Friday, August 10, 2012
It's no secret that we Americans consume far more sugar than is needed or healthy. I make no strides to hide my unrelenting sweet tooth, but I try my best to keep it under control and to choose the more sustainable options when choosing sweeteners. Sugar production is responsible for more loss in biodiversity than any other crop, and America and Europe are the two biggest culprits for excessive sugar production. Sugar farms use harmful amounts of pesticides and are accountable for the resulting polluted wastewater.
In my opinion, honey is the most sustainable option when it comes to natural sweeteners because it can be purchased locally almost anywhere. Honey produced from clover and wildflowers leave essentially no trace on local ecosystems. Clover is actually beneficial to the environment because it naturally fixes nitrogen in the soil. Although honey is higher in calories than white sugar, it is sweeter so you don't need to use as much of it. It also has added health benefits such as improving immunity, blood sugar control, helping with allergies, and is effective as a cough suppressant.
Next time you run out of that bag of white sugar sitting in your pantry, stop by your local farmer and pick up a jar of honey and use it to sweeten your tea, stir into your oatmeal, and substitute in the kitchen when making baked goods.
Other (more) sustainable options:
1. Coconut palm sugar
2. Brown rice syrup
3. Maple syrup
4. Agave nectar
Just keep in mind that most of these sweeteners are not produced locally for most of us, so the fuel it requires to have them shipped all around the country leaves a pretty hefty carbon footprint. It's not necessarily the process that makes them less sustainable options than honey, but the need for them to be transported after they have been produced.