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Three Things You Should Not Eat or Drink if you Care About the Environment

In past posts, Planet Jewish blog has provided information on the benefits of buying and eating local, organic produce during the growing season. Looking at year round food consumption habits, there are additional steps you can take to make sure that you consider the environment. Listed below are a few food choices you should avoid because they are grown or raised in a way that harms natural resources. Also included are better-for-the-environment alternatives. Being mindful of how your food decisions affect the planet is an important way to show respect for G-d’s creation, the Earth.

• Don’t drink conventional coffee—From an environmental standpoint, drinking conventionally grown coffee is problematic for several reasons. Conventional growers typically grow coffee in full sunlight, which leads to heavy dependence on pesticides, herbicides, fungicides and fertilizers. Conventionally grown coffee also typically involves cutting down rainforests and destroying bird habitats. For an environmentally friendly alternative, buy coffee that is shade grown, organic and fair trade. Look for the green gecko stamp from Rainforest Alliance when buying coffee, or purchase Equal Exchange coffee (which also benefits American Jewish World Service). If buying coffee at a restaurant or coffee shop, a few places where fair trade organic coffee is available include Starbuck’s , Peet’s Coffee and (believe it or not) Dunkin Donuts. [Note: When buying coffee at a cafe, your purchase will have a much smaller carbon footprint if you stick with simple blends. A Starbucks black coffee has a carbon footprint of about 30 grams. A venti caramel latte has a carbon footprint of 420 grams.]


•Avoid Bluefin tuna—Blufin tuna is used in making some restaurant sushi. However, this fish is fast becoming endangered and also is high in mercury. Better alternatives to buy and order out are albacore tuna or Pacific yellowfin (also known as ahi) tuna.


•Say no to genetically modified corn—GMO corn “destroys habitats, depletes soils, and pollutes air and water,” says Professor Douglas Fox who teaches sustainable agriculture at Unity College in Maine. When excessively processed, it becomes high fructose corn syrup, a common ingredient in processed foods. High fructose corn syrup takes a large toll on the land and requires use of many pesticides and fertilizers over time. As an alternative, buy your corn from an organic grower in the spring, summer and fall months or look for organic corn in the grocery freezer during the winter months. Avoid high fructose corn syrup when buying items such as cookies, crackers, ketchup and other condiments.

Resources: Sierra Club.typepad.com; Treehugger.com

This blog originally appeared on jewishinstlouis.org at http://jewishinstlouis.org/three-things-eat-drink-care-environment/

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Gail Wechsler is the Director of Domestic Issues/Social Justice at the Jewish Community Relations Council of St. Louis. She is the staff person for the Jewish Environmental Initiative (JEI), a committee of the JCRC and a part of the JCRC's Bohm Social Justice Initiative.
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