Sustainable Living Challenge

Week 10: Eat for the Planet by Eating in Season

Given my earlier post about visiting Baltimore’s Farmer’s Market, it should be no surprise that this week’s challenge is all about eating in season!  Thanks to advances in agricultural practices and international trade, few of us think about what food is actually in season when we head to the grocery store.  However, our habit of eating unseasonal produce is increasing our carbon footprint!

Our Groceries Are Warming the Planet

IMG_2180bWay back when, we would never have thought about eating strawberries in the fall or blueberries in the winter.  We now take items like these for granted all year-round because they are constantly available.  However, if you look closer you may notice that these items are coming from out of the country or are grown in a greenhouse.  While growing food in the greenhouse can grant us access to local foods, it can also increase our carbon footprint.   In fact, crops grown in a greenhouse produce 3 times the amount of emissions that crops grown in the field produce!  Yikes!

As a consumer, it can sometimes feel like nothing we do can lead to a positive impact on the environment.  Not all of us are farmers (I’ve killed cacti before), which means that not all of us can directly change the carbon footprint that comes from our food production.  Eating foods that are in season can at least help reduce our own carbon footprint because it reduces our dependence on imported food and indoor agriculture.

Food Production is Constantly Improving

Our knowledge of what is good or bad for the environment changes constantly, as does our ability to do something about it.  Practices such as sustainable agriculture and permaculture, which work with nature instead of against it, are getting more notice within the green movement.  Other places like Iceland are already way ahead of the game!  They use geothermal energy to fuel their greenhouses rather than fossil fuels!  Things are getting better every day people!  So while we wait for technology to catch up, here’s some advice on eating in season.

Hippie Homeowner Habits

This is a great time of year to start eating seasonally (unless you’re one of my Kiwi or Aussie friends, in which case I hope you’re loading up on your fall squashes!).  Farmer’s markets like the one in Baltimore are opening up again and much of what you find there is in season.  You won’t see any strawberries there until early summer!   A quick google search should get you information on your own local market.

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If you don’t have a farmer’s market nearby, you can still think about seasonal eating at the grocery store.  It just takes a little bit of preparation.  Before you go shopping, look into which fruits and veggies are currently in season.  The USDA has a great guide to get you started.  Cookie and Kate, a blog I’ve mentioned in the past for vegetarian recipes, also has some wonderful guides for seasonal produce.  You can find her list of what produce is in season in May here!

Going the Extra Mile

IMG_2178bIf you check out the farmer’s market and follow the advice above about seasonal eating, you will be well on your way to eating in season at home.  But how about when you leave the house?  For those that like to eat out, think about visiting restaurants that change up their menus to use seasonal ingredients.  We have a lovely vegan restaurant near me called Great Sage that changes their menu up regularly!  Even if you can’t find one of these places, see if you can pick out the menu items that are in season at your favorite restaurant.  If nothing else, it gives you something to think about while you wait for your waiter to come back to your table!

In Summary

As we’ve seen already on this blog, what we eat can have a huge impact on the environment.  Changing what we consume and eating seasonal vegetables may seem like a small step in the grand scheme of things, but every step is important!  So this week, go forth and seek those seasonal veggies!

  1. Check out your local farmer’s market.  Now’s a great time of year to get started!
  2. Check out what’s in season before you head to the grocery store.
  3. Try to eat at restaurants the use seasonal ingredients.  If you can’t, try to pick out menu items that are in season.

 

I would love to hear some other thoughts about eating in season!  Have you already made your way to the farmer’s market?  Leave a comment below!  As always, thanks for reading!