11 Ways to Vote With Your Fork

There’s no denying that you can in fact vote with your fork. The best part about it? You get to vote three times a day. When you think about it, food is one of the most basic things that we can change, altering our habits to not only better our own health, but the health of our community and our environment. If you’re looking to make an impact with what you eat, here are 11 shopping habits you can start with.

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock

1. Change what kind of chocolate you buy

Grown primarily in tropical climates, the cocoa bean makes one of the tastiest treats on the planet. But while your chocolate bar tastes good, depending on where it’s from and who made it, it could have a very negative background. A large amount of cocoa production is done by children, often unpaid and forced to work. In other words: slavery.

Think of cheap chocolate like cheap clothing or even fast food—it may be inexpensive, but it has a lot of externalized costs. Fair trade, organic options may be more expensive, but that’s because your money is ensuring that the chocolate was ethically produced. Not all fair trade companies are created equal, however, as some are doing much better than others. For a list of chocolate brands you can feel good about buying, check out the list from the Food Empowerment Project.

2. Change what kind of coffee you’re buying

Coffee is the second most valuable commodity after oil. That is to say: there’s a lot of it. Many of us drink coffee every morning (and sometimes in the afternoon) and with that kind of consumption, changing our coffee habits can have a very positive impact. There are a variety of labels and specifications that you can look for, although not all of them are official certifications: Fair Trade, Direct Trade, Bird Friendly, Organic, Shade Grown and Rainforest Alliance. If you live in a city, your best bet is to buy directly from a local roaster that work directly with their producers, or with a company that ethically sources their beans.

3. Buy in season

Access to supermarkets have made it that we expect to be able to buy strawberries and tomatoes no matter what the time of year. Eating in season isn’t always varied—winter can be full of root vegetables—but it keeps you eating the foods that are meant to be grown at that time of year. Buying in season also encourages you to buy produce that is more locally produced.

4. Buy local when possible

Just like buying in season is important, so is buying local. In this day and age it’s difficult to get all of our food locally, but if you want to be more locally minded, then start thinking about the foods that you can stop buying. Ultimately, what you buy and don’t buy is up to you. Coffee and chocolate come from far away, but many don’t want to give them up. Think about your larger impact and the foods from far off destinations that you can eliminate.

Instead of challenging yourself to immediately turn into a full blown locavore, think about what you can do without. Also be sure to think about what foods you can buy locally. Apples are a great example; if they’re grown close to home, why get the ones from New Zealand?

5. Do recipe planning before shopping

Think about meals that involve a lot of seasonal, local foods. If you have a recipe in your head and you know the foods you need to make it, you’re a lot more compelled to just stick to your list and not buy a lot of unnecessary additional foods.

6. Don’t think in black and white

Just because something is organic doesn’t mean it’s good for you. Organic chips are still a processed food, albeit better for you than the other kind. Shopping smart means thinking about what you’re buying. Where does it come from? What ingredients are in it? Who produced it? Organic goji berries from China for example could easily be replaced by more local berries.

7. Buy less processed

The less processed food you are buying, the better. This ensures that you are buying whole foods and preparing them at home, which helps you avoid all the additives that many products have.

8. Choose stores with less selection

Going into a supermarket can be intimidating, mostly because you have 52 different types of granola. Stores with a smaller selection will help you to shop more efficiently.

9. Buy what you can from independent producers

You may not have a farmers market close to home, but maybe someone nearby has chickens and is selling eggs. Or maybe there’s a nearby farm where you can get fresh milk. You may not be able to source all of your food from independent, local producers, but usually there are one or two things being made in our backyards. Support them and feel better about what you’re eating in the process.

10. Don’t blindly follow food trends

We love to do what everyone else is doing, and in the food world, certain grains, vegetables and food products certainly make their way into the public spotlight. Just because something is popular doesn’t mean that you should buy it. Instead of quinoa grown in South America, buy a grain that’s grown in the U.S. Don’t buy a $6 juice, buy a few fruits and experiment with making your own at home. Leave the coconut water on the shelf and go home and pop a few sprigs of mint in a glass and pour in some tap water.

11. Choose products with less packaging

When you’re shopping it’s important to not only think about what you’re buying, but also what it comes in. The less single-use, disposable plastic packaging, the better.



20 Eco-Friendly Easter Egg Ideas

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO) speaks during the North American Building Trades Unions Conference at the Washington Hilton April 10, 2019 in Washington, DC. Zach Gibson / Getty Images

Colorado senator and 2020 hopeful Michael Bennet introduced his plan to combat climate change Monday, in the first major policy rollout of his campaign. Bennet's plan calls for the establishment of a "Climate Bank," using $1 trillion in federal spending to "catalyze" $10 trillion in private spending for the U.S. to transition entirely to net-zero emissions by 2050.

Read More Show Less
Foto-Rabe / Pixabay

When Trump's Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced its replacement for the Obama-era Clean Power Plan in August 2018, its own estimates said the reduced regulations could lead to 1,400 early deaths a year from air pollution by 2030.

Now, the EPA wants to change the way it calculates the risks posed by particulate matter pollution, using a model that would lower the death toll from the new plan, The New York Times reported Monday. Five current or former EPA officials familiar with the plan told The Times that the new method would assume there is no significant health gain by lowering air pollution levels below the legal limit. However, many public health experts say that there is no safe level of particulate matter exposure, which has long been linked to heart and lung disease.

Read More Show Less
A crate carrying one of the 33 lions rescued from circuses in Peru and Columbia is lifted onto the back of a lorry before being transported to a private reserve on April 30, 2016 in Johannesburg, South Africa. Dan Kitwood / Getty Images

By Andrea Germanos

Animal welfare advocates are praising soon-to-be introduced legislation in the U.S. that would ban the use of wild animals in traveling circuses.

Read More Show Less
A tornado Monday in Union City, Oklahoma. TicToc by Bloomberg / YouTube screenshot

Extreme weather spawned 18 tornadoes across five states Monday, USA Today reported. Tornadoes were reported in Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri and Arizona, but were not as dangerous as forecasters had initially feared, the Associated Press reported.

Read More Show Less
A woman walks in front of her water-logged home in Sriwulan village, Sayung sub-district of Demak regency, Central Java, Indonesia on Feb. 2, 2018. Siswono Toyudho / Anadolu Agency /Getty Images

A new study has more than doubled the worst-case-scenario projection for sea level rise by the end of the century, BBC News reported Monday.

Read More Show Less
Matt Cardy / Stringer / Getty Images

The Guardian is changing the way it writes about environmental issues.

Read More Show Less
Blueberry yogurt bark. SEE D JAN / iStock / Getty Images Plus

By Lizzie Streit, MS, RDN, LD

Having nutritious snacks to eat during the workday can help you stay energized and productive.

Read More Show Less
A 2017 flood in Elk Grove, California. Florence Low / California Department of Water Resources

By Tara Lohan

It's been the wettest 12 months on record in the continental United States. Parts of the High Plains and Midwest are still reeling from deadly, destructive and expensive spring floods — some of which have lasted for three months.

Mounting bills from natural disasters like these have prompted renewed calls to reform the National Flood Insurance Program, which is managed by Federal Emergency Management Agency and is now $20 billion in debt.

Read More Show Less