How to Get the Most Nutritious Bang for your Buck AND Fight Climate Change

Climate change is messing with your food. Here's how you can bite back.

Ugh. We're just gonna say it - Climate change sucks. It's messing with the weather, it's messing with our allergies, and now… our food too?!

All of that extra CO2 we're putting into the air is making plants grow really fast and forcing them to turn that carbon into sugary carbs and fibers instead of healthy vitamins and minerals. While a little bit of extra CO2 can help plants grow faster, too much zaps the nutrients out of healthy leafy greens, high protein rice, and vitamin-packed fruits. How? Plants need time to grow and build up healthy minerals and nutrients.

Too much CO2 too fast forces them to carb load. The same happens when it gets too warm and dry. When temps go up a little or plants get a little less water, fruits and vegetables stress out and build up their defenses with nutrients and vitamins. But, places like Iowa where a lot of corn and soybeans are grown are getting way too dry, and other places like Florida, a major source of oranges and other fruits and veggies, are getting too wet. For us, that means corn and soybeans will have more sugar and less protein, and those oranges will have more sugar and less Vitamin C and antioxidants. All of that extra heat and rain also weakens plant defenses, making them more susceptible to disease and disruption. On top of all that, hurricanes, wildfires, and pests made worse by climate change have been destroying entire fields of crops in recent years, and that's made healthy options more expensive for you and your family.

But, you don't have to just sit back and take it. Here are some ways you can get the most nutritious bang for your buck AND fight climate change at the same time:

1) Buy Organic When Possible

You might know that organic has no harmful pesticide residues, which is good for your health, but did you know that buying organic is also healthy for the planet? Organic farming practices keep soil healthier and turn the ground into nutrient factories that absorb water and carbon by reusing all of the parts of the plants we can't eat. All of that good nutrition gets absorbed by plants and ends up in the fruits and vegetables we eat. Sustainable farming avoids using man-made fertilizers and pesticides that kill natural organisms like bees, worms, and good bacteria that keep the soil healthy. Sustainable farming also reduces toxic runoff farther downstream, like the kind that has created dead zones in the Gulf of Mexico and killed off shrimp and fish populations. The bottomline is buying organic means healthier food on our plate and a lower carbon footprint for our planet.

Check out our post What Does Organic Really Mean? to help make sense of the organic labels and check out our favorite tip for how to prioritize organic produce to help you pick pesticide-free fruits and vegetables.

2) Buy Local

What if there was a way to fight climate change, eat more nutritious and tastier food, while also saving money? Buying local seasonal items is this magical triple win! Buying local has a lower carbon footprint than foods that traveled by ship, train, or truck to get to your plate. And local produce is also packed with more vitamins, minerals, and nutrients than fruits and vegetables that were picked weeks ago and had to travel to get to you. Once picked off a tree, vine, or out of the ground, fruits and vegetables can't get more vitamins and minerals from the soil and the nutrients start to break down soon after. Produce that is imported is often picked before it is ripe so that it doesn't spoil by the time customers buy it. To ripen produce when it gets to the shelves, grocers often treat them with ethylene. While ethylene is not toxic (fruits and vegetables produce them naturally as they ripen), the commercial ethylene gas that grocers use is made from fossil fuels like methane and crude oil, most often extracted by fracking methods that are harmful to health and the environment.

CSA's (community supported agriculture), co-op's (cooperatively-owned grocer or agriculture) and farmers markets are a great way to find seasonal fruits and veggies delivered at peak nutrition. Many CSA's and co-ops are locally run by volunteers and use membership fees to offset costs. If you are concerned that these options may be out of your budget, some CSA's and co-ops offer income-based membership rates or have slots reserved for low-income or SNAP recipients. Hitting up farmers markets is a great way to get to know local small farmers and discover new varieties of vegetables that are in season. Gaining an organic certification can be expensive for small farmers, so even if they don't have an official seal, they may still grow foods organically. The best way to know is to ask and get to know your local farmers.

Check out this video, Food Revolution: CSA, Farmer's Market, or Co-op, to help you weigh the pros and cons of each local option.

3) Plant a Garden at Home

We all love a little more green in our lives - strawberries, tomatoes, lettuce, and herbs grow well in containers, so whether you have a yard, balcony, or sunny windowsill – you can grow some of your own food. If you're feeling a bit adventurous, you can also try growing vegetables from scraps which will not only give you free veggies, but will help reduce plant waste. Before you start, we recommend testing for lead in your soil if you'll be planting in the ground. Pick up a soil test kit for lead online or at a local hardware or gardening store, and check out this guide on safe planting containers. Even growing a couple of herbs is an especially fun activity to do with kids and a great way to get them excited about healthy cooking and eating.

Check out Good Housekeeping's How to Start an Organic Garden in 9 Easy Steps and Mother Earth News: A Crop-by-Crop Guide to Growing Organic Vegetables and Fruits to help you pick some plants to get started.

4) Reduce Waste and Compost

According to the United Nations, 1/3 of all food produced around the world is wasted. From farm to landfill, when that food waste breaks down it produces as much greenhouse gas emissions as all of the cars, trucks, and buses traveling on roads around the world. Planning meals before shopping and using your produce efficiently can cut down on your food waste. If you're buying in bulk and in season, you can always freeze some for smoothies and soups later on and use scraps to make vegetable stock. For lots of great tips and for recipes to help you make the most of your produce, check out Food Waste Feast.

And, finally, compost what's left (or not edible) along with coffee grounds, eggshells, yard waste, and newspaper. Composting turns all of that waste into nutrient-rich soil for plants. You can compost at home or find a local drop-off site near you. Over 90 cities like Portland, Oregon, and Washington, D.C., now offer curbside compost pick up along with other waste collection. New York City even uses food waste to create enough biogas to heat 5,200 homes and has reduced the city's annual greenhouse gas emissions by 90,000 tons. If your city or town doesn't offer compost collection, call them up and ask them to start! Here's a great guide from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance to help you make the case: Yes! In My Backyard: A Home Composting Guide for Local Government.

Yes, climate change is impacting our food, but we can all take steps along the way to fight climate change while making our food healthier.


12 Essentials for Packing a Plastic Free Lunch

our favorite reusable items for packing lunch for the kids (and yourself!)

As all the kids are going back to school, it's time to get ready to start getting creative when it comes to packing lunches. While plastic sandwich bags may be convenient, they aren't the healthiest and are only adding to the plastic problem in our oceans. Instead, stock up on some of these lunchbox essentials. They are reusable, washable, and healthier than a bag full of plastic containers. We also have a roundup of general food storage containers you might want to check out.

Keep Reading Show Less
Want more news like this?
Sign up to receive our email newsletter and never miss an update!
By submitting above, you agree to our privacy policy.

Everyone has their favorite water bottle - a Camelbak with the chewy straw, or a new shiny S'well bottle, or the Hydroflask that keeps your drink icy for days. And, we know that reusable plastic water bottles have some perks- lightweight, see through, indestructible- but they also have one big drawback, the plastic. Plastics, even ones that are BPA free, are often made of chemicals that can seep into water and affect your health. So, that's where this big question comes into play. Do I have to (or should I) ditch my beloved Nalgene with all my stickers from travels throughout the years?

Our answer is - you don't have to pitch it, but it probably shouldn't be your primary bottle either. You can stop reading here and check our our roundup of a dozen glass and stainless steel reusable water bottles if that's enough info for you, or you can keep reading and well give you some tips and nuggets of info on why those tips will make a difference.

Keep Reading Show Less

A Dozen Reusable Water Bottles

Our top picks for glass and stainless steel water bottles

If you've made it here, you probably already know that bottled water isn't great. Plastic in general can also be tough because of the ever popular BPA and it's sister chemicals. So, we collected 12 of our favorite plastic-free, reusable water bottles so you don't have to go hunting. Many of these brands make many types of bottle and cups. Feel free to poke around to find a size or shape that might work better for you, but keep in mind always go for glass or stainless steel. That assures that even if the plastic bottles are BPA free, you won't have to worry about BPA replacements. It's often tough to find bottles without plastic lids, but if the water isn't constantly touching the lid, a plastic lid usually isn't something to get too worried about.

If you have some old plastic reusable water bottles kicking around (who doesn't!) then check out our advice about how to use them safely.

Keep Reading Show Less

Having Trouble Keeping a Healthy Weight?

Here's why chemicals might be keeping you from shedding those last few pounds

If you're eating healthy, getting lots of sleep, but just can't seem to hit a healthy weight, it might be something you've never thought about. Obesogens, a term coined in 2006 to refer to chemicals that cause us to gain and hold on to weight, and can influence weight loss. Now, we know that maintaining a healthy weight and lifestyle is influenced by what seems like a bajillion factors, and is a complicated issue with no easy solution. But, it looks like obesogens are a piece of the puzzle and definitely something you want to be aware about. Data shows that obesity is an increasing problem. Over one-third of both adults and children in the U.S. are obese or overweight (1, 5). Even for people who regularly work out or have superhuman strength to say no to desserts, obesogens are having an impact. Unfortunately, as obesogen research is in its early stages, we still don't know everything about these chemicals and how they affect weight gain, but as of now, here's what we do know.

Keep Reading Show Less

Cleaning is important, you should definitely do it. While it can be a not very fun chore, unless you relate to Monica on a spiritual level, it really is something that should be done regularly. Besides germs, cleaning removes all the yucky (and potentially chemically laden) dust and dirt that can collect in your home over time. While it might seem like you should also disinfect your surfaces when you clean to kill any crazy germs that might be hanging out, it's not as necessary as you might think. And, using a strong, commercial disinfectant is definitely not needed or advised. Do you really want to use something all over your home that comes with a huge caution or warning sign on it?

Keep Reading Show Less

Gifts! Gifts! Gifts!

Plastic-free, zero waste, and full of heart

As the holidays start to sneak up on us, we have been pulling together some of our favorite homemade gifts. All of which happen to be plastic-free, zero waste, edible (because food!). Bonus, they are all delicious and help cut down on both the plastic you and your loved ones are exposed to, plus how much ends up in the environment. Not to mention they look really awesome and a homemade gift is a unique way to show you really care. One more benefit, you can pull them together super last minute, get pretty much everything you need at the grocery store (most of it in bulk even) and avoid the heinous parking scene at the mall.

Keep Reading Show Less

Non-Toxic Bassinets and Cosleepers

All well-reviewed and safe for your newborn to sleep in all night (or day) long

*whispers* The baby's asleep! *silent celebrating* And, while the baby is snoozing away, you can actually eat some food and shower. While getting the baby to sleep can be a bit of a headache, figuring out where you will be gently laying them down in the first few months once they are asleep shouldn't be. So, we did all of the hair pulling research to narrow it down to a selection of 8 non-toxic bassinets and cosleepers that parents and experts agree are great options. Without further ado, here are the top picks.

Keep Reading Show Less
Want more news like this?
Sign up to receive our email newsletter and never miss an update!
By submitting above, you agree to our privacy policy.