to me, being an environmentalist influences every aspect of my life. i have talked about it in previous posts and most of my friends and acquaintances know that it is important to me to have the least impact on our environment as possible. this means that i have made a lot of modifications and adjustments to reduce, reuse, and recycle (amongst other things). i believe that small changes are a good place to start but to make a difference you really need to reevaluate everything you do, buy, or make. it means thinking about the products you buy, how many times they've changed hands, and how many miles they've put on.
food, for example,
usually changes hands multiple times before it ends up in your shopping
cart. it is really difficult to say what the first step in food
production is these days, but i'm going to start with seed production
(and possibly a seed wholesaler and retailer). after seed production
comes planting and harvesting. the food then goes to a wholesaler,
distribution center, then retail store. and that is just for whole food
item that does not require processing. many items broken down into
their basic elements or altered, then put together into products, and
packaged before going onto the wholesaler.
each of those
steps requires energy, time, and effort from people and consumption of
our resources. however, you are able to drastically alter the number of
steps between farm to table that your food must take. first and
foremost, there are usually local farmers markets and produces stands in
every region. many urban areas have thriving local agriculture - some
of which is even produced within city limits. these producers often
take the time to research where the seeds they use are coming from and
the impact of their distribution. the beauty of going to these markets
is that you get to interact with them directly and can ask them about
the issues that matter to you. they are usually excited to talk about
their practices and enjoy that you care about what they do.
you can join a csa (community shared agriculture). this option
includes all the benefits of your local farmers market, however it is
conveniently put together in a box that you pick up weekly (some may
offer drop-off service as well). last year i was a part of a one and i
loved it. however, you pre-pay which means you're taking the risk with
the farmer. if something happens to slow production (weather, pests,
etc.) you may get less than you were expecting. while this did happen
last year, i think that the cost was on par with the local grocers (on
good to average years you will certainly save money). i also talked to
the farmer about his seed choice and it turned out he'd been researching
which tomatoes had the best flavor and nutritional content. (it is
amazing how much they take their customers into consideration!)
you can shop at your locally owned grocers, co-ops, and specialty
stores. there are often options for locally produced meats, grains,
cheeses, dairy, eggs, honey, maple syrup, baked goods, and even
sometimes fresh roasted coffee. if there aren't local options
available, these stores have more control over the products they stock
and will often seek out products by request. it helps if you have other
people with similar interests start asking for locally produced items.
they will supply what you're 'demanding'.
co-ops, there is an awesome online version that is not quite as nice as
a local store where you can go, touch, smell, feel, and interact;
however, it does have some of the other benefits (low prices, reduced
environmental impact, bulk options/less packaging, natural and organic
products). they often run specials and give huge deals for buying huge
quantities. i get things like sugar, rice, beans, quinoa, popcorn,
oatmeal, nuts, seeds, and other non-perishable items from them. i save
fifty percent on the one cereal i like enough to buy periodically.
brings up a huge point. one of the most important changes i made was
buying food items, not food like products. while i don't have a maximum
ingredient list number i am very conscious of them and due to my
allergies always look and try to limit. i purchase mostly whole foods;
in addition to the bulk items listed above i typically have on hand
fresh or frozen produce, regional raw/organic cheese, peanut butter,
olive and coconut oil, some sort of pasta, tortilla chips, and a dairy
alternative. periodically i treat myself to a chocolate bar, ice cream,
or mac n cheese. i almost always get a kombucha, but my next project
is to experiment with brewing my own.
additionally, i have made my own nut butters (but sometimes buy them in glass jars) and i started
roasting my own coffee beans that i purchased them from a retailer who gets
them directly from the importer. currently i'm saving the money to get
my own 'milk maker' which turns seeds, nuts, and grains into milk using
hot water, pressure, and a grinding mechanism. for now, i'm okay with
the few products i buy. however, i plan to research more to see what
the environmental impacts are of the options that are available.
and that is just food.