In stark contrast to research suggesting that a reduced calorie diet may lead to a longer life, since 1970 the U.S. department of agriculture estimates that we Armarikens (Americans with an accent) have increased our per capita food consumption 16 percent, or by 523 calories, and the percentage of overweight Americans has skyrocketed as well. But regardless of how much we eat, we women (sorry fellas) spend a large percentage of time buying and preparing food.
A primary purpose of this blog is to express my thoughts and feelings on two seemingly different topics–the environment and on culinary experiences and experiments. The two do, in fact, come together. And while your ecological footprint is certainly higher if you are not a vegetarian or vegan, you can still behave as an environmentalist by becoming more aware of how and where you purchase our food and what you do with the by-products when you are done.
Paper or plastic?
What about choosing neither? This is such a simple way of reducing the amount of landfill waste and CO2 production–take your own cloth bags to the store with you. Of course you can recycle, but the simple act of bringing your own bags reduces the need to a) produce more bags and b) use energy to recycle–both of which ultimately increase the production of greenhouse gasses through energy consumption. By the way, it is also incredibly gratifying to walk out of the grocery store with your own cloth bags.
Buy from local farms and co-ops
There are a number of reasons to purchase from local farmers or from co-ops that stock shelves using local producers. First and foremost, for the purposes of this *green* blog, the closer to home that your produce was harvested, cows were milked, and your eggs were laid, the less fossil fuel needed to bring you those tasty morsels. Buying locally also helps sustain local farmers, promotes the local economy, and creates a link between the food supply and the community. If you are interested in finding local farms that bring produce, dairy or meat to your area, check out “local harvest” or for co-ops check out the community gardens link.
If you are unable to buy from a local farmer or co-op, consider choosing produce that is locally grown. Many of the large chain stores do not advertise where food stuffs come from, but Whole foods, albeit expensive, makes it their practice to label the origin of all of their produce–giving you the option to choose.
Reuse or recycle
Recycling is great, but I try to make that the last resort. I am perpetually trying to think of creative ways that I can reuse the packaging from food items. I have come up with a few:
1. Milk cartons
Cut off the bottom and the 1/2 gallon size milk container makes a nice scoop for your pet food or cut off the top and it makes an easy organizing container
2. Cereal boxes
Cut out diagonal pieces from the front and back about 2 inches from the bottom of the box and use to neatly store magazines
3. Yogurt containers
These make great cheap Tupperware for dry foods or organizers for small items.
But let’s face it–we can only use so many magazine organizers. An alternative to retooling and recycling is simply purchasing foods with less packaging. If you have come up with ways of using old packaging, I would love to hear about it.
I have the great fortune to know Josh-wa who is a composter–so I am able to add the pulp from my juicer to his compost pile. But until I met him, the only means of disposing of my vegetable scraps was via garbage disposal or waste container. Composting is a way of creating your own natural, nutrient-rich “peat” to mix in with top soil while at the same time reducing the number of bags of waste produced by your family. Leaves and vegetable scraps heaped in a ventilated container and occasionally turned will decompose, ferment, and eventually become fertilizer for your veggie or flower garden. Your local hardware store will carry outdoor containers for composting and you can read more about composting on line.
If you **really** get into the environmentalist/composting frame of mind, perhaps you can install a composting pooper at your house.
For you apartment dwellers, like myself, I don’t have simple recommendation for composting. My advice is to make environmentally friendly friends who compost or don’t mind you creating a compost pile in their yard or find a community garden space (sorry DC, there isn’t a comprehensive list of community gardens).