12 Food and Drink Habits That Help Save the Planet

Having become such a lover of the outdoors in recent years, I’ve tried to become a better steward of the environment and the places I live and play in. And if not for myself and humankind, then for future generations to have a shot at enjoying the outdoors like I’ve had.

But honestly, it’s a work in progress for me personally. Frequently, I’ve walked into the grocery store and all of a sudden remembered that I left my reusable bags at home, or ordered a cocktail and forgotten to tell the bartender I didn’t want a straw (and been given like 5 straws).

Yet I’ve really made it a priority to be such a better advocate for the environment and outdoors in 2018, such as joining 1% for the Planet. After all, our national parks, public lands, and coastlines are arguably at risk now more than ever. So with this past weekend’s Earth Hour, followed by next month’s Earth Day, it seemed especially fitting to share some eating and drinking habits that I’ve learned (and am currently learning) that can help save the planet.

Bring your own reusable mug into coffee shops

You guys, I felt so adult when I first brought my own coffee mug into a coffee shop. I used to think that people who brought their own coffee cup were so legit and important, when actually, they were just doing more for the environment. But the fact is that many disposable coffee cups aren’t recyclable, because many of them include a liner that can’t be recycled. This includes cups from most coffee chains. Nonetheless, Starbucks just last week announced a possible fix, as they are teaming up with Closed Loop Partners to create recyclable, compostable cups.

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Carry around reusable water bottles

Similarly, I recommend carrying around reusable water bottles. Reusable water bottles are a borderline addiction for me, since I have like 10. While they help reduce plastic bottle waste, I also like them for their convenience and temperature retention. They often fit snugly in a daypack or messenger bag, and many of them have clips for tacking on a carabiner to attach to a bag or belt loop. If you’re using cold water, most of the insulated reusable water bottles can keep it cold for hours, if not an entire day in some cases. They also have the same effect on warm beverages.

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Give up plastic straws

You may have started to see information in restaurants and bars, if not in recent news articles, about cities banning straws. Malibu is one of the most recent cities to do this, banning single-use plastic straws, stirrers and utensils. Straws, small as they may be, are one of the biggest polluters of oceans and beaches. Case in point comes from a recent National Geographic article, which reported that 500 million straws are used by Americans daily. (For those keep tracking at home, that’s nearly double the population of America.) 

Most bars and restaurants automatically bring straws with your drink, so proactivity in this case calls for advising your server or bartender ahead of time when ordering a drink. Otherwise, I’d recommend buying a stash of reusable straws, like the ones from Eco at Heart, which come with a cleaning brush.

Shop with reusable bags

Many states, and even countries, have moved toward banning plastic bags, which are another one of our waterways’ biggest pollution threats. Additionally, many retailers now have to charge a nominal fee to customers who need bags. Thus, it’s becoming more economical and environmentally friendly to bring your own. 

Buy locally and organically

Listen, we could debate until the cows come home about the merits of veganism vs. eating meat. But I’m not going to do that here. I do, however, want to extoll the virtues of eating locally, and when possible, organically. I know that it can often be more expensive, but local and organic food is often healthier, benefits the local economy, and truth be told, tastes better. Call me old or a nerd, but going to the farmers market is my new favorite pastime.

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Join an imperfect produce program

Yes, this is totally a thing, and it’s one of my favorite things of 2018. So what exactly is imperfect produce? Well it’s essentially produce that’s store-quality, but unable to be delivered to stores because of its shape, size, or look. In other words, it’s ugly. So companies like Imperfect Produce are offering ugly fruits and veggies at a discount to consumers, typically between 25%-50% less than what you’d pay at the grocery store. Each week I have a box delivered full of fruits and veggies, which is no more than $15. I get delicious fruit and veggies, while food waste is cut down.

Reuse the flesh and peels of fruits

This is a new discovery for me, finding alternative uses for fruit peels. I recently wrote about Oleo Saccharum, which is a delicious, aromatic cocktail (or lemonade) sweetener that requires nothing more than citrus peels and a little sugar (pictured below). Other uses of peels include Limoncello from lemon peels, kitchen spices, homemade tea, rough jam, or household cleaner. Or, take a cue from Trash Tiki, which is creating drinks from food and drink industry waste.


Eat sustainable seafood

Sustainable seafood is essentially seafood that has been sourced according to certain standards. Unfortunately, overfishing and hazardous seafood has created a problem in the seafood industry. So a good starting place to educate yourself on sustainable seafood, is World Wide Fund for Nature’s seafood guides, or Seafood Watch, which provide info on which fish is relatively abundant and which species are overfished. 


Go growler

In recent years, the beer (and aluminum) industry has touted cans as being the most environmentally-friendly vessel for beer. But as an Outside Magazine article reported, aluminum can be “incredibly energy intensive to process.” While people will always debate the environmental effects of bottles versus cans, a better solution is actively using growlers. While there’s certainly such a smaller shelf life, this has become a go-to move for me when hosting people or going to parties, rather than picking up a 6 or 12-pack of beer.

Grow your own produce

You don't have to have an actual farm, or even yard to grow your own produce. In fact, your home is probably already conducive to growing some of your own produce. A new discovery for me are DIY "Garden-in-a-Jar" kits, which I noticed at my local grocery store. Ones like this 3-pack of mason jar herbs, just require a window seat with some sunlight and a little water. Others include an herb garden kit from UncommonGoods. Furthermore, you an join a community garden, which is a growing trend, especially in urban areas. A good starting place is finding a community garden program or network in your city, such as Los Angeles Community Garden Council (LACGC), featuring more than 40 gardens, helping foster a network of garden communities in L.A.

Join a local food co-op

Local food cooperatives operate much like grocery stores, but on a small scale, and are typically employee or consumer-owned. As such, local food co-ops usually source produce and other foods from local and regional farmers, buying directly from farms. It's a focus on fresh, organic, local food. While customer-owned cooperatives require a buy-in, they typically come with perks like cooking and gardening classes and personalized attention and resources you aren't going to get from a major grocery. The downside can be a pricier grocery bill, but that's in part the investment into a co-op, and what should be expected from local, higher quality produce. Consider it an investment in yourself and local economy. 


Finally is composting, which was one of the first environmental lessons I learned, as I remember as a young kid having a big compost garden on the back of our property for composting. For many people, however, this isn’t readily available or an option. But many cities, like Santa Monica, for example, are creating green composting programs. With programs like this, all you often have to do is get a little compost bucket for your kitchen, and then dump compost in a supplied compost bin that’s left outside much like trash and recycle bins.