Your Step-By-Step Guide To A Truly Sustainable Smoothie

Photo: Cultura Exclusive/Magdalena Niemczyk - ElanArt

As the wellness world has evolved to showcase new superfoods, diet plans, and workout styles over the years, an obsession with juicing has remained. To this day, nothing says you're taking your health seriously like a green juice or morning smoothie. And while they're a great vessel for sneaking plenty of plants into our diets, smoothies and juices have a dirty little secret.

The environmental impact of juicing.

Juicing turns heaps of fruits and veggies into a small amount of liquid, and it generates a ton of pulp in the process—up to 4.5 pounds of it go into one 16-ounce serving. Sometimes this pulp is turned into nutrient-rich compost, and sometimes it goes off to landfill. While you don't have the same pulping concern with smoothies, there's still the question of where all the scraps that don't make it into the blender end up.

In an age where Americans trash 52 million tons of food every year (83 percent of the time, this happens in restaurants and homes, not farms or factories) yet one in seven people in our country are food insecure, there's a lot of reason for consumers to pay more attention to what they're tossing. Feature films like Just Eat It and Anthony Bourdain's upcoming doc, Wasted! The Story of Food Waste, as well as anti-food waste offerings like Misfit, a line of juices that are mostly made using produce that farmers can’t sell, shine a new light on the issue.

One of the most innovative minds in food waste, Dan Barber, has even spoken up against the juicing dilemma in saying, "The question is how we approach those by-products. Will they become ingredients in their own right? That is the challenge the juicing industry now faces."

How to reduce food waste, from fridge to blender.

There are a few simple tweaks you can make at home to cut down on the environmental impact of your breakfast (or dinner!) beverage. Here are a few tricks from holistic chefs tackling the food waste issues from their own kitchens.

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When you're shopping:

Phoebe Lapine, the chef behind Feed Me Phoebe and The Wellness Project (and mbg class host!), has recently taken on a new type of culinary challenge: She's trying to use only one trash bag for the entire month. Equipped with a small countertop compost bin, she's experimenting with cooking styles that pack in flavor but forgo waste. When it comes to smoothies, she's found that shopping at the farmers market for seasonal produce is a great way to find fresh, seasonal add-ins that don't come wrapped in packaging. This fall, she's reaching for root veggies like sweet potato and pumpkin that make her drinks super sweet and creamy. Then, she'll freeze her haul in glass jars so it lasts longer.

"Seasonal fruits haven't traveled as far—and they taste better too!" echoes Kelly Brown of Real Food House. She's all about using local apples and cinnamon as a smoothie base once autumn hits.

When you're prepping:

Before you choose which ingredients to throw in the blender, Brown recommends a quick fridge survey. "At the end of the week, go through your fresh fruits and freeze anything that's nearing its expiration to use in a smoothie down the road. Did you know you can freeze bananas and use them for something besides banana bread? Peel them first and slice them into circles to make blending a cinch. This cuts down on food waste and ensures you always have fruit on hand for smoothies," she says.

Blending whole, fresh ingredients whenever possible is a surefire way to know that you're being eco-friendly. Lapine recommends skipping over the protein powders in favor of fruits, veggies, and homemade nut milks. She'll just soak her nut of choice overnight, add water (3.5 cups for every cup of nuts), and puree until smooth and frothy. "Drain the nut mixture through a nut bag or cheesecloth. Store the milk in glass Mason jars in the fridge, and use the nut pulp to add to your next batch of homemade granola!"

When you're tossing:

Though you should have next-to-no leftovers when prepping this way, you can throw any scraps like banana peels into a composter, or reserve them for future use, like in a soup. "When juicing vegetables, consider using scraps that are too big for your juicer—like the ends of carrots and celery—to make a vegetable broth," Brown recommends.

Oh, and one last thing: Once you're creation is ready, sip it through a reusable straw. Those plastic ones are starting to add up in our oceans.

This food waste grocery list and list of prep hacks will make it so easy to stay on track with your other meals too.

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