Categories
Sustainable Living

6 Sustainable Foods that Use Less Water

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.

Tomatoes

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Photo by Clay Banks on Unsplash

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.

Lentils

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Photo by Monika Grabkowska on Unsplash

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.

Okra

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Photo by ANDI WHISKEY on Unsplash

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.

Snap Peas

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Photo by Monika Grabkowska on Unsplash

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.

Squash

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Photo by Caroline Attwood on Unsplash

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!

Onions

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Photo by Burhan Rexhepi on Unsplash

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.

Categories
Call to Action

Climate Change: The Existential Threat that Will Define our Generation

Climate protest
Photo by Li-An Lim on Unsplash

Every day, climate change looms as an existential threat over the lives of  all people on the planet. In the United States, we are faced with a tough situation: an economy hopelessly dependent on fossil fuels, and a president who is an avid climate change denier and proponent of anachronistic practices like coal mining. But however hopeless the situation might appear, there is hope. Generation Z considers climate change one of the most pressing issues of our time, and we have the potential to rid our lives of this existential threat once and for all through political activism, as well as investment and research in renewable energies like wind and solar. Together, we can bring hope to the hopeless, and bring an end to climate change.

What is Climate Change?

When scientists talk about climate change, what they are referring to is a change in the behavior of the world’s climate that has persisted since the dawn of the Industrial Revolution. The scientific community is in very strong agreement that this change in the climate can be attributed to human activity.

But what kinds of human activity are contributing to climate change? One of the biggest is our insatiable burning of fossil fuels. Fossil fuels are carbon-rich deposits made from ancient plant and animal matter, usually found beneath the surface of the earth. They may take the form of a solid, like coal; a liquid, like oil; or a gas, like natural gas. When fossil fuels are burned, they release large amounts of energy, and this energy is harvested to power our cars, propel our planes, heat and light our homes, and just about anything else you can think of.

However, combusted fossil fuels also release molecules like carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide into the atmosphere. These two molecules, as well as a number of others, are what we call greenhouse gasses. When exposed to sunlight, greenhouse gasses trap more heat than oxygen, and release that built up heat back into the atmosphere, producing the greenhouse effect. The greenhouse effect is an essential component to how our atmosphere functions, but as we continue to add more greenhouse gases to the atmosphere, the effect becomes more pronounced, leading to increases in average temperature across the globe. Scientists call this “global warming.”

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NASA/JPL-Caltech

Many people confuse global warming with climate change, but global warming is really only one of many components of climate change. Human contribution of greenhouse gasses to the Earth’s atmosphere is also acidifying our oceans, creating extreme weather events with greater frequency, and melting polar ice caps, just to name a few.

What can we do to stop Climate Change?

Climate change is a global existential threat, and cannot be stopped unless we decide to take action. There are two major steps we can all take to help stop climate change: make lifestyle changes to minimize our carbon footprint, and speak to our elected officials about the importance of halting and reversing climate change.

Reducing your carbon footprint might be easier than you think. A great first step is to cut back on your usage of fossil fuels. Perhaps you make the decision to walk the short distance to the grocery store rather than take your car, or maybe you rely more heavily on public transportation, which produces less carbon emissions per person. You can even purchase a more fuel efficient vehicle. These options might not be feasible for everyone, so why not consider making a change in your diet? Raising livestock requires an astounding amount of resources, and those resources take a toll on the climate. We’re not saying you have to go vegan, but cutting back on your meat consumption – especially red meat – can make a big difference for your carbon footprint. Keep that in mind the next time you get to choose between a steak and a veggie burger.

The other big step you can make to help end climate change is to get involved politically. The United States will not change its approach to climate change unless the people of this country put a stop to it. If you are tired of allowing the United States to destroy the planet, call your congressperson or senator and let them know where you stand. Most importantly, when it comes time for elections, pay attention to how incumbent representatives voted on past legislation. Additionally, consider voting for a presidential candidate who not only acknowledges the realities of climate change, but who vows to end it once and for all. If you are not yet old enough to vote, you can still get involved. Consider participating in one of the many climate strikes organized across the country, or volunteer in the campaign of a political candidate who is motivated to solve the existential threat of climate change.

There is Hope

When it comes to stopping climate change, things might seem hopeless, but we cannot give up hope. There is too much Generation Z can do to fix this problem in our lifetime. If we continue to stand by, we will be remembered by generations as the ones who decided to let special interests destroy our only home. But if we choose to act, we will be the heroes the world desperately needs for years to come.