Q. I love brown rice, but my husband says he hates it (though when I surreptitiously use it in casseroles, he can’t tell the difference). The health argument hasn’t been enough to make him stop complaining. Can I pull out the green card and say that brown rice is the more eco option?

– Lucy, FL

A. Lucy, you can absolutely pull the green card on your hubby (and, incidentally, you win for most obscure eco question in the history of eco questions). White rice is basically uber-processed brown rice; the more processing, the more energy and processing agents used up. Needlessly, in this case.  

Making brown rice involves only one step. All you’ve got to do is run the grains through a rice huller to slough off the husks. But making white rice is a three-step process: remove the husk, remove the bran (that’s the inner husk, and, by the way, the part of rice that’s actually good for you), and then polish the grains using glucose or talc. All those stages require extra machinery and energy. And for what? To remove nutrients (Vitamin E, Thiamin, Riboflavin, Niacin, Vitamin B6, Folacin, Potassium, Magnesium, Iron, fiber, and more than a dozen others) that some rice production companies then inject right back into the grains!

It should be said that switching to brown rice is not going to save the world. It’s not the number one most important thing for you to do to green your life, or even to green your culinary habits, but it’s a step. As the Chinese proverb goes: One step at a time is good walking.

Story by Tobin Hack. This article originally appeared in Plenty in June 2008. This story was added to MNN.com.

Copyright Environ Press 2008

Brown rice is more sustainable than white
White rice is basically uber-processed brown rice -- more processing, more energy and more processing agents are used.