Beyond the straw ban—three easy ways to eat with the planet in mind

Beyond the straw ban—three easy ways to eat with the planet in mind
Image: REUTERS/Toby Melville
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Yes, it’s a small step in the direction of cleaner, less plastic-filled oceans to vastly reduce plastic straw usage. But as eaters we have to accept that it’s not just our novelty drinks that have a profound effect on the environment. While the concept of eco-friendly eating usually involves giving something up—going vegan, eating only local food—there are more subtle changes that can be just as powerful. Here are three ways to green your diet.

Buy frozen fish

This one is a little counter-intuitive, but many frozen fish actually have a smaller carbon footprint than fresh fish. “It’s much better, and much cheaper actually, to go to the frozen section where you have vacuum-packed things like sockeye salmon,” Paul Greenberg, author of The Omega Principle, Seafood and the Quest for a Long Life and a Healthier Planet, told Terry Gross on Fresh Air. Greenberg explained that fish that are processed and frozen on fishing boats, like much of the Alaskan salmon catch, can be held at temperature for long periods with very little additional energy input, especially in contrast to the expense of flying fresh seafood around the world.

Buying local fish works too, if you happen to be coastal and have a fishmonger you trust. Or, eat more mussels (or clams or oysters), which are pretty much the most sustainable of sea foods around.

Stop wasting food

As Dana Gunders, author of Waste-Free Kitchen Handbook, told Quartzy earlier this year,  “No matter how organically or sustainably the food was grown, if you’re not eating it, it was all for naught.” Americans waste about a pound of food a day per person and people with the healthiest diets tend to waste the most—about half of all produce ends up in the trash, and food is the single biggest contributor to landfills.

In addition to learning how to use your fridge correctly—and being willing to buy ugly produce that someone else might not—the best strategy for curbing food waste is planning ahead. Set weekly menus and shop for them. Shop frequently for perishables, so you use what you have before buying more. Don’t fear the empty fridge.

Get a reusable cup

While we’re talking about banning straws—which while wasteful, are irreplaceable for some folks with limited mobility or sensory issues—let’s talk about disposable coffee cups. Americans use more than 100 million disposable hot coffee cups each day. That doesn’t even take iced lattes into account. Fancy reusable coffee cups, like the one from Yeti, may seem a bit much, but at around $30 each you’re much less likely to lose it than a cheaper model. Their BPA-free plastic lids actually get clean, are supposedly leak-proof, and don’t hold the grossly lingering flavor of stale coffee, so they can double as your seltzer cup once you’ve caffeinated. Yeti also makes a separate straw lid that is reusable and perfect for keeping your wine spritzer ice cold.