It's a fair question, and since I've asked readers to cultivate an "Earth Ethic" to guide their consumer choices, it deserves an honest answer. I'll use the royal "we" here, because my wife and I try to share the shopping and cooking duties, but she does the lion's share and, perhaps like most mothers around the globe, has been the main driver behind our food choices for the last two decades.
1. We eat much less meat. Vegetarianism probably carries the lightest footprint on the planet, but personally, I've never been able to pull it off completely. I'm too fond of fish, shellfish, dairy and eggs, the latter of which has the perfect compliment of protein and amino acids with very little fat. The types of meat we consume, however, have changed drastically. We now eat very little beef, and even less pork, for environmental, health, and humane reasons. Cows are heavy consumers of grain, water and arable land, and large emitters of methane. And though CAFOs (concentrated animal feeding operations) are very efficient at turning corn into bacon, they are an awful way to treat a pig, and the waste lagoons create an environmental mess. My wife refuses to buy industrial pork on animal welfare grounds alone. I feel less guilty about eating CAFO-raised poultry and fish, since both tend to like to be in flocks or schools, but the way they are raised is important too. In my reporting on the aquaculture industry, I learned that less animal density often resulted in less animal stress, less disease, and less need for antibiotics. (Not always, however. Tilapia apparently get more stressed when there are less of them around.) When we do buy meat, we try to find "happy meat" as my wife says, that has been raised as humanely as possible. We typically prepare a meatless dinner two or three times a week. My kids joke that I must have been an Italian grandmother in a former life, since I could eat pasta every night.
2. We cook more. I'm convinced that cooking is an inherited trait. Unfortunately neither I nor my wife grew up in homes where our mothers felt the Joy of Cooking. But as we brought our own children into the world, we've discovered the challenge, as well as the satisfaction and savings of preparing our own meals. Now that the kids are teens, they are getting into it as well. Cooking embodies a hundred different life lessons, from shopping for tasty ingredients, using knives and stoves without harming yourself or burning the house down, and finally enjoying a dish you've made with your own hands. Then there is the responsibility of cleaning up and packing away the leftovers for another day. We still grab pizza and Chinese take-out now and then, and have celebratory dinners out. But these are the exceptions, rather than the rule.
3. We buy more organic foods. We do this for a few reasons. Neither my wife nor I consumed much organic food until we moved to California in the early 1990s, where it was relatively easy to get. We were both blown away at how much better it tasted. We soon became regulars at our local organic market. When our first child was born, our organic shopping took on a greater importance. Even though scientists have yet to find that organic dairy, fruit, or produce is statistically more nutritious than conventionally grown foods or that conventionally grown foods are harmful to your health, organic foods contain far fewer pesticide residues, as well as no hormones or antibiotics. Our grocery bill was more expensive than if we'd bought conventionally grown foods, but my wife decided we could easily cut corners elsewhere in our budget to minimize our childrens' exposure to agrichemicals. Lastly, the more I visited and reported on organic farms, the more we chose to spend our grocery dollars supporting the farmers who were practicing a type of agriculture that focused on soil health, increased soil carbon, and typically had a much lighter footprint on the planet. We don't eat exclusively organic fare, but most of the milk, fruits, and poultry we buy is certified organic.
4. We garden and support local farmers. My wife and I have kept a small raised-bed organic vegetable garden for years — mostly a few different kinds of tomatoes, with peppers, cucumbers, and a few herbs thrown in for good measure. It's a fair amount of work, but I have yet to taste a store-bought tomato, organic or otherwise, that rivals the flavor of ones grown in our own backyard. We also support other gardeners and farmers by buying produce at our local farmer's markets during the summer, and have even joined CSAs (community supported agriculture) that provided weekly boxes of fresh veggies during the harvest season.
5. We try to conserve energy and recycle goods whenever we can. Ultimately our consumption of energy, and energy-intensive goods — foods or otherwise--drives our carbon footprint, and that collective footprint is putting our world, as well as its people and wildlife, at risk. So we typically buy more used goods than new — bicycles, clothing, surfboards, furniture — things with long useful lifespans that tend to get discarded out of boredom rather than brokenness. We've renovated our house to make it as energy efficient as possible, and plan to add solar panels to reduce our load on the grid. We try to drive the most energy efficient cars we can afford that will carry us all and our gear — a tricky thing at the moment, but one with increasingly better options--and simply to drive less. Ultimately, reducing global emissions — locally, nationally, and globally — is the best thing we can do to ensure full bellies for generations to come.