10/06/2011 05:45 pm ET | Updated Dec 06, 2011

Knowledge Is Power: Experts Share Easy Tips to Help You Eat Better, Save Our Planet [SLIDESHOW]

Before attending the NYC Wine & Food Festival's "Dining Sustainably" panel last Saturday, I was sure I had the eco-chick shtick down pat. Before hearing what four smart, successful, and environmentally enlightened women had to say, I would have expected Al Gore and Ed Begley Jr. to praise my super light carbon footprint with a You Go Girl slap on my derrière. Ten minutes into the event, I realized: Who was I kidding?

In just over an hour, the speakers--Mary Cleaver, president and founder of The Cleaver Co., Jen Small of Flying Pigs Farm, Elizabeth Meltz, director of food safety and sustainability for Batali/Bastianich Hospitality Group, and moderator Diane Hatz, co-founder and director of The Glynwood Institute for Sustainable Food and Farming--had left a small but engaged audience feeling empowered.

Meltz said, "Don't ask why organic is so expensive, ask why the other stuff is so cheap."

Cleaver said, "Think beyond you. Think about your children. Look at the bigger picture. What about the seventh generation?"

Small said, "Public policy is frustrating, but the consumer has a lot of political power. You can make a great impact on how things change."

I thought to raise my hand to tell them I use biodegradable poop bags for my dog.

After all the questions from Hatz and attendees had yielded feisty, inspiring responses and revealed a spine-tinglingly scary reality of our dilapidated food system, I knew that my light carbon footprint wasn't nearly light enough. My actions--recycling, turning off unused lights, eschewing plastic bottles and bags, biking, buying local, planting trees--were just the tip of the melting iceberg.

Maybe it will come from a friend, a spouse, a parent, or Leonardo DiCaprio, but here's all you need to know to get a well-deserved slap on your green ass. (And if you can't find someone, this author would be happy to oblige.)

So pass this on. Or don't.

The New Yorker's Guide to Living Sustainably