Learning how to “eat green” with your kids can be a fun, educational adventure which could have a big impact on your family carbon footprint.
Eco-friendly eating is not as simple as just buying expensive organic foods from your supermarket. There are lots of things to consider and learn, and doing so with your children will set them a great example of environmentally aware thinking. It also has the potential to not only make a large improvement on your immediate carbon footprint and environmental impact as a family, but also to alter your children’s attitude towards food and eating for the rest of their lives – benefiting their own health as well as that of our planet.
Explain to your kids that eco-friendly eating means thinking about all the different impacts that the foods we choose can have on the environment.
The overall goal is to minimize the impact we have on the environment by choosing simple rather than complex foods: given the options available, choose foods that are produced simply and packaged simply.
This includes considerations like:How much packaging does this product have? It the packaging recycled and / or recyclable? Is it biodegradable? Ideally look for foods sold simply, with no or little packaging.How much energy has been used in the production of the food? Highly processed foods cost much more to produce, in energy terms, and also tend to be less healthy for us.
The educational opportunities in discussing these issues are tremendous. Your children can become environmentally aware consumers by learning about food production methods, and can learn to “spot the difference” between products that may seem the same initially but have a very different impact on the environment, such as loose fruit and vegetables versus packaged ones of the same variety.
One of the heaviest costs to the environment of our eating habits is the transportation of foods. Teach your kids that buying local produce can have benefits to the environment that outweigh many other factors.
Which is better for the environment, walking to your local farm shop and buying a bag of locally-produced yet non-organic potatoes, or driving to your supermarket and buying a bag of organic potatoes that was produced half a state away? Of course the answer depends on many factors, but unless your local farmer is an excessive user of pesticides then probably the local bag wins out.
Sourcing local foods is an educational way for your kids to learn about and get involved in their local community. Farmer’s Markets are a great place to buy local foods, reduce your impact on the environment by avoiding produce that has been transported to you from miles away, support your community, and get great value, farm fresh foods.
The Department of Agriculture maintains a searchable database of Farmer’s Markets (http://apps.ams.usda.gov/FarmersMarkets/).
And if you are able to grow even a few vegetables of your own in your garden, this will introduce your kids to local eating on a micro-scale.
Only a generation ago, a large proportion of fruit and vegetables were produced and consumed locally. This meant that most produce was eaten when it was locally in season.
Do your children think that everything from asparagus to kiwi fruit comes from your supermarket – and “should” be on the shelves every day of the year? That’s a short sighted view of vegetables and fruit that even many adults subscribe to today.
There is so much that can be learned about the environment, farming, the seasons, weather and botany when you and your kids start to look into which fruits and vegetables are in season in your own state at any particular time of year. And there is a special appreciation to be gained from consuming the first-harvested beans or Brussels sprouts of the year.
Food wastage continues to be a problem in western countries, with estimates of domestic food thrown out ranging from 14 to 40 percent. Clearly one of the most important things that families can do in order to benefit the environment is to ensure that what we buy, we eat!
This also provides us with the opportunity to teach our kids about meal planning, shopping and budgeting – and to raise a thriftier generation of eco-friendly families for the future.
Why not make it your goal this month to buy only what will be eaten? Use simple, healthy meal plans and involve your kids in decision making. They will enjoy their food more if they have been part of the weekly meal planning. Show them how to use a meal plan to make a list, work out a financial budget and shop to it.
So remember: Eat simple, local, seasonal and thrifty. Your kids, your pocket and most certainly the environment will benefit!