Choosing the Right Beverage Is As Easy as Turning on the Tap. Except When It’s Not

As a longtime The Daily Green blogger, on the occasion of the publication of my second book, The Conscious Kitchen, I’m using my “Ask An Organic Mom” space for the next 8 weeks – give or take – to invite you to join me on the Conscious Kitchen Challenge.

What does it mean to have a Conscious Kitchen? It’s a little different for every person, but at its heart, it means knowing where your food comes from, what it is, and how good it is (or isn’t) for you and for the environment. It also encompasses the energy it takes to cook, what you’re cooking on and storing food in, and even how you clean up and handle waste.

We all know we need to be eating better foods – local, organic, local and organic, humanely raised meat, wild and well-caught fish, packaged foods containing five pronounceable ingredients or less – but they’re not always so easy to find. Or it’s not always so easy to motivate to find them. Think of this like you think of New Year’s resolutions. Choose your own personal goal – make it attainable for better success – and then together we’ll methodically get you there. Keep in mind that any conscious steps are better than no conscious steps – 10 percent is better than no percent.

Week 1: The Kitchen Self-Exam
Week 2: Food Shopping

Week 3: Fruits and vegetables
Week 4: Meat
Week 5: Seafood

Week 6 Challenge: Beverages

I divide beverages into two categories:

Everything else

glass of water

1. We are water. Literally. So we need to be drinking a fair amount of it daily. I say in The Conscious Kitchen what many in the environmental movement – including writers on this website – say: drink tap water in reusable bottles. Unless there is something very wrong with your municipal water or you know your well water is contaminated, there is no reason to drink bottled water. Bottled water is a farce. It usually is the very municipal water you think you’re avoiding by buying tap. So you’re spending several dollars on something that is free – and less regulated than municipal water, I might add. A total rip off. And then there are all of the eco-implications and repercussions of the actual bottles. Think of the energy used to make those bottles, fill them with water, and then transport them all around. Sure, most places recycle the plastic most water bottles come in (PET #1) but many of those bottles wind up in the trash or in the gutter, not in the recycling bin. And they take 1,000 years to break down in a landfill. Spending money on something that is free and then drinking out of virgin plastic for maybe an hour that will then sit in a landfill for 1,000 years doesn’t sound like good common conscious sense to me. So I don’t do it.

I drink filtered NYC tap water (the water itself is good, but there could be lead coming out of my ancient building pipes so I choose to run it through an activated carbon filter) out of glass at home, and from a stainless steel bottle on the go. I avoid paying for what is free, and I avoid plastic altogether. For more information on choosing water filters and more on what’s wrong with bottled water, see Chapter 6 of The Conscious Kitchen.

2. Everything else is a pretty huge category. Think about what you drink over the course of a day. Green the items you drink the most of to make the biggest impact. For me that’s coffee, some tea, and wine. I don’t drink much hard alcohol or beer but there are certain local/organic or just organic versions of both. Choose these. It’s amazing to me how many people I know who eat a very conscious diet but forget somehow to drink sustainable coffee, tea, and wine. These, like your veggies, are plants. They can be highly sprayed or unsprayed. There are considerable labor issues when it comes to both – always look for Fair Trade coffee and tea. Depending on where you live, these can be local or from very far away. When it comes to coffee, shade-grown is another label to look for. The choices for organic/biodynamic/natural/sustainably grown grapes abound. Organic wine used to have a bad reputation but these taste great. Depending on where in the country you live, American wine might be less green than French. It has to do with transportation miles and economies of scale, not to mention irrigation.

roger doiron

What I don’t delve into in the book is the sort of drinks that line the beverage aisle and drinks cases in most supermarkets. Soda isn’t a conscious choice. If you want bubbles with flavor, buy a home seltzer maker, use it, and add some home squeezed juice. If you choose to drink it, do so knowing how much water is involved and how the sugar that is processed into high fructose corn syrup affects both you, the farmers that raise it, and the earth. Juice is an odd middle ground territory. If you don’t live near an organic orange grove but do live near a low spray apple orchard, drinking the latter for breakfast can have considerable conscious impact. Besides, so much that is sold in bright plastic bottles as juice is mainly water and sugar, with flavor and maybe some juice mixed in. A good way to drink real juice is to buy a juicer and make it yourself.

Related: Home Soda Maker Review

conscious kitchen book

Next post, we’ll move onto packaged foods. Meanwhile, I’m curious to know how you’re faring. Let me know in comments. Any questions? Put them there as well. Or, if you happen to be in the New York area, come ask me in person. To find out where I’ll be speaking, head to

The Conscious Kitchen: The New Way to Buy and Cook Food – to Protect the Earth, Improve Your Health, and Eat Deliciously is an invaluable resource filled with real world, practical solutions for anyone who has read The Omnivore’s Dilemma or seen Food, Inc. and longs to effect easy green changes when it comes to the food they buy, cook, and eat.

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