Earth Day Looks at Forty
Originally posted for Huffington Post on 6/19/2010
Earth Day’s Pushing 50 –Your Food Choices Can Help Keep Her — and You — Vibrant and Healthy
This Thursday, April 22, marks the fortieth annual Earth Day. Forty, as you know, is the new thirty, so Earth Day is sleek, chic and fun but more sophisticated than it was in its earliest incarnations. The advent of the internet and social networking means you can find an Earth Day party march, gathering or event wherever you are in the world. It’s global, viral, bigger by far than the 20 million estimated participants its fledgling year.
Once dismissed as a hippie happening, now everyone’s on board for Earth Day. It’s just good business. Many companies are featuring Earth Day give-backs and tie-ins, so you can celebrate by giving yourself a present, as long as the earth gets a cut, too. One that’s got some special oomph to it is a deal by FRESH natural skincare products. Ten percent of all FRESH Earth Day sales will go to Wholesome Wave, the nonprofit run by chef Michel Nischan who believes, as I do, that “human health, societal health, ecological health and the health of the economy are all equal” and they all depend on a healthy food system.
Parties and presents are great, but at forty, it’s time to seek substance as much as style. The food choices you make impact the planet and matter more than the grand Earth Day gesture.
Go meatless. It’s not a new concept — Einstein and Gandhi ate plant-based diets and the Dalai Lama says, “From a Buddhist point of view it is very important to be a vegetarian.” If you want to be enlightened or lighten up your carbon load, you should, too. What, after all, is the goal of Earth Day but to protect our fragile environment? According to Bard College physics professor Gidon Eshel, “However close you can be to a vegan diet and further from the mean American diet, the better you are for the planet.”
Plant-based never means deprivation, especially this time of year. It’s spring, the start of local harvest, when farmers markets around the country set up selling fresh, peppery arugula, succulent strawberries, juicy, ripe tomatoes, glossy eggplants, slim green beans and more. Don’t hold back. This is seasonal eating at its best, an indulgence you can feel good about. Chances are, there’s a farmers market near you. According to the USDA, we’ve got a bumper crop of them, more than 5,000 local markets, up more than 80 percent from when Earth Day was thirtysomething.
Local produce lightens your carbon load and guarantees you’ll be eating fresh, vibrant produce. Studies indicate locavores eat healthier. They also eat cheaper, because food grown where you live costs less than food that has to be flown in from elsewhere,
Earth Day may be older, but at heart, it’s not so different as it was the year it was born. The first one happened at a time of war, social upheaval, and the world waking up to the threat to the environment. Here we are — different wars, different social upheaval, in the post-Copenhagen days of drill, baby, drill, and Earth Day matters more than ever. Hit the Earth Day sales or take to the streets on Thursday, but to make Earth Day’s impact last all year, eat seasonally, locally, mindfully and above all meatlessly.