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So What CAN We Eat?

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So maybe some of you kids have it easy when it comes to eating green: you're a vegetarian or vegan, you don't eat dairy, and you shop at your local farmer's market every week. You probably bike a lot and never talk on your cell phone while you're driving. Congratulations, you're our editor! But for the rest of us mortals, the recent explosion of articles and blog posts about "Sustainability!" "Grain Shortages!" "Carbon Footprints!" "OMG WTF BBQ Cow Farts!", etc, might leave you wondering: so what the hell am I SUPPOSED to eat?

It's understandable: everywhere you look, it seems like Michael Pollan is waving his finger at you, telling you "Don't eat meat. Okay, eat less meat. Eat more vegetables, but don't buy asparagus in the winter. Fish is good, except for all this other fish that isn't good. Groceries are more expensive, but you should still be paying more! Eat local, but eating local is just a hipster fad." It's enough to drive the well-intentioned omnivore totally mad. (Especially when they're telling us to eat less cheese. Are you serious? LESS CHEESE? Next thing you know they'll be taking away our beer.)

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So in honor of Earth Week, let's make an effort to cut through the crap and look at how just a few changes in your eating habits can positively affect the earth -- without negatively affecting your palate. What CAN we eat?

Eat less meat. Pay more for the meat you do eat. Beef is the number one most energy-inefficient food source we have. Plus, factory-farming practices destroy soil, poison rivers, and create a bland-tasting, antibiotic-filled cut of meat. What can you do? Cut your beef consumption to once a week at most. When you do buy beef, go out of your way to find grass-fed beef (Whole Foods and many farmer's markets will carry it, go here for a list of California grass-fed beef purveyors).

Choose your fish wisely. Fish is a great option for the hungry omnivore who wants to cut down on beef or factory-farmed chicken, but now we've all got to worry about "wild versus farmed? China versus Canada? What about these mercury levels?" Annoying. Luckily, the Monterey Bay Aquarium has an awesome printable guide to buying seafood -- just stick this in your wallet on your way to the market and you're good to go. Fill up on rainbow trout, tilapia, wild salmon, cod, and pacific halibut -- they're all cool!

Shop at your farmer's market. There's one near you, trust me. You can fill up a whole tote with fruits vegetables that you know were grown somewhere nearby (let me emphasize again how lucky we are to be in California, the country's fruit basket!) It's cheap, it's fun, and it's easy.

Do your research. Sites like Sustainable Table, Eat Well Guide, FarmerNet, Grist, and The Ethicurean have tons of great articles, resources, and links, many of them California or L.A.-specific. Reading is fun!

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Don't fall for biofuels. Sorry guys: biofuels are not the answer. In fact, biofuels are a total joke, a convenient way to appease the automotive lobbyists while capitalizing on the nation's obscene corn surplus. And why are the Haitians eating mud pies? Because they can't afford corn or grain. So, um, just drive less. Don't buy that stupid big car. Take the train.

Drink beer. And wine. Okay, developing an alcohol problem isn't necessarily going to have any effect on sustainability, but it is pretty cool that we live in California, whose cup really does overrunneth with great breweries and wineries. Plus, it's vegan, and many producers are beginning to offer organic brews. Bottoms up!

What are your tips and tricks for eating greener? We haven't even begun to look closely enough at the biofuel crisis, the rising costs of eggs and milk, how to eat green when you're dining out, and what we can do about this cheese problem, so watch this space for "What CAN We Eat? Part Deux!" very soon....