Earth Day Tips for Every Day

Wednesday is Earth Day. You know, that one day a year you think about recycling and vow you’re going to buy a hybrid. Wait, what? That can’t be it. While it’s great to “go green” for a day, we all know that true sustainability outlasts the trending hashtag on Twitter.

I’m an avid eater, which means that my most and least sustainable habits are likely connected with the food I choose to eat. In the hopes of extending the Earth Day spirit year-round, here are some ways I’ve slowed down my own routine, kicked harmful habits, and committed to new habits that are attainable and impactful.

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We all know how easy it is to stay in our cubes for lunch #aldesko picking at something sad, bland, reheated and likely expensive. Packing a lunch is not only more delicious, it’s usually healthier, cheaper and more environmentally friendly too. While it seems daunting to throw something together at 7:55am with your hair still wet, you can set yourself up for lunchtime success by planning ahead just a little bit.

A big tub of brown rice + a pan of roasted veggies + condiments = lunch time success all week long!

Last minute flavor boosters can turn an avocado or a can of beans into something special. I’ve got hot sauce, balsamic, olive oil, soy sauce, peanut butter and togarashi hiding in my cube.

For me, using real dishes improves my mood and even my sense of confidence because it feels like I’m investing in my time and my meal. If you really want to go for it, pack a small knife and a cutting board too (maybe hide them in your cube so people aren’t freaked out). The five minutes it takes me to chop, slice, and prepare my lunch before eating are a great mental break and a burst of creativity to break up my day.

It sounds simple, but what would it really look like to use everything as long as we could? Tamar Adler, author of An Everlasting Meal encourages us to be clever cooks by reducing our waste and making meals from so-called garbage like chicken bones, stale bread and bean broth. Start small by making a “scrap bag” in your freezer and use them to make stock.

Of course, we can’t stop being consumers. But we can limit our consumption and be better consumers. Less crap = happier Earth.

We’ve irreversibly lost 95% of the edible plant species in the United States. That means we’re only working with 5% now! Clearly, the vast disappearance of plant and animal biodiversity is harmful to our ecosystems, but there’s also a human and cultural element of loss. Consider also the traditional knowledge, recipes, methods of harvesting and preserving that are lost each time a variety goes extinct. When it comes to preserving food biodiversity… Eat it to Save it! Try seeking out rare and heirloom varieties that you don’t typically find at the grocery store and explore their unique stories and flavors.

Sustainability has a human element, too. Find some good people and hold onto them. (And eat with them!) Whether it’s grabbing a co-worker at lunch, or preparing Sunday dinner for friends, there is something sustaining and nourishing about enjoying the pleasure of a meal with another person. Whatever issue you care about deeply - food, the environment, hunger, your neighborhood - get involved. It’s much easier to make personal changes in your own life when you have a community of people who support you, inspire you, hold you accountable, and who can multiply your collective impact. (Slow Food has been this community for me!)


GUEST BLOGGER: Cortney AhernLogan Square, Chicago, IL

Manager of Corporate Partnerships at Feeding America