Most mass-produced olive oil is grown with pesticides, which can be even more concentrated in the oil than on the olives. Budget for domestic (likely California), small-producer olive oil labeled organic.
“Almost anybody can grow just a little bit of food,” says chef, farmer, and activist Michel Nischan. “You don’t have to be an expert gardener.” Pick one fruit or vegetable and be amazed how much better a fresh picked tomato can be.
“A huge amount of water is required to produce regular table sugar,” says Louisa Shafia, author of “Lucid Food.” “Honey, on the other hand, is a perfectly renewable resource that requires little more than healthy bees and healthy plants and flowers from which to pollinate. Try adapting your favorite recipe to use honey instead of dry sugar.”
Plugging in a high-speed blender or a food processor is worthwhile if it motivates you to cook more often and eat more fruits and vegetables. You can get a couple of meals out of a seasonal soup and several out of a homemade pesto. Use your two most popular appliances and unplug the rest.
Not just vegetable scraps and eggshells, but leftovers, coffee grounds, stale bread, tea bags, and pretty much anything else (though animal fats, scraps, and bones don’t break down easily and can attract pests). If you can’t use it all, give excess back to local farmers or to a community garden. Stylish compost pails make collecting your excess a breeze!
Anything that qualifies as a whole (i.e., unrefined) grain — brown rice, barley, farro, quinoa — is automatically healthier for you and the environment than a processed grain like white rice. Even better is buckwheat, which can improve soil quality.
Until the USDA revised the standards last year, 30 to 40 percent of the milk sold in the U.S. that was labeled organic was actually from factory farm-raised cows. Regulations are tighter now, but not all organic milks are created equal. Check your brand at sustainabletable.org — and opt for antibiotic- and rBGH-free (no artificial bovine growth hormones). If just 40% of households bought organic milk, we would change the dairy industry for the good.
Keeping track of which plastics are safer (Nos. 2, 4, 5) and which are more likely to release toxic phthalates, styrene, or BPA when heated or warm (Nos. 3, 6, 7) can be confusing. (We have yet to come up with an easy-to-remember shorthand.) So make it a policy to use as little as possible in the kitchen. Get Glass Containers… they are freezable and microwavable!
Brands like If You Care produce unbleached paper lined with vegetable wax. Use it instead of aluminum foil or plastic wrap. It’s compostable, reusable when wiped down, and can be fastened with masking tape.
Your watchwords are “fair-trade certified” and “sustainable.” Also look for “bird-friendly” or the Rainforest Alliance label, which means the beans were grown responsibly. Brew it at home with a French press (2 tablespoons coarsely ground coffee per 6 ounces water) and you’ve started the day on a very green foot.