This is part of myseries: 20 Ways to Go Green that Make a Difference. This series discusses practical ways we can go green in our lives, that will have a measurable effect on the environment. This is an alternative to the many lists that offer 100+ suggestions, many of which are not easily applied to our lives or the impact isminimal. Food is one of the primary reasons that civilization was formed. Specialization in agriculture allowed a smaller number of people to dedicate their lives to food production. The rest of the population were free to think up other ways to contribute to society, and coincidentally degrade the environment. Now, I am not suggesting that everyone quit their jobs start a self-sustaining farm, but the food industry and our role as consumers presents a great way to go green. I have advocated buying local before, but lets take it a step further, what could be more local than your back yard.
Check out JD's garden project @ Get Rich Slowly. He uses his land to grown his own vegetables, and takes detailed notes. If you are new to gardening, which I assume most of you will be, I would avoid taking on such a large project initially. Figure out what is normally grown locally, then research on the internet or library, so you are comfortable with how to plant, maintain, harvest and store your chosen crops. Don't be too adventurous at first, buy already started plants, and use their seeds in the coming seasons. Just try to get started, the first step is everything is always the hardest.
Although there will be some upfront costs and labor, it will be worth it when you harvest your first crops, knowing that you are not contributing to the environmental damage of factory farms and commercial agriculture. I wager that the fruits (or vegetables) of your labor will be much tastier and more nourishing, than their store-bought cousins.
I know that a lot of you live in urban areas and probably think its impossible to grow food in these areas. This should not stop you though. Look into getting a parcel at a local community garden, such as Boston's Back Bay Fens. Another option is to grow herbs or a potted vegetable plant on the apartment balcony.
If you want to take it even further, and have the space, consider raising livestock. Chicken are probably the easiest, and only require a chicken coop, and the necessary food. Your chicken will have offspring quickly, and your flock will develop providing you with eggs and roasters, if you are so inclined.
If you are extremely busy or absolutely do not have a green thumb, at least take steps to source food locally or from organic sources. This will not have the same effect, but will lower environmental damage. Vote with your dollars to support the local economy and companies or individuals involved in green agriculture.