The Amazon is burning. It’s devastating, heartbreaking. and infuriating.
It’s easy to get caught up in the hopeless mentality. I get it, when I heard about the forest fires, my heart dropped a little as well. But if ZooFit has taught me anything, it’s to always look at the positive side.
I don’t mean to adopt the mentality of “well, at least there are SOME areas of the Amazon not going up in flames.” I mean, think positively about what you CAN do. If each of us did one small step, we, collectively, could make a huge difference.
There’s another reason to look on the bright side. Doing good for the world feels good, yes, but when you get something out of it, it is doubly reinforcing. And it helps motivate us to continue in our efforts. ZooFit is all about connecting people to the earth in a healthy way, and while my heart hurts for the burning Amazon, I am also emboldened to keep doing what I can, for myself, and the planet. You can help save the rainforest, and in the process, help yourself with your fitness goals.
Here’s three simple ways you can help save the rainforest by eating a little healthier.
1. Eat Less Beef
According to USDA, Brazil is the number 1 exporter of beef for the world. In 2018, they exported 19.3% of the world’s beef.
Brazil is also the world leader in the export of soybeans. And most soybeans aren’t feeding the vegans of the world. Ninety-eight percent of soybeans produced goes to feed livestock (Michigan State University, 2013).
What does all this mean? If you want to make a bigger impact on the planet, eat less red meat.
This action isn’t just better for the environment. Eating red meat could decrease our lives by as much as 20% (Harvard Health Publishing, 2013). Cholesterol, cancer, diabetes, and obesity are all directly linked to red meat in our diet. A vegetarian diet could reduce your risk of heart disease by 32%.1
There’s a lot to be said for the vegetarian diet. But I am not actually advocating giving up all meat. I mean, it could be life-changing, leading to a healthier you and a healthier rainforest, but if you don’t think you can live without meat for the rest of your life, don’t do it.
What you can do is stop eating burgers from McDonalds. Practice Meatless Monday. Swap out a meal you normally prepare with beef for beans- kidney, chickpeas, or black beans work great. Switch to almond or coconut milk. Consume less red meat, and have a better impact on your health and the planet.
2. Meal Prep
Eating right isn’t always the easiest practice. There are tons of helpful tips for eating healthy out there. But here’s a tip to help you eat better, and also help the rainforest- Meal prep.
Can’t seem to stop eating from the vending machine? Starbucks? Or Chik-Fil-A (please stop eating at Chik-Fil-A…)? I understand why. It’s because we have to choose what and where to eat when our willpower is usually depleted- at lunch or after work.
The best solution is not having to decide what to eat at lunchtime. Make meals at home and bring them with you. Meal prepping doesn’t just save you from junk food, it saves money, too. A week’s worth of salad ingredients costs about the same as three Subway sandwiches.
Meal prep also helps save the planet. What does fast food have to do with the destruction of the rainforest? The paper products- the napkins, cups, to-go containers, bags, and coffee stirrers all come from trees. Unfortunately, in most situations, especially in restaurants and convenience stores, we have no idea where those paper products come from.
Ensuring your paper products come from companies supporting the Forest Stewardship Council, or FSC, is very important. But it’s impractical to do this while you are out grabbing a bite to eat. To make it easy for you, I encourage making your meals at home, and bringing them with you to work, or wherever you go.
Meal prep is really simple, but it does take practice. To save time and money, I make a week’s worth of lunches on my Sunday. I shop for all the ingredients, buy in bulk, and make it all at once. Then I separate the large bulk lunches into storable containers. When I need one, they are ready for me to grab and go.
The easiest way to decide on a healthy meal is to make the decision before your willpower is depleted. Make the decision easy, make your meals in advance. And then make a better impact on the environment, like a conservation boss.
3. Eat That Frog- Look for the green frog of Rainforest Alliance
South America has quite a few food items we Americans can’t seem to get enough of. Coffee, sugar, chocolate, tea, and beef are all exports of Brazil and other countries surrounding the Amazon.
A really great bright line to draw to eat healthier and save the rainforest is to cut out all those products. But I’m realistic. Asking people to give up coffee AND chocolate is a hard sell.
Fortunately, instead of giving up your reason to get up in the morning, there is another alternative.
The Rainforest Alliance partners with many food companies to ensure their food is sustainably sourced. When these companies meet the criteria for sustainability, they are eligible for putting the Rainforest Alliance logo on their product, a small green frog. If you want small indulgences such as a chocolate bar, or a latte, look for the Rainforest Alliance label, and eat that frog. Make THAT your bright line instead of giving up ALL your favorites. “If there isn’t a Rainforest Alliance label on the food I want to purchase, then I don’t get it.” This is a healthier and more sustainable way to have your cake, and eat it too.
Saving the Amazon doesn’t have to feel hopeless. In fact, it can be an empowering endeavor, for ourselves as much as for the planet. Eat clean, live green, train positive. And save the earth.
- Vegetarian diet can cut the risk of heart disease by 32%, study finds, Daily News, January, 2013