Eco-Friendly Outdoor Eating: Save Resources, Reduce Food Waste and More
Midsummer is prime time for outdoor family meals, barbecues and picnics. Selecting the healthiest food, along with eco-friendly materials in preparing for the fun feasts, can fulfill a more environmentally sustainable lifestyle and conserve resources at the same time.
• Green America recommends using organic cloth, reusable mesh or string produce bags when grocery shopping; use bamboo utensil sets and plastic straw alternatives made of stainless steel, food-grade silicone, bamboo or glass.
• To keep uninvited flying pests like mosquitoes, flies and the like away from humans and food, apply natural repellents—many made of natural, essential oil; plant-based and food-grade ingredients can be found at Chasing Green.
• According to WebMD, charcoal grilling of meat can expose us to two potentially cancer-causing compounds—polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons that form when fat from meat drips onto hot coals and are “deposited on food courtesy of flame-ups and rising smoke,” and heterocyclic amines that “are produced when red meat, poultry and fish meet high-heat cooking.” Instead, consider using a closed-flame gas grill to reduce exposure to toxins and cook fresh and organic fruits and vegetables like zucchini, tomatoes, peppers, onions and mushrooms.
• Both the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency warn against eating shark, swordfish, king mackerel and tilefish due to high levels of mercury, and to consume no more than six ounces of albacore tuna per week for the same reason. Some studies point to avoiding farmed salmon due to potentially high amounts of PCBs. Bypass larger fish of the food chain; look for those that have earned the Marine Stewardship Council or Aquaculture Stewardship Council labels.
• The U.S. Department of Agriculture recently estimated that between 30 to 40 percent of all food in the country is wasted. To improve this situation, use glass containers instead of plastic bags to store leftovers. Also consider sustainable food wraps like Bees Wrap. Made from beeswax, organic cotton, jojoba oil and tree resin, they seal and conform to the shape of whatever food is being stored.
This article appears in the July 2019 issue of Natural Awakenings.