Guest post: The World You Want is at the End of Your Fork

While I’m on vacation until Aug. 9, I’m featuring several guest bloggers. Today’s guest post is from Tiffany who writes at the Natural Family Living Guide.

The World You Want is at the End of Your Fork

Most people spend a lot of time thinking about food. They think about meals they need to plan for their families, food they need to add to their grocery list, new restaurants they need to try, and the carb and calories counts of the foods they love. They have a lot of opinions about their food and what they like and dislike. But many are still not thinking about food in a meaningful way. They are not thinking about where their food comes from, how it gets to them, under what circumstances, and at what cost. There are social, environmental, and ethical considerations that often go unnoticed. The food you eat is important and it does have an impact on the world around you.

One particular quote that seems to sum it all up is taken from John Kinsman, a Wisconsin organic dairy farmer, who said “Every time you spend money on food you are voting for the world you want.”

So what can you do to make your dining experiences more ethical and sustainable? I have a few ideas about that.

Eat Organic – It is a sustainable method of food production and helps to ensure that our farmlands will be rich and productive for future generations. Most times when you hear any mention of organic food it is in relation to healthful eating and chemical exposure. It is usually a health related issue. This issue is actually much deeper than that. Organic agriculture is a strict form of sustainable agriculture; a way of producing food products without harming the land. Its main goal is to work the land without preventing future generations from being able to use it as well. Organic farmers try to conserve water and preserve the soil. They also sell locally many times helping to conserve energy and fossil fuels. Organics are a health issue AND an environmental one.

Eat Local – Eating local is better for air quality and pollution. Let’s face it…if your food has to travel thousands of miles to you then the planet is being needlessly polluted. Estimates on how long the average food travels from pasture to plate range from 1200 to 2500 miles. A lot of energy is expended freezing, refrigerating, and trucking that food around. Eating locally grown food means less fossil fuel burned in preparation and transport. Also, Supporting local farmers, especially organic farmers, means supporting sustainable agriculture.

Eat Less Meat – You don’t have to go vegetarian if you don’t want to, but it does help the environment to reduce meat consumption. We feed more than 70 percent of the grains and cereals we grow to farmed animals. Our taste for meat is also taking a toll on our supply of fuel and other nonrenewable resources: about one-third of the raw materials used in America each year is consumed by the farmed animal industry. In my opinion the problem is not that we eat meat or animal products but the volume to which we consume them and the way we go about producing those foods. A good book that discusses this is Full Moon Feast which talks about eating according to the phases of the moon and eating the way we did hundreds of years ago.

Eat Whole Foods – Eating foods that have not been processed and packaged helps the environment by reducing the amount of garbage going into landfills. Shop the outer section of the grocery store to avoid the processed foods.

Garden – Eliminate the middle man all together and grow your own food…organically of course. It is one of the most rewarding things you can do.

Try It Out! Tips for Sustainable Eating:

  • Try your hand at organic gardening. If you have no space for an actual in-ground garden then try to do container gardening. There is nothing like homegrown food!
  • When planning your weekly menus try to see if you can incorporate at least 2-3 meatless meals a week. Reducing your meat consumption is a great leap towards greener living.
  • Don’t just change what you eat: change how you package and store your food to. Reusablebags has a great selection of reusable food storage containers such as bento lunchboxes, wrap-n-mats, grocery totes and stainless steel water bottles.

So pick up your fork and join the revolution of people who want to change food and farming, creating better health and a better world.

You can read more from Tiffany at her blog, the Natural Family Living Guide, where she writes about green family living, parenting, natural health, safe children’s products, and homeschooling. Subscribe to her blog here.

A very, very crunchy weekend

As if throwing my very first zero-waste party tomorrow (Ava’s 4th birthday party which I plan to blog about it in detail another time) wasn’t enough, Golden Showers Garden PartyI’ve also decided to participate in Crunchy Chicken’s latest challenge. You know what one I’m talking about? No? It involves um, ah, errrr, basically watering your garden with diluted urine. Yep, you read that right. Apparently it’s really good for the plants. Something about the nitrogen. Free organic fertilizer. You can’t beat that, right? I figured I couldn’t very well call myself crunchy if I couldn’t participate in this. (The urine has to be diluted – 1 part urine to 10 parts water.)

I joked that I could ask all of the party guests to pee in a bucket and I’d haul it back to my house (gives a whole new meaning to “zero-waste”, huh?), but um, NO. I’m NOT going there. ;oP So if you are coming to the party, don’t worry. I’m NOT going to ask you for your urine. LOL You can keep your pee for your own garden. ;)

Are you up for the challenge? You know you want to. ;) (I can picture several of you squirming in your seats right now at the very thought.) Well, if urine you’re in, there’s still time to sign up over at Crunchy Chicken’s place. And let me know urine you’re in too by leaving a comment here. I’d like to know I’ll be in good company. :)

Little things

It’s my first year growing a garden on my own. You can call me a dork, but it’s the little things that excite me. :)

Little things like…
Green beans sprouting:
Bean plant sprouting 6/11/08
Zucchini sprouting:
Zucchini sprouting 6/11/08
And the first red tomato of the season:
First red tomato of the season 6/11/08

I just created a new category “gardening” as I suspect I’ll have more to say on this topic in the future. I’m enjoying the experience so far. :)

Why Bother?

This evening as Jody and Ava were out running an errand for me, I attempted to cook dinner while balancing a miserable Julian (due to his four canine teeth coming in at the same time) on my hip. After much fussing (on Julian’s part, not mine), I took a break from cooking, sat down on the couch, flipped on the TV and, hoping to make the poor boy feel a bit better, nursed him.

In skipping through the channels it became clear to me why I rarely watch TV (with the exception of The Office, LOST and occasionally Oprah). There was nothing on. I stopped on the local public access channel long enough to hear someone talking about global warming. My interest was piqued so I lingered.

veg-garden.jpgIt turns out it was a woman reading Michael Pollan‘s recent New York Times article “Why Bother?” For those of you unfamiliar with Pollan, he is the author of The Omnivore’s Dilemma and In Defense of Food – neither of which I have read yet, but I’ve heard great things about both.

“Why Bother?” is a question I’ve been thinking about a lot lately. I’m nowhere near the point of throwing in the towel with regard to the things I do to help the environment, but after reading an article like Enjoy life while you can’ – Climate science maverick James Lovelock believes catastrophe is inevitable, carbon offsetting is a joke and ethical living a scam and watching a YouTube video (which has since been taken down) about Monsanto, you might start to get a little jaded and wonder if all of your efforts are in vain. At least that’s where I’ve been at.

Pollan’s article “Why Bother?” was exactly what I needed to hear (and then read in full on the web since I missed the first half of it on TV) to help lift me out of my funk and I highly recommend you read the whole thing. Here’s just a bit of it.

If you do bother, you will set an example for other people. If enough other people bother, each one influencing yet another in a chain reaction of behavioral change, markets for all manner of green products and alternative technologies will prosper and expand. Consciousness will be raised, perhaps even changed: new moral imperatives and new taboos might take root in the culture. Driving an S.U.V. or eating a 24-ounce steak or illuminating your McMansion like an airport runway at night might come to be regarded as outrages to human conscience. Not having things might become cooler than having them. And those who did change the way they live would acquire the moral standing to demand changes in behavior from others — from other people, other corporations, even other countries.

Pollan goes on to suggest “find one thing to do in your life that doesn’t involve spending or voting, that may or may not virally rock the world but is real and particular (as well as symbolic) and that, come what may, will offer its own rewards. Maybe you decide to give up meat, an act that would reduce your carbon footprint by as much as a quarter. Or … for one day a week, abstain completely from economic activity: no shopping, no driving, no electronics.”

He also discusses how doing something as basic as planting a garden to grow even a little of your own food could make a big difference. This is another thing I’ve been thinking about a lot lately. As the price of food goes higher and higher and we worry more and more about where our food comes from, organic vs. conventional (pesticide-laden), genetically-modified organisms, carbon emissions and climate change, it makes sense to me to try to grow some of our own food.

Pollan says, “It’s estimated that the way we feed ourselves (or rather, allow ourselves to be fed) accounts for about a fifth of the greenhouse gas for which each of us is responsible.” Yikes.

I don’t have a lot of experience in gardening, but I did help my mom in our family garden as a child and, three years ago, some friends and I had our own plot in a community garden. As I embark on growing my own garden for the first time this year, I’m thankful for my friends like Julie of Chez Artz and Green Artz, Melissa at Nature Deva, Heather at A Mama’s Blog, and Woman With A Hatchet, who all have more gardening experience than me (and will hopefully help me out if I need it – hint, hint). I’m planting a small garden not only for the food it will provide to me and my family and to reduce our carbon footprint, but for the experience it will provide us all. Someday in the hopefully not too distant future (like next few years) once we move into a different house with a larger (and sunnier) yard, I’d love to have a much bigger garden. I’d like to know that if push came to shove and we needed to grow some of our own food, that I could do it. I am concerned that that day might not be too far off and Pollan agrees. “If the experts are right, if both oil and time are running out, these (growing our own food) are skills and habits of mind we’re all very soon going to need.”

But Pollan doesn’t end his article on a downer. Rather he is hopeful and his message is uplifting.

The single greatest lesson the garden teaches is that our relationship to the planet need not be zero-sum, and that as long as the sun still shines and people still can plan and plant, think and do, we can, if we bother to try, find ways to provide for ourselves without diminishing the world.

So, why bother? Because the future of humankind depends on it. Even if by some stroke of luck climate change doesn’t affect us during our lifetime (wishful thinking), I would hate to leave this huge burden and mess for our children to clean up. After all, “We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children.” – Native American Proverb

I think Pollan answers the question of “why bother?” best when he says,

Going personally green is a bet, nothing more or less, though it’s one we probably all should make, even if the odds of it paying off aren’t great. Sometimes you have to act as if acting will make a difference, even when you can’t prove that it will.

Here, here. That is why I will keep on bothering. And I hope you will too.

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