6 of the Most Sustainable Foods

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Everyone should have the power to make better food choices. There is more urgency today than ever before in reducing our environmental impact.

Find out why these foods are the best of the best when it comes to sustainability.

Mushrooms

They have a low impact on the environment because they can use compost made from by-products of other crops. The mushrooms also emit very low levels of CO2 and use very little water. Mushrooms also require very little land; in fact, just one acre can produce up to one hundred thousand pounds of mushrooms.

Pulses

Beans, peas, lentils, and other legumes can be found in many supermarkets. They require little water but produce a large yield. Legumes are nitrogen fixers and work in conjunction with beneficial bacteria called rhizobia to produce a high yield. These bacteria draw nitrogen from air and store it underground in the roots of plants, creating a green storage facility. The nitrogen stored in the roots of the legumes is released back into the soil once the life cycle has ended. This nitrogen can then be used by other plants. Due to this function, the legumes do not often need synthetic nitrogen fertilizers. This reduces the number of resources required while also actively nourishing soil. A secondary benefit of legumes is that they’re also a great source of plant-based protein, making them a huge valuable in supporting a free-meat or reduced-meat lifestyle — a more environmentally friendly choice. Even vitamin B12 is found in legumes, which is difficult to obtain on a vegetarian or vegan diet.

Mussels

Mussels, unlike many other types of seafoods, can be produced in a sustainable manner. Although mussels can be harvested from the wild, they are mostly farmed on long lines that are strung in the water. Aquaculture is a way to produce animal protein without causing as much environmental damage. It doesn’t require land, feed, or use any resources. Mussels also actively reduce greenhouse gas emissions by removing the carbon dioxide in the ocean to grow their shells. They are a great alternative to less sustainable foods because of their high protein and meaty texture.

Seaweed

Seaweed is a nutritious food that is also the least environmentally damaging form of aquaculture. Seaweed is a highly nutritious food that gets all it needs from water. It produces high yields without the need for fertilizers or pollution. Seaweed also filters excess nutrients like phosphorus or nitrogen from water. This is a great solution for problems caused by runoffs from fish farms, sewage systems, and agricultural runoffs. Under-appreciated is the role of vast kelp forest at the bottoms of the ocean in removing and storing CO2. Seaweed can absorb more CO2 than land plants because it grows faster. Seaweed is a great seasonal alternative to coastal communities that are dependent on fishing, and it helps support local economies.

Cereals and grains

Cereals, grains, and other cereal products emit only 1.4 kg of CO2-equivalents for every kilogram. They also require less water than animal-based products. For example, wheat only requires 138 gallon of water for every pound. This is about 7% of the amount of water required to produce beef. To reduce food miles, choose cereals and grains that are grown locally. This will also ensure the carbon footprint is not significantly increased by transport.

Fruits and vegetables organic

No list of environmentally friendly foods is complete without fruit and vegetables, but organic is the most sustainable option. Organic farming prevents the use of pesticides and fertilizers, which are essential to the long-term wellbeing of the soil. To reduce food miles, and to minimize your impact on the environment, you should also source locally and in season whenever possible.