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Oregon Family Magazine

What We Eat Matters

10/04/2021 ● By Angie Marzano
One way people are making a difference is through their everyday food choices — greater demand for more sustainable, transparent products has made a noticeable and positive impact on food production. Since plant and animal agriculture is inextricably connected with the natural world and the planet’s resources — soil, water, air, climate, land and biodiversity — our personal food choices can drive solutions and practices that transform our agricultural system into one that is far more sustainable.

There are many ways we as individuals can lessen our environmental impact especially when it comes to our everyday food choices. While the number of options can be daunting the oft-repeated good advice is to tackle a few actions at a time. But which ones should you start with? Below, we’ll help you choose by giving you five of the most important actions to consider.

1.     Eat lower on the food chain

Try eating lower on the food chain by adding more fruits, vegetables and grains to your diet and reducing your intake of beef, chicken and pork. This is one of the more effective strategies for reducing negative impacts on the planet’s climate, soil, air and water resources, as well as harmful impacts to biodiversity and habitat.

In addition to the benefits for water quality, eating lower on the food chain can lower your water footprint. Check out the Waster Calculator at to find out how much of your diet factors into your total water footprint.

2.     Eat less and better meat

If you choose to eat meat, choose wisely: pick sustainably-produced — e.g., pasture raised, grassfed — over conventionally produced meat. In general, sustainably-produced meat and dairy is the “better” option from the standpoint of climate, air quality, water resources, soil health and biodiversity. It’s also much better from an animal welfare perspective.

3.     Don’t waste food

By planning out meals, using leftovers and only buying what you need, you can make big reductions in how much food goes to waste. It also pays to better understand sell-by dates and how they can lead to food waste. Wasting food is much bigger than the food that gets tossed or goes uneaten; it means wasting all the resources required to produce that food such as water, energy, soil and cropland.

Visit Lane County’s Eat Smart, Waste Less program for tips, strategies and ways to prevent waste at

4.     Eat in season and eat local

Purchasing foods in season from local farms can help to maintain farmland and open space in your community. A recent USDA study also found that direct-to-consumer producers were less likely to apply pesticides and herbicides to control weeds and insects than conventional producers. Consider joining a CSA and shopping at farmers’ market. And you’ll enjoy the health benefits of eating fresh, unprocessed fruits and vegetables. Moreover, local, seasonal produce just tastes better (and can be more cost effective).