17 May 2012

envion(mentalism) - part two: food

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.

secondly, 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!)

thirdly 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'.

speaking of 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.

which 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.

No comments:

Post a Comment