Happy Earth Day 2009 / by Alice Zhao

I asked my good friend Jeff to write a post for Earth Day.  He's my go-to resource for a wealth of "green" information and my guide in making environmentally conscious choices.  

I often have people ask me about what is "green" or not. And usually I tell them about eating organic, local and sustainably harvested foods because they don't have the time for my soapbox lecture. But what I really want to tell people is to learn and consider the impact of food, it's provenance and it's transport. Sure it's easier to memorize a set of credos but by doing so, we lose the ability to truly comprehend the consequences and tradeoffs we make.

For example, people assume a vegetarian diet is always more environmentally friendly than one that consumes meat. But what if those vegetables are genetically modified crops from Monsanto grown with lots of pesticides, shipped in by plane from Ecuador and the meat is a small amount of organic, humanely raised and truly free-range chicken from a farm 15 miles away? What if those vegetables were picked unripe, gassed then packed in plastic and styrofoam? And what if the person was pregnant? There are many situations where the assumed "greener" choice would not be the best choice for the earth or for us. So although the general rules of eating vegetarian, organic and local hold true, it's important to understand the issues behind them rather than just follow them blindly.

What's great about food issues is that it can be enlightening and delicious at the same time. Since I've really started to explore food, environment and justice issues, I've made some really great discoveries. I've found that locally-grown tomatoes are world's apart from the bland, watery tomatoes at the supermarket. I've had great conversations with the farmer's about what's the best way to prepare new vegetables I've never had before. And I can feel good knowing that what I eat isn't contributing to reproductive and developmental harm to the farmers that grow it or to me when I eat it.

Ultimately, doing what's good for the earth is about foresight. When we understand that our actions today have an impact on the future, we must act accordingly. Frankly, I just want to be able to have good sushi, al pastor tacos and a ginger pear pie 30 years from now without worrying what it will do to me.

For some great resources on food issues, visit:

http://www.foodnews.org/ - Shopper's guide to pesticides (what produce has the most or least pesticide residues)
http://www.offalgood.com/ - Not for the faint of heart but a very thoughtful site by renowned chef Chris Cosentino about eating meat thoughtfully and respectfully.
http://www.montereybayaquarium.org/cr/seafoodwatch.aspx - Seafood watch guide with information about sustainable harvesting and mercury content of seafood.

http://www.eatwellguide.org/i.php?id=Seasonalfoodguides - Information about what is seasonal in each state.