Sustainably delicious – clean, green eats for Earth Day
April 20th, 2012
04:40 PM ET
Share this on:

April 22 is Earth Day, and there's no better way to start celebrating and protecting the planet than by taking a closer look at what's on your plate.

We're challenging everyone we know to grow one thing - just one thing - that they can eat, and of course, we're putting our money where our mouth is and planting a garden, ourselves.

You could also consider joining a CSA (that's community supported agriculture), buying direct at a farmers market, staying as local as possible, keeping a close eye on the origins of your seafood or supporting chefs who are doing the right things for the environment.

Chew on that while you explore our simple and endlessly delicious tips for eating eco-friendly.

What's the payoff? Oh, just saving the world is all. As author and Bizarre Foods host Andrew Zimmern told us, "If everyone grew what they could, supported urban farms and community gardens in cities and local CSAs, the pressure relief on our overtaxed system would be immense. The resulting dollar shift would be staggering and deliver a positive shot in the arm to local economies. Our food would also be safer. Small action here can yield tremendous impact, immediately."

Chew on that while you explore our simple and endlessly delicious tips for eating eco-friendly.

Posted by:
Filed under: Earth Day • Environment • Sustainability

soundoff (82 Responses)
  1. saeed

    they need to breed new bugs and worms that taste better because in there current form they are not very tastefull.

    April 21, 2012 at 4:09 pm |
  2. bernie

    if people would be willing to eat bugs... there would be more food.

    April 21, 2012 at 3:41 am |
  3. Ceana

    I already have strawberries, cat nip, roses and garlic chives going. Going to start tomatoes and peppers soon! Trying to make my patio as green as I can this year!

    April 21, 2012 at 1:48 am |
    • KatranM

      Have fun doing crazy stuff. I grow about 6 cornstalks in a pot about the size of a large bucket, and get about 3 meals out of them. (I have to put the pot up on the edge of my air conditioner to get enough sun, but it works!)

      I have to get the carrots going, but I've got strawberries in a strawberry pot, tomatoes, a 3-year-old dwarf babcock peach with 70 peaches on it!!!! and spinach, plus a good sized herb garden. (I've started to have to create inventive dishes to deal with my Oregono's like mint, good thing I have high walls so it can't escape the patio.)

      Not everyone has space or light to grow, but do look for a farmer's market near you. You'll never buy fruits and veggies at the store again.

      April 21, 2012 at 2:22 am |
  4. attorney

    Save a tree – eat a beaver!

    April 20, 2012 at 11:07 pm |
  5. the truther

    If we were all atheists, this wouldn't be happening

    April 20, 2012 at 10:44 pm |
    • The real deal

      Right, We would eat what our militant government commands us to. Whats you point?

      April 20, 2012 at 11:11 pm |
      • Observer

        Equating a militant government with atheism is truly pointless and wrong. Some of the nations that worry us the most are the ones that are the most religious right now.

        April 21, 2012 at 12:12 am |
    • Timodeus

      I'm sure the Soviets would agree.

      April 21, 2012 at 12:17 am |
    • NiEM

      If we were all athiests, we'd find a whole host of other reasons to screw with each other for our own gain. It doesn't matter if you're doing it in the name of a god or no god. If it's for yourself alone, it probably ain't right,

      April 21, 2012 at 1:19 am |
  6. Don

    I can honestly say i like growing and eating my own food. More people should try a small garden just for the heck of it, because it does feel good to know where your food is coming from. whether it is healthier or "green" or whatever seems irrelevant. do it because it feels good, and if you don't like it at least you tried.

    April 20, 2012 at 10:00 pm |
    • lgny

      Yes, and certain produce just taste better. For example, there's no comparison between fresh tomatoes and the cardboard-tasting junk that is sold out-of-season in supermarkets.

      Even in cities, there's room for a few plants.

      April 20, 2012 at 10:10 pm |
  7. blue bleu

    What i want to know is . . . what is the photo of at the top of the article?

    April 20, 2012 at 9:42 pm |
    • RuralWashington

      Looks like a snap pea flower.

      April 20, 2012 at 11:04 pm |
    • fearmonger

      It's a rare poisonous flower. The antidote is even rarer.

      April 20, 2012 at 11:14 pm |
    • Kat Kinsman

      Fava bean blossom from my garden.

      April 21, 2012 at 1:07 am |
      • WashingtonAppleFarmChic

        Thanks for answering. Have grown a number of beans/peas in our garden, but never fava...will have to give it a try!

        April 21, 2012 at 2:31 am |
  8. truth

    Yeah! Lets grow our food, do our own woodwork stuff, build our own computers, tvs, cellphones! Corporates are evil!

    April 20, 2012 at 9:37 pm |
  9. not confused

    So many neurons sparking , so few bright. I do not understand how it is more logical to grow some product 1 or 3000 miles away from where said product will be consumed, instead of growing and selling it locally, local BAD, shipped GOOD. Please tell me HOW. WHY should AMERICAN FAMILIES be bilked at the market, and punished for taking care of them selves ??? GROW any food you can, it is easy. Please do not listen to what you mat hear. IT is not true. Belive in your self.

    April 20, 2012 at 9:33 pm |
    • BS

      Translation: "Whatever I believe is true."

      Show me the math. Prove to me it's better. Distance is only one component. Efficiency is another. Yield is another.

      April 20, 2012 at 9:41 pm |
  10. victor

    Eat grass...billions of caws can not be wrong !!!!

    April 20, 2012 at 9:20 pm |
    • lol

      eat poo, trillions of flies can't be wrong!

      April 20, 2012 at 9:27 pm |
      • UhYeaOk


        April 20, 2012 at 10:45 pm |
        • Mark

          Eat plankton! The entire food chain of the ocean CAN'T be wrong!

          April 20, 2012 at 11:21 pm |
  11. Amyrica

    We have a garden in our backyard and love growing our own food. Our yard is small but we could grow more if Cox and Verizon would move their boxes to public property instead of our private property! They come by every couple of months and trample all over to service "their boxes" on my property!

    April 20, 2012 at 9:16 pm |
    • BS

      They have an easement that allows them to be on your property. It's their right.

      April 20, 2012 at 9:21 pm |
    • attorney

      Cancel your Cox and Verizon services and they'll get off your property.

      April 20, 2012 at 11:09 pm |
    • attorney

      Nearly everyone in this comments section is arguing one extreme or the other. Look it ain't that hard. You want to grow some vegetables, you plant them then you eat them. If you want to eat a few tomatoes for their fresh flavor, great. You want to buy a 3 acre plot and spend 900 hours a year planting, harvesting, and canning food for your family of 6, great. Just do it. The one thing that I did not hear anyone say is how eating 100% local means taking many foods or dishes you know and never eating them because the ingredients are from 10k miles away. Just do what makes sense for you it's a free country.

      April 20, 2012 at 11:20 pm |
  12. D

    shipping in bulk is actually better for the planet than eating locally.

    April 20, 2012 at 9:14 pm |
    • Amyrica

      Shipping from where? and by what method?

      April 20, 2012 at 9:17 pm |
    • BS

      Uh, oh. You've committed the ultimate sin. You've brought facts to a feel-good discussion!

      The other problem with eating local (local farming, not home gardens) is that it reduces yields per acre. Large-scale farms are the reason there is enough food to feed the planet. Purposely choosing to revert to an 1800s-style agricultural system takes food out of the system. And who is hurt the most? The poorest of the poor, usually in poor countries. Doing this on a wide enough scale would cause dramatic food price spikes and mass starvation. Yeah, let's encourage that.

      April 20, 2012 at 9:20 pm |
      • lgny

        You assume it's always commercial farming.

        The real value comes in home gardening. It rarely produces enough to last the entire year, but for a few months you can enjoy fresher vegetables at low cost. Right now, we are harvesting asparagus. We pick, cook, and eat within a couple of hours. You can taste the difference between that and anything you buy at the markets.

        It may not be perfect economics, but it's good therapy (growing is relaxing) and good gastronomy.

        April 20, 2012 at 10:17 pm |
        • ohsnap

          I work for a land trust that provides access to land so people can grow some of their food in community gardens. Our community growers in fact do grow enough on their plots to not have to buy green, leafy vegetables and tomatoes until the next growing season. Many immigrants have tremendous experience growing and taking take of the soil so that it continues to produce, and they are passing those skills to other people. Some have been growing for 15 or more years. BTW all our gardens use organic methods. No artificial fertilizer.

          April 20, 2012 at 10:53 pm |
        • BS

          Sorry, but since driving your car is the biggest energy hog, most home gardens are the most energy intensive of all. Drive 5 miles to home depot and back once or twice, and you'll use more energy than it takes to move all the stuff you'll get out of your garden from commercial farm to your town. Again, I've recommended everyone try doing the math. It's not hard.

          But I'm not saying that to discourage home gardens. I think they're great. But if you're into conservation or at least saving money, you need to be very conscious of how you do it, especially when it comes to driving your car.

          April 21, 2012 at 9:02 am |
    • D

      well put 'BS'

      @Amy – That's in general Amy. If it wasn't cheaper, businesses would have more of an incentive to buy local.

      April 20, 2012 at 9:28 pm |
  13. BS

    Ah, the myth that just won't die. Ever seen a scientific study confirming that "eating local" or growing your own garden is more "sustainable" or consumes fewer resources or energy? No? That's because in most (but not all) cases, it's not true. Several studies have proven this, yet the myth lives on, because it makes feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

    April 20, 2012 at 8:58 pm |
    • Techsupport

      Right. It takes the same amount of energy to grow a tomato in Florida, cover it in chemicals from germination to artificial ripening, and then truck it across a country and stock it on a shelf as it does to plant a seed in the garden, water it, and then harvest it. I'd love to see whatever studies you think you have that back up your absurd claim.

      April 20, 2012 at 9:02 pm |
      • lantenec

        Oh really? So where's your studies? Don't bother I know you don't have any.

        The science of environmentalism is so flimsy it's obvious environmentalists come to beliefs based on emotion.

        April 20, 2012 at 9:10 pm |
      • BS

        So look for them. Google works well. And while you're at it, do the following exercise:

        –Calulate the energy consumed per pound of food moved 1500 miles by a fully loaded tractor trailer (40,000lbs of produce).
        –Calculate the energy consumed per pound of food moved 50 miles by a farmer in his old pickup truck (200-300lbs of produce).
        –Then calculate the amount of energy consumed per pound of food by a car driven an extra 4 miles (2miles each way) to a farmers market to buy, say, 10-20lbs of produce.

        Let me know what you come up with, OK?

        Then we can move on to how big farms are dramatically more efficient than little local farms.

        The only times when eating local might be equivalent is when the local produce is delivered to a regular grocery store or to a massive urban market (say, NYC) where people arrive by foot, bike, train, or bus.

        April 20, 2012 at 9:14 pm |
      • BS

        By the way, I grow a home garden. Have for years. I'm just not under the mistaken notion that it's saving me money or saving energy. I do compost all my kitchen scraps, leaves, etc to minimize costs.

        April 20, 2012 at 9:16 pm |
      • BS

        In case you are too lazy, here are two links:

        And the worst part about eating local is actually the extra miles the consumer drives to get the food. Even driving just a few extra miles throws the equation well in favor of just buying whatever is at your local grocery store.

        So unless you get your local produce from the same store you get everything else from or otherwise manage to get local produce without driving any extra miles, you're actually causing MORE environmental harm.

        Same goes for a home garden. Even a little extra driving tips the balance.

        April 20, 2012 at 9:35 pm |
        • ohsnap

          Although I understand what you are saying, I don't think you can apply that kind of reasoning everywhere. I live in RI...smallest state. You can drive from top to bottom in 40 minutes or less. I do not own a car. I bike work, shopping. On the rare occasion I take a bus part of the way and bike the rest (our buses have bike racks). I have a hoop house where I grow food (and BTW I biked home from the local Lowe's with six 10 ft pvc pipes and six pieces of 4 foot rebar in order to build it). I shop at an employee-owned local store that gets all of its greens, cheeses, milks, garlic, potatoes, chicken, meats, etc from local farms. In RI. Not everything (like rice) is local. But most stuff is. The store is about 2 miles from my house. I bike there. I, like you, compost. And I have a rain barrel. So, basically, there are some people whose 'footprint' IS minimal.

          April 20, 2012 at 11:15 pm |
        • BS

          Yes, ohsnap, I did already say that. I'm sure a select few can make resource use from local production similar to what is used in commercial production. However, you have to admit, that you are not the norm. The myth is that this is something anybody can do. What really blows me away is that some of the people that support these things even go so far as to suggest that everyone DRIVE to the local farms so they can see how their food is produced!

          Talk about counter-productive.... That one drive may consume as much energy as it would take to transport a family's food for an entire year from commercial farms.

          April 21, 2012 at 9:07 am |
  14. Del Knudson

    Everyone should grow and can their food. Many will not know how to can properly. Voila! Less quality types will be weeded out, confirming Darwinism, and humanity will improve. ;-)

    April 20, 2012 at 8:22 pm |
  15. food4five

    We try to eat as locally and sustainably as we can – not always easy with three teens! Our garden started small, but has grown, we go to the farmer's market once a week, frequent our local butcher, are members of a CSA, and have our milk delivered. Okay, I know it sounds a little over the top, but I have found that the taste differential between what we grow or purchase that is grown locally, and what we can get at our grocery store is tremendously different! Anyone interested in following our journey is welcome to join along ...

    April 20, 2012 at 8:05 pm |
  16. TheBob

    As it turns out, Indians weren't eating meat *not* because of some religious belief, or as a matter of principle, or some sort of respect for animals, but only because they couldn't afford it. Now that they can afford it, they're eating meat. One billion of them. Same with the Chinese, who have taken quite a liking to meat. Given their collective population of 2.7+ billion, the severe environmental impact this adds to a planet already in trouble will be catastrophic and irreversible.

    April 20, 2012 at 7:46 pm |
    • soundingoff

      And who made you the authority on Indian traditions my friend? Please get your facts straight before you present. While I agree that there many traditional non-meating people taking to eating meat nowadays, the opposite is true too.

      April 20, 2012 at 8:04 pm |
  17. Techsupport

    I've started throwing the growing things from my kitchen to my yard. Garlic that started growing in the cabinet is going great next to the roses, I haven't done anything to them since I planted them last summer. Same with the green onions that I had cut all the way down to the white part, they grew little roots in the fridge, and are now doing well in pots, almost the size they were when we got them from the store originally. If it's growing in your cabinets where you don't want them to, they will probably do great in the garden. Then there's no disappointment if they don't grow, but a fun surprise when they thrive.

    April 20, 2012 at 7:40 pm |
    • BS

      Great ideas. I have 2 sweet potatoes sprouting right now. Cost $1 at the store and they'll yield many, many times that.

      I'll have to try that with the green onions after I harvest mine.

      April 20, 2012 at 9:01 pm |
  18. jimbo

    I have grown a small garden 15'x15' for a few years. It isn't hard to get information on what to plant and when. The internet contains all the information you will need for the climate in your region. It isn't hard to grow a garden but if you have to can and preserve and survive on the food it becomes more than a full time job. I will always grow a garden though because the produce is so damn tasty. I took some green beans to a cookout last year that I had picked a few hours before and people were all complimenting me on the taste and wanted to know how I cooked them. My secret, I boiled them for a few minutes in water with a little bit of salt added to the water. Nothing else. The author of this article is correct in suggesting people should grow a vegetable or two just to experience the taste. I would suggest, lettuce or spinach or beets, they are early spring plants that can be planted as soon as the soil can be worked and they are done by the time it gets hot and people are more interested in having fun in the great outdoors rather than working a garden.

    April 20, 2012 at 7:24 pm |
  19. R Burns

    To be really successful at growing your own food, you have to start small and find out what works in your area – then grow that, season by season. Tomatoes and some container gardening can be done quickly by anyone, but really sustaining yourself and family requires diligence. And time! The suggestion here, challenging everyone to grow just one thing, is a great way to start. If it doesn't suit you, then the local farmer's markets are the next logical place to go – but look for unsprayed produce, as even "organic" food can be full of chemicals (the FDA list of over 150 accepted pesticides includes concentrated pyrethrins from chrysanthemums, one of the top 10 allergens, and some petroleum products). I'm growing broccoli, cabbage, tomatoes, bunching onions and green peppers, all in containers, and 2 "potato sacks" with blue potatoes. Not a big enterprise, as I'm disabled and elderly, but it really is exciting to know that for 2 or 3 full months out of the year this tiny "garden" is all I'll need in the way of produce!

    April 20, 2012 at 7:06 pm |
  20. Dave in Canada

    Nowhere in this article is it mentioned that growing animals for food is the most harmful thing for the planet. If this was eliminated(growing animals for food) there would be no hunger anywhere in the world.

    April 20, 2012 at 6:43 pm |
    • Nick Naranja

      Hunger doesn't exist for lack of food but rather lack of money and infrastructure. Also you can grow animals on land not suited for crops like hillsides and low rainfall areas.

      April 20, 2012 at 8:51 pm |
  21. Rsyed

    I like to eat. I like to save the world. Ill do it. OM NOM NOM NOM!

    April 20, 2012 at 6:38 pm |
  22. Brent Durland

    I grow a small garden and I love it. And the little time I spend probably isn't more than that many trips to the store might have taken. Growing your own food, even just a vegetable or two, can be economical, but besides that it creates awareness and appreciation for the wonders of nature. So let it grow!

    April 20, 2012 at 6:34 pm |
  23. Fiona

    Having gone through a grow-your-own period of my own, I have to disagree with this theory. Even when I had much more produce than my family could consume (just try giving away zucchini at the height of summer), I still found myself going to the store or the farmers' market for something different. When you live in an area where people have the room and the inclination to garden, no one wants your extra produce, except maybe tomatoes...which I freeze anyway. I finally figured out that it made far more sense for me to support my local organic growers than to do my own mini-farm. They do a far better job of it than I ever did. My gophers are very pleased. Now my only self-grown food comes passively, from fruit trees.

    Of course, I should point out that I live in an area with a lot of organic agriculture, so buying local is easy. That's not true for everyone.

    April 20, 2012 at 6:13 pm |
  24. Chmee

    The only problem is it's much easier to go to the grocery store and buy what you need than spend a lot of time and effort on a garden that may or may not produce much. It takes a lot of work and know-how to grow a good garden. And if you want to eat the vegies in the winter, then you have to can them or preserve them in some way. Much simpler to just go to the grocery store.

    April 20, 2012 at 5:57 pm |
    • Primal

      Convenience breeds laziness, and laziness breeds lethargy. If you cannot be bothers to sacrifice something for proper nutrition, you deserve all the bad health that comes your way.

      April 20, 2012 at 6:00 pm |
      • Fiona

        Keeper, primal. Did you get up on the wrong side of the bed this morning?

        April 20, 2012 at 6:15 pm |
        • Fiona

          Dang iPad. That was supposed to be jeepers.

          April 20, 2012 at 6:15 pm |
      • Vickie

        Amen! I don't understand these people with poor health thinking junk food and food with preservatives are OK. . .

        April 20, 2012 at 6:15 pm |
  25. C Smythe

    There are simply too many people and the need for inexpensive food means we have to use methods of mass production that yield tasteless bland food. When I was a kid we raised our own beef and I tell you I have NEVER since tasted meat so good. But there is no way in h3ll I can do the same today. Someone built 30 houses on that pasture . . .

    April 20, 2012 at 5:56 pm |
    • Primal

      Another myth perpetuated by the GMO industry.

      April 20, 2012 at 5:58 pm |
  26. Orso

    I will grow grass to feed a cow and eat it.

    April 20, 2012 at 5:56 pm |
  27. SixDegrees

    I like Zimmern, but I can't agree with him here. Having people grow their own food and shop locally wouldn't unburden our current system – it would just diffuse the problem. Same with food safety – as currently practiced, US food safety is astonishingly good, with extremely rare problems and those that do arise detected almost instantly. Having people grow their own food wouldn't make it any safer; if anything, food-borne illnesses would increase as more and more amateurs without any knowledge or equipment to perform adequate safety testing produced tainted food and made themselves and their neighbors sick. Again, it would simply diffuse the problem, and most likely make it worse, not better.

    April 20, 2012 at 5:34 pm |
    • Primal

      I hate to say it but you are completely and totally incorrect. You have been seriously brainwashed. I see little hope for you, that's how far gone you appear to be.

      April 20, 2012 at 5:57 pm |
    • Fiona

      There is truth in what you say, six. Your average person with little growing experience will go to the local home supply store, rather than a nursery, and get advice on soil or pest control from someone who has little or no knowledge on the subject. They'll bring home a potentially toxic (or truly toxic) pesticide or fungicide and apply it to their food plants, or to the lawn or trees around their produce. They won't realize they are poisoning themselves. Some of the chemicals allowed for home gardening are so dangerous they aren't allowed to be used commercially.

      April 20, 2012 at 6:23 pm |
    • peridot2

      According to you, no one should cook food at home, either. You're going too far, SD.

      April 20, 2012 at 7:36 pm |
    • BS

      While I think it's great to grow a home garden, SD is correct. The article is a collection of myths. Go figure how much gas you consume to drive to Home Depot (or wherever) throughout a garden season, then divide that by the number of pounds you grow. Then compare that to the fuel consumed by a fully loaded tractor trailer hauling food 1500 miles.

      The energy consumption per pound for a home garden will likely be thousands of times higher than the consumption per pound to transport food from a farm.

      April 20, 2012 at 9:06 pm |
  28. Burbank

    Just don't grow what you eat in Home Depot or other big box gardening soil loaded with chemical fertilizers and Roundup, yes Roundup, euphemized as a "weed supressant". It's a systemic poison and it DOES NOT break down in the soil after 3 months like they say. I have seen seriously DNA damaged plants grown in "after roundup" soil even a couple of years later! I don't know about the rest of you, but I for one don't want a DNA damaging systemic poison in my body!

    April 20, 2012 at 5:28 pm |
    • TheGrimJester

      You may wish to stop breathing then.

      April 20, 2012 at 6:03 pm |
    • jwhisen

      Burbank, you are obviously lying in an attempt to make your point. I'm in no way defending the overuse of pesticide that is present in our current system, but their is no point in stating obvious falsehoods that are easily dismissed. Roundup wouldn't ever be put into garden soil because it has to be applied to foliage that is actively photosynthesizing to be affective. Additionally, it actually breaks down very quickly in the soil, which is one of the reasons it was widely adopted over other herbicides. All that aside, it is used entirely too much.

      April 20, 2012 at 6:44 pm |
      • jwhisen

        Oops, replace "their" with "there" and "affective" with "effective." I shouldn't type so fast without proofreading.

        April 20, 2012 at 6:46 pm |
    • R Burns

      There are some very good organic soils and fertilizers out there, well worth the price to gain a good bed for food plants. I'd be really careful about any pesticides ("organic" pesticides can be more toxic than synthetics), but there are ways around that. The idea that chemicals can be applied as "non-persistent" is a myth. When they do begin fading, they may reach a level below that which can be detected – but they are not gone for several years. That's why organic certification rules require distance and time away from commercial agricultural spraying, fertilizing, etc. The fact that plants may reflect damage when grown in previously spray beds is evidence enough, but I've bought grains labeled "chemical free" and had the same reactions as to commercial grains. Same for "organic" but sprayed produce. For me, the reaction is immediate and anaphylactic. For many, the worst may come years later in the form of cancer – but in either case, it's prudent to go au naturale. I'm with you, Burbank!

      April 20, 2012 at 7:18 pm |
  29. joe

    I do eat that, not alot of nutrition but a whole lotta of fun.

    April 20, 2012 at 5:23 pm |
  30. Keith Paterson

    It isn't easy being green,,,

    April 20, 2012 at 5:23 pm |
  31. Jdizzle McHammerpants ♫♫

    I dye the neighbor's cat green, then BBQ him.

    April 20, 2012 at 5:18 pm |
    • APE


      April 20, 2012 at 5:22 pm |
  32. Miss Piggy

    I'll start by eating Kermit for Breakfast.

    April 20, 2012 at 5:16 pm |
    • Jdizzle McHammerpants ♫♫


      April 20, 2012 at 5:17 pm |
| Part of

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 9,975 other followers