In honor of Earth Day (today, April 22nd) I’m going on an environmental extravaganza, with “green” postings throughout the day.
All natural, organic, whole, free range, grain fed, locally grown, the list goes on and on. I often find myself wondering what is just marketing hype and what may actually impact the world we live in. I’m far from an expert on this, for sure, but I can offer what little wisdom and insight I’ve managed to glean. First let me disclose that I buy organic foods when I can, I’m a member of the local food co-op, I do a little gardening of my own, and I try to avoid red meat most of the time. I am not in any way a radical environmentalist, but one of the primary reasons I shop and eat the way I do is because I think it is important for those of us who are able to be mindful of our impact on the environment and act accordingly. Read on for why I think my decisions reflect such mindfulness …
I know some folks tend to think the whole organic movement is all about people being afraid of ingesting fertilizers, pesticides, and other not-so-pleasant byproducts of the modern industrialized farming movement. While I don’t deny that this is definitely part of the allure of organic problems, it is not my primary motivation. By and large organic farming is much more sustainable than most modern industrialized farming practices. Such modern farming practices rely heavily on fertilizers and other chemicals to grow more than the land can naturally bear. It is my hope that by supporting the organic movement that I am supporting farmers and a way of life that will help preserve the earth’s capacity to food for future generations.
I support the local co-op not only because I happen to be good friends with many co-members there, but because I believe in the ideals of being member-owned and operated and providing products that are natural, whole, organic, vegetarian, and environmentally friendly. I also appreciate the fact that I can buy things like flour, sugar, oil, rice, and sugar in bulk in order to cut down on excess packaging. There are also items like locally-produced butter, cheese, eggs, and milk that come from people who care about the environment and not just profit for profit’s sake.
As a small child growing up in Virginia I remember a few years when my family did some gardening. I’m not sure how old I was, but I know it was before I started high school. It wasn’t until last year that I ever did much gardening for myself, starting with a small 4′x8′ plot in the back yard. Last year we grew more yellow squash and tomatoes than we could possibly eat, in addition to some smaller crops of green beans, beets, green peppers, and salad greens. Locally-grown produce doesn’t get much closer than your own back yard! My wife and I both learned a lot about gardening last year and are looking forward to doubling the size of our garden plot as we begin the growing season in the next couple weeks. By growing a few things in our garden I know that we used less gas driving to the store, made better use of the land we live on, spent less money on food, and ate better too!
Many Americans’ diets center around large amounts of red meat. I recently read that raising a 1,200 pound beef steer requires almost 800,000 gallons of water, 35 gallons of petroleum, and 8,000 pounds of corn! I’ve also read that it takes about 15 pounds of grains to produce a pound of beef and only two per pound of poultry. This is hard for me to hear, because I like eating meat.
Recently I have come to realize that enjoying meat can still be done in an environmentally mindful way. One popular way to do this is to change the way we think about meat in relation to the rest of our meal. If we treat meat as more of a condiment, something we add to the meal to make it more flavorful and enjoyable rather than the main focus of our meal, then it becomes easier to reduce our consumption. So what does this all mean in terms of practical application? I most often use ground turkey in place of ground beef, if I’m hankering for a hunk of meat I’ll go for a small portion of lamb or pork before beef, and I intentionally try and eat vegetarian a few times a week to help balance things further. I used to really miss steak, and I still enjoy a nice hamburger every now and then, but I do so with a mindfulness of the impact of my food-related decisions.
I’m trying to include some links for additional reading at the end of all of my earth day posts, so be sure to check out New Community Project’s educational materials, Eco Eats at Ecologue, information about locally grown products at Local Harvest, and The Simple Dollar’s post on Planning a Kitchen Garden.
Do you try and eat in an eco-friendly way? Maybe you think this is all a bit ridiculous. Let’s hear about it in the comments.