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Earth Day 2012: Environmentally destructive foods to avoid

Sofi Papamarko
Shine On
April 10, 2012

The next time you order a cheeseburger, you may want to hold the beef. While you're at it, you may want to hold the cheese, as well. We've all heard the old adage that you are what you eat, but what we eat has a huge impact on our environment, as well.

Unless you're a vegan who grows organic vegetables year-round (and kudos to you if you are), just about everything we ingest adds to our carbon footprint.

If you want to ramp up your green efforts in celebration of Earth Day, consider the Environmental Working Group's rank of the most environmentally destructive foods before your next trip to the supermarket.

Related: Earth Day 2012: Wash those reusable grocery bags — or risk food poisoning

It's no shock that pork and beef are near the top of the list, but the fact that eggs and cheese are also environmentally unsound is surprising.

And sorry, lamb-lovers: eating just four ounces of lamb is the environmental equivalent of driving seven miles in your Chevy. While the health benefits of lamb are well-known, environmentally speaking, it is the absolute worst offender of them all.

Certainly, it would be asking too much for everyone on the planet to go entirely meat-and-dairy-free, but even just making small changes in your diet can go a long way towards alleviating our diet's environmental impact.

Oprah herself has touted Meatless Mondays — a campaign that very much seemed to catch on among her Book Club set. And with so many great vegetarian recipes and alternatives out there, it's really not that hard for you and your family to go vegetarian or even vegan one or two days per week. (Where's the beef? Who cares! Pass the tempeh!)

Related: Bisphenol A found in common cleaning products

But for the unapologetic omnivorous, the Environmental Working Group has set out some helpful guidelines to minimize the devastating impact of our diets, including shopping for certified organic meat and seeking out sustainable seafood. There's even an app or two for that.

According to the David Suzuki foundation, another good way to go is buying food that's grown close to home, such as in-province. The more local your meat and produce, the better it is for the planet because the food does not travel via gas-guzzling trucks for as many kilometers as it would from another province or country.

Finally, when in doubt, you could adopt the motto of author Michael Pollan: Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.

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