This Thursday is Earth Day, that time of year when we remember, oh, yeah, gotta do something about the planet. Here’s an easy answer – eat plants.
Some of the most ardent plant-based people I know got scared straight — health issues or having the veil of factory farming ripped away. Every reason to eat plants is good, but I do like pleasure, which my upcoming book Miami Vegan aims to deliver. That said, one compelling reason to go vegan is where I live. Miami is perched precariously at sea level on the Atlantic. We are ground zero for rising tides. Climate change is real, and it’s happening here now. Coming soon to a city near you.
Or you could just eat more plants. “A vegan diet is probably the single biggest way to reduce your impact on planet Earth, not just greenhouse gases, but global acidification, eutrophication, land use and water use,” a lead scientist concluded in a 2018 study.
The study has since been amended, now calculating even greater benefits to a vegan diet, by factoring in that land previously used for raising livestock can be used as carbon sinks, nature’s way to safely store the CO2 we keep producing.
Two of the most sustainable crops — lentils and durum wheat, the wheat used to make pasta — happen to be pantry-friendly, cheap, easy to cook, comforting to eat, and madly versatile, so stock up. Speaking of pasta, our friends at Barilla Center for Food and Nutrition have demonstrated the most nutrient-dense foods for us are the crops most sustainable to grow. Barilla calls this the Double Pyramid.
So imagine the good you can do — and the good food you can enjoy — when you mix beans and whole grains with seasonal, local produce. Eating seasonally and locally shortens distribution chains and reduces carbon footprint. Grocery stores don’t make it easy, stocking produce from all over, so it’s hard to know what seasonal and local even are. Unless you visit your local farmers market, or consult this guide. And consult me! I’ve got tons of produce-driven recipes at soulfulvegan.com.
It takes more than one day and more than one person to make the Earth more sustainable. You don’t have to do it alone. Be part of these free virtual Earth Day events:
- Barilla Center of Food and Nutrition and Food Tank partner to present Countdown to Earth Day
- Earthday hosts Restore Our Earth
- Pittsburgh Vegan hosts Every Day is Earth Day
Do your part for the planet. Eat plants. Wishing you and Planet Earth a happy Earth Day.
Since pasta and lentils are sustainable, they are both a great choice for a hearty meal, and they go so well together in this pasta recipe. When purchasing lentils, here are a few that we love!
Spaghetti with Tomatoes and Lentils
- 8 ounces whole grain spaghetti
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 onion finely chopped
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- pinch red pepper flakes
- 1 pint grape tomatoes halved
- 1 cup lentils cooked (preferably beluga black lentils or French green lentils, which keep their shape after cooking)
- 1 handful basil leaves about 1 cup, chopped
- 2 cups arugula leaves coarsely chopped
- sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
- In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. When the oil starts to shimmer, add the chopped onion, garlic and red pepper flakes. Cook, stirring, occasionally, for about 3 minutes, just until the onion starts to soften.
- Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to boil over high heat. When it reaches a rolling boil, add the whole grain spaghetti. Cook spaghetti according to package directions.
- Add the halved grape tomatoes to the sauteed onions. Stir to coat the tomatoes in the oil and continue cooking, so tomatoes soften. This should take about 8 minutes, about the length of time it will take for the pasta to become al dente. Stir the lentils in with the tomatoes.
- Drain the pasta, reserving 1 cup of the pasta cooking water. Return the pasta to the pot. Add the tomatoes and lentils and pasta water. It has a beautiful starchiness, which, combined with the pasta, tomatoes and lentils, thickens into a spaghetti-hugging sauce. Stir well together.
- Add the chopped basil and arugula by the handful, combining just until the greens wilt. Season generously with sea salt and freshly ground pepper. Enjoy at once.