Earth Day provides an opportunity to pause and consider how green our kitchens are -- not only figuratively, in terms of what we use and recycle as we prepare meals, but literally, too, as we calculate how many green ingredients we incorporate into our diet.

Vegetables naturally come with little or no packaging, a benefit that means we use fewer resources and do not send waste to landfills. Many residents of the Twin Cities know that plastic shopping bags can be recycled, but they may not realize that the packaging usually associated with vegetables -- the soft plastics used in produce bags and frozen food bags, for example -- is recyclable.

These items, often referred to as "film plastics," can be used to create synthetic building materials, such as Trex decking. Recycle them along with plastic shopping bags. For a complete list of recyclable soft plastics and dropoff locations, go to

Other plastics, such as milk bottles and yogurt containers (not generally accepted by most recycling programs in Hennepin County) can be dropped off at the Eastside Food Co-op. Find out more about its program by visiting

It would be shortsighted to think about protecting the environment without examining the health benefits that come from green nutrition. A spinach salad with avocado and toasted almonds provides cancer-fighting beta carotene, vision-sustaining lutein and energy-boosting protein and is moistened by a flavorful low-fat dressing. Broccoli and soybeans add potassium and lean protein to your diet; they are combined in a dish that resembles a saucy stir-fry, but does not use any superfluous oil or fat.

This Earth Day (next Wednesday), think about how the products you put in your shopping cart affect what ends up in a landfill and how the ingredients you put on your plate impact your health. With a little imagination and not too much effort, you will find that eating green is a delicious habit that is more attractive than ever.

Andrew David Baker is a freelance food writer who lives in Edina.