Earth Day 2022: Go Green with Eco Treats and Sweets
If you’re reading this right now, we can likely agree on one thing: we all love desserts! Whether they’re sweet, savoury, adventurous, or tried and true, desserts are close to your heart. Events like Earth Day 2022 remind us that it’s equally as important to assess our positive impact as it is to love what we love. Join Dessert Advisor for Earth Day as we indulge in our beloved eco treats and learn how to do it with an environmentally conscious mindset!
Everyday is Earth Day!
Although Earth Day began in spring 1970, organizers have encouraged ever since that an environmentally conscious mindset should be integrated every day. Worldwide demonstrations happen each year on April 22nd for Earth Day, and it is a great reminder to support our environment. Some people also treat Earth Day as a yearly check-in, improving their actions to fight climate change. Environmental best practices are always evolving, so this is a great way to stay up to date on the complexities of living sustainably.
As the information about climate change becomes more available and widely-known, an increasing number of people have started experiencing eco anxiety and burnout. It’s important to remember if you’re ever feeling overwhelmed, that you can make a huge difference (but you’re not alone!). One great way to soothe eco anxiety is to start planning small and consistent changes. Choosing to learn and indulge in sustainable desserts will help your mind and the planet. So, let’s get into some yummy and active ways we can help the environment this Earth Day 2022 (and everyday after that!).
Tips and Tricks to Make a Difference With Desserts
Let’s get into some tips and tricks to keep in mind when selecting desserts. And remember! It’s not possible to be perfect 100% of the time. Choosing even one of these tips to follow makes a difference.
- Buy local: Reducing the use of gas creates a positive environmental impact. Shipping is a huge culprit for the greenhouse gas emissions that cause global warming. Buying local means your eco treats didn’t have to travel very far and equals less emissions. It can be difficult to find a sweet where every single ingredient was locally grown, but looking out for this is a great start. Look for local desserts near you!
- Support fair trade: Human equity is fundamental to environmental improvement. Sustainable lifestyles and concerns are a privilege not every person, and every country, can afford. So if you can, it’s important to advocate for human rights, and support them in any way possible. If you find a sweet that has a “fair trade” certificate on the packaging, consider making that your dessert.
- Choose vegan (or dairy free): The methane produced in cow farming is one of the biggest contributors to greenhouse gases and water degradation. If it’s not possible for everyone to go vegan 100% of the time, any amount makes a big difference! Getting a vegan dessert option is a wonderful and increasingly accessible way to reduce your environmental impact.
- Indulge in low sugar or sugar-free sweets: Sugar is used in a whole lot of food and drinks; it’s everywhere! Thus, the impact of growing the sugarcane plant is quite substantial on the environment. The sugar industry causes pollution, industrial waste, and also contributes to soil erosion and degradation in the countries where it is grown (e.g., Brazil, India, China, Thailand). Reducing your consumption of sugar in desserts is a great and healthy way to reduce your carbon footprint. Nowadays, you can get perfectly sweet sugar substitutes in your desserts. Explore your low-sugar and sugar-free options!
Now that we have some general guidelines to follow, let’s get into some yummy ingredients and sweets to look for.
As far as water consumption and greenhouse gas emissions go, oats are a really great sustainable option! They cause minimal harm to the environment, require less water than most crops (i.e., soy, almond, or cashew nuts), and are beneficial to their surrounding plants and soil. They’ve also been found to have natural insecticide and weed killing properties, which means less harmful chemicals. This is great news for people who love oat-heavy desserts!
There are so many great oat-based desserts. Our recommendations are Apple crisp (apples are also low impact fruits!), oatmeal cookies with or without raisins (sorry to perpetuate the great raisin debate, but raisins have a low environmental impact as well), and oatmeal energy bars.
Vegan cheese and ice cream
Although almost any dessert that doesn’t use cow milk makes a solid sustainable choice, ones with higher dairy content make all the difference.
- Cheese: If you’re looking for a savoury dessert, a cheese plate is a great option. If you want to be as sustainable as possible, you’ll just want to be aware of what they’re made of. One of the main substitutes in vegan cheese is nuts, and nuts are actually not as ideal an ingredient for the environment as they sound. Although they are definitely better than dairy, nuts require a lot of water to cultivate. So, if you can get vegan cheeses with bases like coconut or bean, that would be a delicious and responsible option!
- Ice cream: Nothing beats getting a cold, sweet ice cream cone on a hot spring or summer day. And there are actually a few different options for vegan ice cream. Sorbet is a naturally dairy free option, sometimes described as “sweetened ice”. If it isn’t sold as vegan, there’s little risk of it containing dairy. Usually it would contain egg whites to keep its consistency. But if you’re looking for more of a vegan classic ice cream, you can get almond and soy based ones, but coconut-based are the best. While almonds require an unsustainable amount of water to grow (i.e., roughly 16,098 litres of water per kilogram of almonds), coconuts are widely considered as relatively eco-friendly (consuming only 2,687 liters of water used to produce 1 kilogram of coconuts). If that isn’t quite what you’re looking for, dairy-free popsicles are a nice option as well! Sometimes places will actually freeze smoothies to have as popsicles, so you can have a healthy treat that cools you down.
The word “pulse” in this context comes from the latin word “puls” meaning “thick soup”. Pulse foods are edible legume seeds that grow in pods. Similar to oats, they have a neutral leaning impact on the environment, and add benefits to the soil and surrounding plants. There are 11 different types of pulse that are various beans, chickpeas, lentils, and peas. Although these are vegetables, there are some absolutely delicious and iconic desserts made out of pulse. Anko (a red bean paste) is used in many Japanese, Chinese, and Korean desserts: red bean soup, mooncakes, hodu-gwaja (walnut shaped pastries filled with anko), and taiyaki (fish shaped pastry with anko). You can also look out for lentils used in brownies!
Large dark or vegan chocolate bars that are sustainable and fair trade
The environmental impact of chocolate is complex, but let’s break it down. It’s often grown in one area of the world, and then produced in another before finally being shipped to retail. Because of chocolate’s enormous popularity, those journeys contribute significantly to greenhouse gas emissions. There are also a lot of pesticides used and crop waste due to improper maintenance and monocropping (i.e., the practice of growing the same crop on the same land year after year). Not to mention, the most popular chocolate, milk chocolate, contains both cow milk and sugar; both of which have high impact on the environment. There is also a lot of plastic packaging involved in chocolate, especially the bite sized ones.
This may sound bad, but there are ways to make your chocolate more sustainable!
- Go to the dark side: Consider having darker kinds of chocolate. The less sugar and milk, the better impact it has.
- Commit: It is better to buy bigger sizes. Many environmentally conscious (or at least environmentally branded) chocolate companies will package large chocolate bars in paper packaging. The lack of plastic packaging helps a lot. And getting a bigger bar once instead of two small ones on the go means less waste overall.
- Read the packaging: Chocolate farming notoriously exploits human beings. Try to find something that is fair trade and supports human equity.
Local Maple Syrup and Honey
If you are lucky enough to live somewhere you can buy local honey and maple syrup this Earth Day 2022, that’s a great sustainable dessert option! Although maple syrup has a moderate carbon footprint due to the boiling of the sap, it has a very low water footprint. And the minimal shipping balances out the boiling in the end. Honey is amazing because its carbon footprint is almost nonexistent. Honey tends to be paired with less sustainable ingredients, like cow milk and nuts, but it is honestly delicious on its own. Some of our favourite local eco sweets include maple butter, tire d’erable, maple fudge, and raw honey.
Dates are sweet and rich desserts that have a relatively low impact on the environment. They have a small water footprint (2,277 litres of water used to produce 1 kilogram of dates) and are actually quite good at surviving through drought. We’re sure you already have a favourite date dessert, but some of ours are date squares, date brownies (this also reduces the amount of chocolate required, so it’s an excellent choice!), and anything sweetened with date syrup (Silan).
Sometimes the environmental crisis can feel overwhelming, but it’s important to look at the things we do and see how we can improve them gradually. There’s always something to make things better! Hopefully you’re feeling inspired to get out there this Earth Day 2022 and make a change. And why not bring some sustainable eco treats with you!