 Responses)
  1. SixDegrees

    "it takes a significant amount of fossil fuel to grow and deliver the grain used to feed livestock. Grass? You just need some rain." – Uh, hate to pop your little bubble, but, 1) grass needs fertilizer to grow, and it also needs to be harvested and delivered in the winter, and 2) grains – notably wheat and corn – are grasses.

    April 24, 2012 at 6:51 am |
    • Farmer

      I farm. I raise cattle. I don't need any additional fertilizer, The cattle provide that. No delivery needed to the cattle. They have 4 legs and walk about the pasture nicely. The grass also stops soil erosion. In the winter time, the cattle eat the grass that is in the field, and keep down the potential for a grass fire. Hay? We use very little of it "delivered" to them. We just let a pasture grow tall, and when winter comes the grass dies and dries out, and they eat it right where it is. The next spring, new shoots appear and the cycle starts all over. Very sustainable this way.

      April 24, 2012 at 9:53 am |
      • Somaia

        More power to you. I am willing to pay higher price and eat less portions of meat that raised your way.

        April 24, 2012 at 10:10 am |
  2. Josie

    Resturants throw out an amazing amount of food, it doesn't matter what type of resteraunt either. I work in fast food and we could feed at least 15 to 20 or more people a night with the "waste" we throw away. Many of us hate doing it too, because we know what it's like to not have money for food! I also see people spending almost 40 dollars feeding their family at fast food, when you could literally buy ingrediants for meals at home and it would be healthier and you would actually know what goes into it.

    April 24, 2012 at 3:56 am |
  3. Williams

    You have to take a look at a new growing system that I am so stoked about. It uses hardly any water, barely any electricity, and it's vertical, 20 plants on one tower – but you can add more. A vertical growing system that everyone can have on their back patio or porch or whatever. It is so great, I have just started mine and want everyone to know about it. You will be feeding your family and the neighborhood and no weeding. JaneWilliams.towergarden.com

    April 23, 2012 at 10:03 pm |
  4. Feet off the floor

    "... reduce your carbon footprint..." If I have breakfast in bed there's no footprint to be found.

    April 23, 2012 at 3:15 pm |
    • skusher

      I agree with the sharing of leftovers. I drop or leave my container as I walk to my car after work. My dad taught me this, he'd use free food vouchers from the casino and give food tothe needy/homeless in the 70's, 80's and 90's when he would visit Las Vegas.
      Aloha from Hawaii

      April 23, 2012 at 7:24 pm |
  5. James

    I'm not convinced on #1. I agree that "pastured" meat is much better for you, but "factory" farms are much more resource efficient or we wouldn't be doing it that way. Those animals grow faster with fewer total inputs. You would have to create a lot of pasture and provide water to it to feed the world on pastured meat. #3 – locally grown yes; totally organic not so much. Again, large scale organic takes a lot of land, time, and resources – which is why it costs more. I don't have anything against tree huggers ( i've planted about 3400 trees on my land over the last ten years) but I hate sloppy research and journalism.

    April 23, 2012 at 12:13 pm |
    • Max

      If you hate sloppy research, I suggest you check your own. You assume factory farming must be efficient or we wouldn't be doing it that way? It is not efficient at all, and certainly not sustainable. Factory farms are heavily subsidized by the government, making it nearly impossible for smaller local farms to stay in business. This article was intended to inform us of healthy, eco-friendly changes we can make. It was not sloppy.

      April 23, 2012 at 1:15 pm |
      • James

        All farming is government subsidized. Methods are not generally taken into account. The proposed changes are not eco-friendly if not sustainable. I am a small local farmer and my operations are subsidized. I don't like the corporate factory farms either and would rather avoid their output as I don't want to ingest the by-products of their inputs. But in looking at the larger picture, just because you don't use these methods, you are not necessarily green or eco-friendly. There are trade-offs in practicing the grass fed methods mentioned – mainly the use of finite land resources that will not allow us to feed the world population using "organic" and free-range agricultural practices. I do agree that a largely vegetarian diet does come closer to this as vegetation is a more land and resource efficient way to feed people. But in general, the author's suggestions are not practical to implement to the scale necessary to feed our population the diet to which they are accustomed.

        April 23, 2012 at 1:51 pm |
        • Katie

          Thank you for your insight. It's really helpful to hear from someone 'inside' the business. From what you are saying it sounds like the factory farms are a "necessary evil" considering the world population. Is that a correct interpretation of what you are saying?

          April 23, 2012 at 6:08 pm |
  6. Wastrel

    I like the free-range pigeons and dogs supplied by urban life.

    April 23, 2012 at 12:01 pm |
    • http://www.sonicrocks.com

      I know you are joking but Pigeons were originally brought to the US as a food source, and Pigeon if cooked right is great.

      April 23, 2012 at 4:48 pm |
  7. Ann

    #2 is the best suggestion and easiest to follow. For anyone who thinks they can't be completely satisfied by a vegetarian meal, I have two words for you: EGGPLANT PARMAGIANA.

    April 23, 2012 at 10:35 am |
    • vegan and GMO plants are best for the environment

      I agree. Some of the most delicious and healthy food I've ever had was actually vegan.

      GMO's are organic. Plants that are genetically modified (GMO plants) don't need fertilizer, pesticides or lots of herbicide to help them grow. GMO plants are excellent for the environment and are much better yielding than traditional organic farming, which loses much of its crop to pests and poorer growth. We need to stop demonizing GMO plants. Please look them up and learn before deciding against them. Banning GMO plants is like banning birth control: it's bad for everyone and everything.

      April 23, 2012 at 12:06 pm |
      • Mags

        You must work for Monsanto.

        April 23, 2012 at 3:48 pm |
  8. Frozen Water, Baby

    "4. Skip the bottled water." Amen – for all the reasons stated.
    Also, please feel free to freeze and reuse your bottled water to your heart's content. If you have evidence proving that freezing water in plastic bottles leaches any chemicals out of the plastic, post it here. I'll read it. If you're one of those people who believe internet myths, then you'll enjoy reading the information on this site:

    April 23, 2012 at 7:35 am |
  9. CN Red

    Great read.

    April 23, 2012 at 7:02 am |
  10. KeyWest69

    "leave the container on top of a trash bin for someone to find"!!!!!!!!! Are you mad? That's the most stupid thing I ever heard. You should just skip the restaraunt and go eat from one of those "found containers". You're sick!

    April 22, 2012 at 9:14 pm |
    • CN Red

      Nothing at all wrong with that. Hungry and homeless, you'd eat it.

      April 23, 2012 at 7:03 am |
  11. chana

    mmmm maybe a homeless man duhh....

    April 22, 2012 at 12:00 pm |
  12. Patricia Foley

    Ask your favorite local restaurant that is all about local and sustainable how much they recycle. How much plastic wrap and foil they throw away in a day. The answer will probably shock you.

    April 22, 2012 at 11:31 am |
    • all or nothing?

      Patricia, doing something positive is alway sbetter than doing nothing. Don't trash business that make positive steps just for throwing their trash away. They have hygeine guidelines to follow too. The world isn't black or white.

      April 23, 2012 at 12:09 pm |
      • Ann

        It's sad how much food grocery stores throw away, too. There was a food network show a while ago in which a couple of chefs made gourmet meals from food that was destined for the trash – it was very enlightening. I asked at my local supermarket, and learned that even perfectly good produce that will never sell by the expiration date is trashed. Employees aren't allowed to take it home! What a waste. I wish they could ship it to a soup kitchen or something. It would make outrageous soup.

        April 23, 2012 at 3:32 pm |
  13. peter d

    Great Ideas – Bravo, Bravo Clean Plate!

    April 21, 2012 at 2:47 pm |
  14. Hector

    Earth day is by far the greatest advertising idea since JFK

    April 21, 2012 at 2:30 pm |
  15. Abril

    Overall good suggestions (especially #2), although I'm not sure who'd want to eat someone's leftovers out of their take-out box. : (

    April 20, 2012 at 6:16 pm |
    • Mags

      There are a LOT of homeless and hungry people out there who would love it.

      April 23, 2012 at 3:50 pm |
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