Climate change concerns everyone, so it’s important to make smart decisions about what we do, and especially about what we eat. But as we walk down the grocery aisle, it’s hard to know which foods compliment a sustainable lifestyle, and which exacerbate our carbon footprint. Luckily, there are plenty of protein-rich vegetarian foods that will leave you with a satisfied belly and a (mostly) clear conscience.
Why should you go vegetarian? In addition to its widely reported ethical and health benefits, switching to a vegetarian or vegan diet can considerably reduce your carbon footprint. Raising livestock – especially beef – is resource intensive. Going veg saves those resources by skipping the animals altogether. Still, even some vegetable are resource hogs. Choosing the following foods over more water-intensive crops can help protect one of our planet’s most precious resources.
These juicy, acidic fruits are a staple of many Americans’ diets, but did you know they are well adapted to periods of drought? Tomatoes establish deep roots early in their life cycle, making use of available soil moisture several inches below the dry, cracked surface.
Versatile as well as delicious, lentils are drought tolerant, making them a great sustainable crop. As an added bonus, lentils (as well as all plants in the legume family) convert atmospheric nitrogen into a form usable by other plants, enhancing soil health and decreasing reliance on manufactured nitrogen fertilizers.
Not only does okra require minimal water to grow, but it’s actually growing better in many parts of the country because of climate change! Okra loves a hot climate, making it great for areas that can’t support more sensitive crops.
Crunchy and fun, I bet you didn’t know that snap peas are a great sustainable vegetable too! What makes them perfect is their relatively short growing season and ability to produce seed with minimal water requirements.
Much like tomatoes, squash grow deep roots that can access hard to reach water several inches below the surface. They also produce large, flat leaves that keep the ground shaded. Not to mention, they’re fantastic in stir fries!
An absolutely essential ingredient in almost any dish, you’ll be happy to learn that onions require relatively little water to grow. Although their roots are shallow and must be kept moist, agricultural technologies like drip irrigation keep onions at the right condition without overusing water.
Incorporating these vegetables into your diet can help reduce agricultural water use, putting less strain on the environment. However, no matter what vegetables you choose to eat, reducing your meat consumption is a great way to lower your carbon footprint. Want to spread the word about sustainable foods? Talk to your local restaurants and ask if they use sustainable produce, or talk to your friends about the importance of sustainable eating. Together, we can help reverse climate change through making smart choices.