Eat Your Greens!

Child eating corn from the local farmer's market.

My mother always told me to eat my greens. That advice is as true today as it was when I was young. But these days, green foods go beyond spinach and broccoli to organic selections of coffee, fruits, veggies, and burgers.

Conventional farmers use around 300 different pesticides to grow foods that are sold in supermarkets every day. These chemicals pollute the soils and waterways, harming fish, birds, and other wildlife. Pesticides are also dangerous for the farmers who are exposed to them on a daily basis. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that pesticides are responsible for 20,000-40,000 work-related poisonings each year in the United States.At home, these pesticides hitch a ride to the dinner plate on our favorite foods.

Organic foods are better for the planet because they are produced without the use of any of these nasty chemicals or genetically modified ingredients. They are safer for the environment, safer for farm workers, and better for your family’s health because they keep these unwanted toxins off your plate.

Shopping for organic foods is easier now than ever, as both large and small grocers are expanding their organic selections in response to the explosion of demand. Even in my small town, I can find everything from organic eggs to organic chocolate. Eating your greens never tasted so good! Here are some easy tips for for greening your diet:

Buy Local: This is one of the most important rules of organic shopping. Look for foods that are produced as close to home as possible. Shipping food across the country (or around the world) creates waste, consumes resources, and contributes to global warming…negating the benefits of organic farming!

Buy The Farm: Searching for wholesome, fresh, organic food at a fraction of the cost? Look no further than your local farmers’ market, where you can find organic growers selling produce without the supermarket premiums. For listings of local farmers’ markets, check out Local Harvest or the US Department of Agriculture’s listing of farmer’s markets.

Hold The Beef: The production of beef makes more of an impact on the environment than any other type of food. According to a report produced by the World Wildlife Fund, more pasture is used for cattle than all other domesticated animals and crops combined. Cattle also eat an increasing proportion of grain produced from agriculture, are one of the most significant contributors to water pollution, and are a major source of greenhouse gas emissions. The average American eats roughly 4 servings of beef each week. Skip the beef in just one meal and you can reduce the impact to the environment by 25%.

Breastfeed: If you have a baby on the way, consider breastfeeding her once she arrives. The health benefits to your baby are tremendous. According the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, breast-fed infants have lower rates of hospital admissions, ear infections, diarrhea, rashes, allergies, and other medical problems than bottle-fed babies. Breastfeeding also helps new moms lose that post-partum weight. And breastfeeding is great for the environment, too: no waste, no resource consumption, no pollution, no problem. Need some help? Get in touch with your local La Leche League group.

Compost The Leftovers: Don’t toss those bread crusts and apple skins, compost them instead. Composting will keep food scraps from filling up landfills and turn them into a usable product that’s great for your soil. Check out Let It Rot for more information about composting.

Read more from Jenn in her book,The Green Parent: A Kid-Friendly Guide to Environmentally-Friendly Livingor her blog The Green Parent.

Original 5 Minutes for Going Green post.

8 Responses to Eat Your Greens!
  1. Susan (5 Minutes for Mom)
    September 5, 2008 | 3:17 pm

    I love that picture! It makes me want to have some corn on the cob. Yum.

    Pesticides enrage me!!!

  2. tata
    September 5, 2008 | 5:19 pm

    I love this blog. I read it every day, but I must admit that today’s post has been my favorite so far, perhaps because of the reference to breastfeeding and to Local Harvest, two issues close to my heart. Since I’ve moved to WP, I’ve added you to my blogroll. Keep up the good work!

  3. Beth (Coming Up for Air)
    September 5, 2008 | 5:20 pm

    This is a terrific article! Very “to the point” and so imformative! Good advice for everyone!!!

  4. Beth (Coming Up for Air)
    September 5, 2008 | 5:20 pm

    Um..that’s INformative. Sheesh. Learn to spell Beth!

  5. Mimi
    September 5, 2008 | 6:15 pm

    I agree with all of this. However, as someone who LOVES farmers’ markets, I hope everyone remembers that just because it isn’t “certified” organic, doesn’t mean it isn’t grown that way. For example, I know a berry farmer who can’t get certified organic because he doesn’t use manure to fertilize. He doesn’t use ANYTHING to fertilize, he mixes crops and lets some of the land go fallow for a bit. I think this is even better and would never hesitate to buy from him. So asking outright if it’s organic may turn you off if you get a no, but ask instead what practices they use. I must say, his raspberries and currents are delicious. My hubby eats them by the pallet.

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