More and more people are becoming conscious about how their daily practices could effect the planet — from how they're curating their closets to which cleaning products they're using to tidy up. It only makes sense that this kind of consciousness has also had a major impact on he wellness industry, which can especially be seen in the recent trend of sustainable and environmentally friendly nutrition.
It would seem that sustainability and nutrition would go hand-in-hand, but that hasn't always been the case. This common misconception comes from greenwashing in the industry, as Sara Marino, Certified Natural Health Specialist and Green Living Expert at Tree Hugger in Heels, explains. "When shopping for wellness products and keeping sustainability in mind, consumers need to do their homework," she says. "Unfortunately, since this is a highly unregulated industry, brands can 'greenwash' their advertising and use those buzzwords we see to make customers believe a product is greener, more sustainable than it may actually be. And most are shocked to find out that there are very few regulations in that area."
Thankfully, there are a few micro-habits you can adopt to ensure that your consumption of certain foods, supplements, and other buzzy ingredients is as sustainable as possible. "This shift in consumer behavior is a huge win for companies that have been promoting wellness and what we call 'quality over quantity,'" shares Erika Wong, a registered dietitian, nutritionist, and lead recipe developer for sustainable seafood company, PureFish. "These more informed consumers are demanding more information more transparency and less processing of foods and the companies that are responding are seeing great results."
So what do you need to know to be a more conscious consumer? Ahead find tips from Marino, Wong, and other nutrition experts that will have you revamping your diet to be as sustainable as your newly upgraded wardrobe.
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Sustainable and Environmentally Friendly Nutrition Trends: Ingredient Transparency
You may already to know to look out for terms like "organic," "pesticide-free," or "sustainably farmed" when it comes to shopping for produce and prepared foods, but doing your homework when buying supplements is just as important. "The first aspect is always sourcing," says Dr. Olivia Audrey, a certified naturopathic doctor, author, and speaker. "This means that there is a clear and evident lineage to where the product has come from as well as ideally a short ingredient list which lets you know that the product has not been synthetically altered to the degree of other products that may be competitors."
According to Wong, traceability is key, whether you're shopping plant-based or animal products. "To be truly sustainable you need to know the where, when, and how of each product and the processes involved, if any," she says. "With full traceability, you can source each product back to how it was raised, what inputs were used, [and] how it was harvested." For example, Sun Potion offers superfoods and herbs that have been wildcrafted for minimal intervention, and PureFish ensures sustainably sourced seafood.
Sustainable and Environmentally Friendly Nutrition Trends: Eco-Friendly Packaging
Something you may have given less thought to us the packaging of your food and nutrition products. "[When] we look at things such as packaging, our focus shouldn't [only be using] recycled materials, but biodegradable materials as well," Dr. Audrey says. "With the recent advancements in science over the last couple of decades this is becoming more and more of a standard in the wellness industry."
And Wong agrees. "In terms of packaging, most companies just go with the status quo and buy off-the-shelf solutions like standard cardboard boxes, and Styrofoam insulation for shipping food," she adds. "But even if you have the most sustainable product, when you put it in an 'un-sustainable' package, you are going backwards."
Bansari Acharya RDN, a registered dietitian a nutritionist suggests asking yourself if the packaging can be reused before buying — or if it needs to be simply tossed away. One easy example is choosing glass containers over plastic ones, but some companies take it one step further with zero-waste packaging. Seed is a great example of this, using compostable trays when shipping products, and even offering refills for their glass jars instead of sending totally new ones with monthly orders.
Sustainable and Environmentally Friendly Nutrition Trends: Energy
Another question to ask yourself when shopping is "Was there a lot of energy required during the making of the product?" according to Acharya. Opting for domestically sourced items when possible is one way to minimize that carbon footprint, and you can do this by shopping your local farmer's markets or utilizing delivery services that work with farms in your area. But besides your produce, meat, fish, and dairy, you may also want to research the small, local companies making foods and supplements, as they'll likely use significantly less energy than their mass-manufacturing competitors.