How can I find ways to snack more sustainably? How can I use my snacks to sustain my body and fuel my daily activities? How can I snack healthily? How can I reduce packaging and make snacks at home?
I have this personal dream/goal of getting to a point where my household doesn't leave a single material trace of existence because honestly, we leave an icky trail. You might think this is crazy but let me throw you a couple of stats and elaborate a bit on what I'm talking about.
Stat #1: According to a report by the EPA (a vital organization that protects us from ourselves) people create an average of 4.40 lbs of garbage a day. That means if I create the same amount of garbage daily as the average American I will have created my body weights worth of garbage in thirty-two days. In a year I will have created 1,606 lbs of garbage. Needless to say, that's several times my bodyweight. Talk about leaving a trail.
Stat #2: According to the same report, the average American recycles or composts 1.51 lbs of the 4.40 lbs of waste they create daily. This means that 2.89 lbs of that waste are being dumped in a landfill daily. That's over 1,054 lbs a year. Say you live for eighty years behaving like this. That's over 84,338 lbs of trash. This is just assuming you create the average amount of trash.
Stat #3: A lot of this garbage doesn't make it to landfills. Wind, water and lame people who litter all help it to find it's way to the ocean. Once in the ocean, it gets caught up in the ocean currents, eventually making it's way to the Island of Garbage. Remember the Island of Lost Toys? This is the Island of Lost Garbage in the Pacific Ocean and unlike the Island of Lost Toys, it's real. While there is garbage floating everywhere in the ocean, the currents have created what is called a "gyre". This collection of garbage, called the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, has been said to be the size of Texas by organizations and individuals who are trying to measure it. I'll spare you the heartbreaking images of what this does to wildlife (yes including our lovable sea turtles, dolphins, and whales).
That's a lot of garbage, especially plastics which don't breakdown. The plastics I've contributed to landfills will likely outlive me. I will decompose before all the disposable water bottles I've used in the past do.
Down the road, after we are done talking about ways to shop smart and avoid packaging I'll give you guys the rundown on how we handle trash in our house and how to go hardcore on recycling, but for now, we'll talk snacks. Snacks generate a lot of garbage. There are a lot of recyclable things, but one thing that is not is those aluminum-plastic hybrid wrappers that make up most chip bags, energy bar wrappers, and candy bags. Since they are mixed material, they cannot be recycled or reused; this means the landfill is the only option.
This is a good thing for you for two reasons. If you commit not to eat these things you are doing two good deeds; you are saving yourself and the environment. Most things that are packaged like this are processed foods, not foods that your body can survive off of sustainably. What your body wants is what the earth wants, things that don't have to be packaged! Fruits, nuts, veggies, healthy whole food fats and even the occasional home-made or locally baked bread and baked goods.
Fruits and veggies are a super easy, garbage-free snack! There's no other snack that is as guaranteed good for you! (Always go for organic to keep your body and the earth healthy; pesticides aren't good for anyone). Choose the stuff that is always artfully stacked in the middle of the produce section and opt-out of the plastic bags, you can wash them when you get home! Even if you do want to use the bags, those can be recycled at special locations. Ask a cashier at your local grocery store if they know of one or if they have a recycling program of their own.
Farmers' markets are where you will find the best home-baked, less packaged snacks. These snacks are not only usually fresher but also use less chemical-based ingredients than what you might buy at the store. If you can't afford that, the bakery in your local high-end grocery store or family-owned cafe is another great option, especially if you can just grab an unpackaged loaf of bread out of the display. Look for items that are whole grain as whole grain flour not only takes less processing than white flour but is also better for your digestive system. Plastic bags that wrap bread can be recycled, but not with regular recyclables, so if you're going for bread, cookies or bars try the unwrapped, fresh stuff first.
Finally, if you're craving something saltier or sweet, try the bulk food aisle! I don't mean the bulk candy because that's certainly not a sustainable food source. I'm talking about the bulk nuts and the good sweets like the coconut, organic dark chocolate, and dried fruit! Bulk food is great because it's wrapper free (earth-friendly) and usually cheaper per ounce (wallet-friendly). Here are a couple of my favorite recipes for a salty snack and a tasty (and anti-oxidant rich) sweet treat with ingredients from the bulk food aisle.
-4.5 cups raw, whole almonds
-1.5 tbs hot water
-1.5 tsp sea salt
-2 tbs olive oil (flavored olive oil from a local oil store is the best)
1. Heat oven to 375. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper or aluminum foil.
2. Put almonds in large metal, glass or ceramic bowl.
3. Stip salt into hot water until the salt has almost completely dissolved. Pour water and salt solution over the nuts and mix until they are all coated.
4. Spread nuts onto the baking sheet and place in oven. Bake for 8 minutes.
5. Open oven, stir nuts around a bit. Bake for another 6-10 minutes or until lightly browned. You'll want to keep a close eye on them here.
6. Pour hot nuts back into the original bowl. Pour olive oil over the almonds. Toss well until they are all well coated. Add as much or as little salt as you feel is appropriate. (Don't go overboard though)
7. Pour nuts back onto the pan and leave to cool.
8. Store nuts in an airtight container at room temp.
9. Snack until your heart's content!
Custom Chocolate Bark
-bag of dark chocolate chips (can be 12oz or 24oz)
-goji berries or cranberries
-almonds or pistachios
1. Place a heat-proof bowl on top of a pot of water. Bring water to a soft, almost rolling boil. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil or parchment paper.
2. Pour chocolate chips into the heatproof bowl and stir when needed until all are melted. While melting chop nuts into smaller pieces.
3. Once the chocolate is melted, pour onto the lined baking sheet and spread it evenly across.
4. Sprinkle as much or as little of each of the recommended ingredients onto the chocolate.
5. Place the tray in the fridge to cool for at least an hour.
6. Remove chocolate from the liner and break into pieces.
7. Store in the fridge for freshness.
8. Enjoy the yummy, healthy, deliciousness!
Now that you've got a couple of recipes to try and some ideas of how to make your snacking more earth and health-friendly, I'm setting you lose! Let the snacking adventure begin!
If you're interested in learning more from the EPA report on garbage I've got a link here.