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spring holidays
Photo by Carolyn Fortuna/ CleanTechnica

Agriculture

Spring Holidays & Sustainable Eating

As we gather with family and community to celebrate nature’s reawakening of spring, it’s a good time to think deeply about the foods we eat and the effects their production has on the planet.

Spring holidays infuse hope and laughter as the days get longer, brooks swirl with snow runoff, long-dormant trees blossom, and families gather ’round abundant feasts to celebrate the season of light. As we recreate the spring rituals that connect us to family and community, we experience the wonder of renewal, but, if we listen acutely and look intently, we also see past spring season rhythms are changing.

Dyeing eggs or eating chocolate bunnies or looking for matzah pizza toppings —  these optimistic customs belie how, in most regions of the US, spring now arrives earlier in the calendar year than it did years ago. The Nature’s Notebook project, which tracks seasonal changes in plants and animals, has observations now of faster melting winter ice, songbirds migrating in advance of prior patterns, and invasive, non-native shrubs leafing out sooner in the spring.

A warming world has affected the timing of spring ecosystem events. Through food choices, however, we have an opportunity to adapt our carbon footprint — that total amount of greenhouse gases, including carbon dioxide and methane generated by our actions. The average carbon footprint for a person in the US is 16 tons, 4 times that of the global average.

We need to do our parts to avoid a 2℃ rise in global temperatures. An efficacious way to do so is to make conscious decisions about the food we buy and consume. As the spring holidays are upon us, why not model how what we eat is an element of an overall equation to help preserve our air, soil, and water systems?

Hints to Eat Sustainably for the Spring Holidays

Adopting a more plant-based diet could give rich countries a “double climate dividend” of lower emissions and more land for capturing carbon, a new study in Nature Food says. The study investigates how the global food system would change if 54 high-income countries were to shift to a more plant-based diet.

Here are some ideas for dipping your toes into the plant-based pool of new menu preparations, eating seasonally, and reconnecting with our food and its sources to double your positive impact on climate.

Home cookin’ for the holidays: If you’re cooking for the Passover or Easter holidays, you might want to infuse a whole lot more meatless or even vegan items to the menu. Plant based sumptuous appetizers, mouth-watering main courses, or luscious side dishes can be really intriguing to your guests.

What are some new sustainable menu items to include for the spring holidays?

How about cream of carrot soup, baked brie, wild rice salad, couscous salad, golden beet salad, hot spinach and mushroom salad, lightly broiled spring vegetables, chickpea pot pie, Grandma’s green bean casserole, asparagus-topped pasta, Brussel sprouts with goat cheese, apple mashed potatoes, veggie lasagna, Easter Egg cheesecake, sweet potato pie, minty pineapple fruit salad, chocolate Easter Egg nests, or carrot cake cupcakes… whew!

And those are just the beginnings of possibilities for this spring holiday and others.

Earth Month hints for sustainable eating: Don’t let grain shortages let you down. You can fill your plate with earth-friendly foods by practicing a whole bunch of sustainable habits. Did you know that if you eat local, you’ll have more immunity to illnesses? That’s because local fruits and vegetables offer beta-carotene and vitamin C. Local produce also has a much smaller transportation footprint.

You can also choose snacks from parent companies that share your commitment to the climate, such as those that invest in agricultural and forestry projects by purchasing carbon credits to offset production and transportation footprints. Reducing the amount of meat you eat on a weekly basis will help you create a more healthy, vital environmental footprint. When you’re aware of how food choices affect climate, you’re joining the new trend known as being a climatarian.

Food and nutrition at a nexus: Eating meatless meals can make you more energized, nourished, and sustained. They’ll help you to be settled and balanced. Start with dark green leafy vegetables, which are packed with nutrients, fight cancer, and promote the health of our hearts, eyes, bones, digestive systems, brains, and skin.

Incorporate more spices and rely less on sugar, salt, and fat. Make a habit of cooking more at home and eating out less, too, as, in doing so, you’ll have greater control over the ingredients in the foods you eat.

Try a different kind of food altogether: Have you ever eaten black-eyed peas? They’re great in soups, stews, salads, fritters, and dips, as in Texas or cowboy caviar.

Or offer your college-aged kid home for the spring holidays some comfort food that’s good for them and the planet, too, like vegan macaroni and cheeze, kebabs with zucchini and cherry tomatoes, avocado toast, eggplant rolatini, berry almond smoothie bowls, vegan bistro boxes, pineapple nice cream, or chocomole pudding.

Corporations are joining the march to plant-based foods: You’ll be in fine company this spring if you commit to incorporating more sustainable, plant based foods into your diet. Panera is boosting its current 25% vegetarian menu to 50% in just a few years, and Burger King has followed suit, saying it will meet that same goal by 2030. McDonald’s is piloting its McPlant burger. Kentucky Fried Chicken is now serving plant-based chicken developed by Beyond Meat. Chipotle announced that its plant-based chorizo is available at US restaurant locations. Google has placed plant-based healthy foods up front in its corporate cafeterias.

Hmm. Are all these corporate adoptions of plant-based foods worrying the meat industry? With so many plant based sausage, burger, and pork products available, the spring holidays don’t have to be a time to contribute to the climate crisis.

Final Thoughts

Spring holiday eating may be even more festive this year with the increased emphasis on menus that celebrate climate consciousness. If you find yourself exuberantly joining in the plant based food culture, then you’ll want to check out the Food Tank’s list of 122 organizations and networks that are building more resilient and equitable food systems through research, policy action, programming, and more.

Their unifying thread is the two-fold understanding that food systems can intensify global warming through the widespread use of unsustainable farming and land management practices and greenhouse gas-emitting food loss and waste. Also, the effects of a warming climate can decimate food systems and exacerbate food insecurity and economic instability.

Rethinking spring holiday eating is a vital step toward feeding our communities responsibly and sustainably in light of a rapidly changing climate. It’s time to step outside our food silos and join in pursuit of sustainable food systems and a stable climate, both of which are crucial to a healthy future.

 
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Written By

Carolyn Fortuna (they, them), Ph.D., is a writer, researcher, and educator with a lifelong dedication to ecojustice. Carolyn has won awards from the Anti-Defamation League, The International Literacy Association, and The Leavy Foundation. Carolyn is a small-time investor in Tesla. Please follow Carolyn on Twitter and Facebook.

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