So. Many. Buzz. Words.
You almost cannot have a meal while out and about without seeing one of these words on your menu, or displayed on the restaurant’s freshly installed brick wall, while you sit on your farmhouse stool, staring past the wildflowers that are not-so-carefully placed in the mason jar that sits on your table. Am I right or am I right? Hold it, though. That last word. Sustainability. This “buzzy” word doesn’t bug me like some others do. Although, it’s cool, I’ll take artisanal and craft- why not? Beneath what can sound like terms that are sometimes a bit overused (and a lot of times overpriced), are better ethics and systems when it comes to how they are made (hence, the overpriced).
Let us get back sustainability. This is a good one. But what does it even mean? Well, basically, when something is sustainable, it is something that is self-ran, that can keep going for an indefinite amount of time, and doesn’t require much as far as energy, chemicals, man power, and all the planes, trains and automobiles that a lot of our goods take to be produced and finally, get to us. I, by no means, want to underestimate that sustainability does take work, and sometimes hard work. Having typed that, there is only a limited amount of some resources we can use before things can get scarce and, well, scary. When I personally think of sustainability I like to also think of carbon footprintI don’t know about y’all, but in a world where there is an island that is thought to be the size of Texas in the Pacific ocean that is solely made of plastic bottles, chemical sludge, and other debris, I think we need to start thinking of how long certain makings can go on for, how they are disposed of, and how we can make it better. Especially in terms of food, something none of us can avoid. Something that greatly affects the planet and our body. And that’s the main purpose of this post: food sustainability.
You don’t need to quit your job that you need to commute to every morning, or only eat what you can solely grow in your backyard (although this is amazingly bold and helpful, but not necessary) to live a more sustainable life. You can start by first being aware of what we are talking about here, and second, by taking small action steps to get your life just that much more sustainable, which helps us all.
Need a small checklist of where you can start? I got you. To begin, ask yourself- do you:
- Shop at farmers markets. This ensures that your produce did not come in on a giant gas guzzling ship or plane and usually took a relatively shorter drive to get to you. The bonus’ here also include that the produce will most likely be local and in-season. You’re not only supporting your community with your dollars but you are supporting your body by choosing foods that do not have to be picked ahead of their time, and are higher in nutritional value.
- Choose seasonal, produce: Sometimes you cant always get to the 3 hour gap, the one day a week your city has their farmers market. Luckily, at most grocery stores, you can find small signs either on the label of the price or somewhere on the fruit/vegetable itself.
- Grow your own fruits, vegetables, and herbs: Cut out the short drive from your local farm, and have some fun growing in your own garden. You can even do this on your balcony or rooftop in planter boxes or pots. I practically did the Irish jig when I saw the little sprouts coming up from the radish seeds I planted just last week. It’s also super educational and gives you a sense of connection to your food (which I believe assimilates in the body better….like water for chocolate).
- Eat pasture grazed meats and dairy products, free range chicken and eggs: Have you seen any footage from factory animal farms?! It will be enough for you to want to only eat meat when you know it was raised and harvested in a humane way, with lots of care and respect to the animal that is ultimately feeding you. After all, this is how they were meant to live. Why would you want it any other way? Organic farming practices also mean less waste for the planet.
- Eat meat just a few times per week: One of the biggest complaints I hear about sustainably raised meats is the price. When you eat less, this becomes less of an issue. You know the saying: Quality, not quantity. And, reports are proving that eating less meat and focusing more on a plant based diet, can improve the planet (and your health). This doesn’t mean becoming fully vegetarian, but even if you are a bacon-loving paleo eater, your diet should still be based around mostly plants. Our dollars also have voices and we need big businesses to change in order to really tip the scales in this country and on the planet. The more people buy and ask for high quality meats and animal products, and the less we rely on cheap, lower quality meats to feed our families, the less we will see them. It’s that simple. Not only that, but animals that grow up in these factories are usually fed grain and other products from genetically modified sources, another practice that we could use less of for better human health and a cleaner planet. I like what Friend Of The Earth wrote here.
- Avoid processed foods: How often do you buy products in which you can’t pronounce even a few ingredients on the side of that box? Or maybe you can pronounce them but you don’t know what the hey they do. And how certain are you that the boxes these foods are coming in are being recycled properly? Do you need that big of a box when you know the contents inside will fill 25% of it? How long of a drive did that corporations driver take to get to you….or how long was the flight…or better yet- which country made it and what are their regulations? Did you know the answer to most of these? Probably not. Not only do the questions above resemble why processed foods are not the most sustainable, but they are not sustainable for your body. I can guarantee no matter who you are, no matter your body type, your ethnicity, etc., your body needs macro and micronutrients that can only come from fresh, real food. A good rule of thumb I like to follow is if there are ingredients on the package you cannot buy at the store individually, then don’t buy it- make a better, cleaner version. There are a ton of recipes out there.
- Bring your own bags to the store: At first I was a little annoyed (in what now feels like the caveman days) when we started being charged here in California for bags at the grocery store. However, the plan worked. I’ll pull whatever bag I have out of my car to not have to use any store bought bags, paper or not. This has helped reduce so many unnecessary bags in my house alone and, California has estimated a reduction of 6 billion plastic bags per year, which is great considering 90% of the oceans debris is comprised of plastic.
- Cook meals at home from scratch: When you cook at home using locally raised, sustainable food you are saving a ton more money by not having to contribute to the costs it takes for that business to run. You can also use every part of what you’re using, from the bones of the chicken, to the trimmings of the veggies you used to make a rich broth. You also have the freedom to choose all of the best quality produce and meats. Learning to cook can be a really joyful, loving process. With a little practice you will find yourself serving up dishes you once paid for. I would also put making your own salad dressings, dips, juice, tea and broth under this category. Save even more money, learn a lil’ something, reduce packaging waste, and eliminate buying products that are filled with chemicals and fillers that are sometimes solely used for shelf life.
- Use a water filtration system: Do you really need water from Fiji? And are you really sure that’s where it is coming from? Investing in a good water filtration system at home and at work can reduce a huge amount of plastic bottles that may not get recycled, and cut the long drives from the distributor to your local store or home.
- Select foods with less packaging: I love when my lettuce is already pre-triple-washed but sometimes, I feel a tinge of guilt about the massive plastic container it comes in. After all, it is a bit wasteful when I can reuse the same 40 plastic bags I have from the last grocery store haul I made, or take a basket to the farmers market. If you look right or left, that same pre-washed bag of lettuce is right there, unpackaged and waiting to be bought, and can be washed at home for almost the same amount of time it will take you to open that triple-sealed plastic box. I’ve found it also stores much better and for a longer period of time after washed, dried, and stored in glass.
- Avoid disposable cutlery and dinnerware as much as possible: The best choice for a party or to-go food is reusable cutlery. And not just because of what happens after you throw them away after one use, but what happened before they were used; as in, the manufacturing process and products (where most of the carbon footprint lies), along with the transport to you.
Convenience is cool but not at the expense of the planet, or life, or your health. I’m not perfect, and I never say never, but you can’t unknow something and as I stated before, being aware of this topic is the first thing you can do. Start at home; right in the room most of you spend the most time in: the kitchen. I guarantee that like most changes that occur in the kitchen, including a healthier diet, the rest of your life will change. So, do your best and you will be more able to sustain.