Beware of ingredients that may come from unsustainable sources

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Updated on October 25, 2019

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Some of the ingredients in foods may come from unsustainable sources, and because of the complicated and nontransparent nature of supply chains, it is often difficult to determine which ones are harmful and which ones are not. For instance, some of the ingredients you may find in your food are associated with deforestation, including palm oil, cocoa, and soybeans. It’s hard to completely avoid these ingredients as palm oil in particular is used in about 50% of all packaged food products in supermarkets today and can also be found in your personal care products. However, you can keep an eye out for companies or products that have reputable certifications like Rainforest Alliance Certified or Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) certified, which lets you know they source responsibly. You can also check to see if your preferred food brand signed onto a zero-deforestation policy, and how they are faring in achieving this goal with Greenpeace’s Company-Scorecard guide.

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If you see restaurants, stores, or other types of companies that are incorporating sustainability, consider choosing these options and make your support for sustainability known. It encourages other businesses to become sustainable as well. You may also come across a nonprofit or community organization that you believe is doing valuable work. Why not donate or reach out to see how you can support their efforts? You can consider volunteering, even if it’s only for one day, to give back to the local area you’re visiting.

Carry and use washable, reusable utensils when possible.

Many airlines are now offering passengers the option to purchase carbon offsets when booking a flight, which means you can pay extra to fund a project that reduces GHG emissions, “neutralizing” your flight. Carbon offset projects include supporting forest conservation in California, capturing GHG emissions from landfills in South Carolina, or renewable energy in Texas. Airlines are also taking measures to reduce their own environmental impact such as making planes and fleets more energy efficient and looking for alternative sources of energy.

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Using reusable bags (cloth, paper, or plastic) or hand-carrying items (if you’re only picking up a few things) both are ways to cut down on plastic waste. Many cities have banned plastic bags altogether, and some stores now charge for bags that just a few years ago were free. Even if your city hasn’t made the move on plastic bags yet, you can take matters into your own hands by remembering your reusable bags.

We tend to make too much food for parties. This is especially true during the holidays since it’s usually part of the holiday culture to make sure everyone has all the food and beverage they can handle, and then some. This excess is ultimately bad for the environment. However, tracking your RSVPs closely and keeping a headcount should help you avoid making this classic mistake that ultimately contributes to food waste. Of course, some extra food is not disastrous (everyone loves leftovers), but it is something to be mindful of.

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