Better Snacking Through Sustainability

By Karen Hallisey

What’s a hungry, hungry Bruin to do when the munchies hit? Vending machines, the food aisles of stores, and even your roomie’s stash may be where you head to fuel up, but before that first bite, pause to consider the environmental impact. About a third of all human-caused greenhouse gas emissions are linked to food. Snacks can be especially bad — from the outside packaging to the inside’s contents, making it imperative to consider sustainability when snacking.

Tasting good and doing good means making people and the planet priorities. A positive impact includes goodies made of quality ingredients, not artificial or chemical ones, that are sourced responsibly with eco-conscious agricultural practices, packaged properly with low or zero waste wrapping, and from ethically and eco-minded businesses and companies with sustainable operations.

Made with the good stuff

Morsels should be sustainable, organic, non-GMO (genetically modified organism), plant-based, or grass-fed for meat eaters (for items like jerky).

Wrapped right

Go for packaging that can be responsibly disposed of, like a bar that comes in a recyclable or compostable wrapper.

Mindful bites

Look for brands with earth-friendly growing techniques and sustainable farming. Seek out companies with sustainability reports offering transparency on how they operate. Good business practices include using renewable energy, delivery by transportation that doesn’t pollute, and commitments to waste diversion (waste that is composted, recycled, or reused) and lowering carbon emissions.

Farm to table

Go to a neighborhood Farmer’s Market for fresh, locally grown, directly sourced, or produced — not to mention healthy — items. Check out the UCLA Farmers Market (returning in the spring) and the Westwood Village Farmers’ Market.

Hitting the sweet spot

Other places to purchase these products are healthy grocery stores, supermarkets specializing in natural and organic foods, and online retailers.

Labels, labels, labels

Be aware of greenwashing when shopping. Look for labels like fair trade, a certification aimed at helping farmers and producers in less economically developed countries. The term means a fair price is received for goods produced. Also, keep an eye out for small businesses and companies owned by women and BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and people of color). More on spotting and avoiding greenwashing can be found on this website.

The everyday product to avoid

What exactly is the problem with palm oil? Produced from the fruit of a tree found only in tropical regions, it is one of the most common vegetable oils used in more than half of all packaged goods people in the U.S. eat. It is also a driver of deforestation, wiping out rainforests and ruining the habitats of endangered species. It is associated with increasing carbon emissions, displacing indigenous groups, and labor abuses.