Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Eating Sustainably

I'd like to think I was a bit of a locavore before being a locavore was trendy.

Honestly, though, it was anything but intentional. It was just the way life was. We grew up on a tiny hobby farm with chickens who gave us eggs, with a garden that put veggies on our tables, with pigs that became our bacon, with sheep that provided us with--well, lamb and wool--and blueberry fields that filled our muffins! :) Of course, we didn't live entirely on local food...but, a good start, for sure. (By the way, thanks Mom and Dad for doing this!)

But, like most Americans, I've become accustomed to buying whatever food I want (more or less), regardless of whether it is in season or from here or across the planet. But, I am trying to return to a more sustainable way of eating. (I have to tell you - probably deserves a post of its own -- my husband and I cooked an entirely locavore Thanksgiving 2 years ago -- and, it was SO much fun. A bit pricey, but, fun!) I personally think that even doing one or two things a little more sustainably is a HUGE step in the right direction.

In any event, despite my intentions, sometimes it's hard to sort through it all -- all the mixed messages, the contradictions, etc. But, I loved a list (gotta love lists!) I saw from a recent issue of Whole Living. I modified the list some. It was called 50 Ways to Eat Sustainably. Well, I've reduced that number...and I'd like to name it, "A Bunch of More Sustainable Choices".

A Bunch of More Sustainable Choices
  1. Use the whole vegetable. That's right, don't just eat the broccoli florets, but, peel eat the stems too!
  2. Get to the root. Look for loose greens (or other things) with the roots attached. You'll use less (none, actually!) packaging and can either eat or compost the stems.
  3. Be a farmer's market regular. 
  4. Buy heirloom. Sure, buying heirloom is trendy, but it also means the seeds have been passed down for generations and grown in small crops that restore the soil.
  5. Stock up when produce is in season -- then freeze it, pickle it or preserve it. (Then, when you are craving strawberries in January, you can have them, without buying a quart that has been shipped across the country!)
  6. Ask your local farmer for recipes--in all likelihood it will expose you to something new!
  7. Have a farmer's market challenge -- for one week eat only that which you can buy at the local farmer's market!
  8. Buy local eggs.
  9. Put your basement to used as a root cellar--and keep "winter crops" like squash, sweet potatoes, turnips for four to six months.
  10. Join a community supported agriculture (CSA) farm. Don't know where to look? Try www.eatwellguide.com or www.localharvest.org.
  11. Be package conscious. Try to buy things with the least packaging -- or in containers that are recyclable in your community.
  12. Know your milk. Until the USDA revised standards last year, 30 to 40 percent of milk sold in the U.S. that was labeled organic was actually from factory farm-raised cows. Check out your brand of milk at www.sustainable.org
  13. Use unprocessed grains.
  14. Soak beans and grains overnight --it cuts cooking time (and energy use!) in half.
  15. Read labels. 
  16. Buy local bread -- you'll eliminate packaging and a fuel-burning journey. (Chances are the bread is also made with healthier ingredients!)
  17. Make breadcrumbs from stale bread instead of tossing it.
  18. Read PLU codes. If the number on the produce sticker starts with a 9, it's organic.
  19. Cut out processed corn -- 85 percent of corn grown in this country has been genetically modified.
  20. Eat local corn! :)
  21. Wash less wastefully--submerge greens in bowl of water instead of rinsing while the water is running.
  22. Put that cooking water to use. Repurpose that water you used to blanch vegetables (nutrient-rich) in soups or for boiling pasta. (Or, water your plants with it if it is unsalted and oil free.)
  23. Eat safer seafood. 
  24. Buy whole chickens. You can more meat for your money - less waste - and a chance to make stock (see #25!)
  25. Make stock. When you've used up the last of the chicken or turkey, throw the carcass in a pot with enough water to cover--add an onion, a carrot, a celery stalk, a few garlic cloves and a couple of sprigs of herbs. Simmer uncovered for at least 2 hours, occasionally skimming the foam on the top. Strain it, pour into jars, let cool an freeze!
  26. Fill the oven. When you are roasting a chicken or baking a casserole, throw in some vegetables or a loaf of zucchini bread--you'll turn on your oven less!
  27. Pick healthier pots and pans. Skip nonstick pans which are petroleum based.
  28. Have a green BBQ. Use carbon-neutral briquettes such as Green Hearts Natural Charcoal Briquettes.
  29. Be a smart carnivore. Choose antibiotic and hormone free. 
  30. Sweeten with honey--it's renewable and doesn't use the massive amounts of water in production, like sugar.
  31. Try growing something. A pot with an herb. Some lettuce. 
  32. Compost your kitchen scraps.
  33. Drink fair trade or bird-friendly coffee.
  34. Use organic olive oil--most mass produced olive oil is grown with pesticides.
  35. Make your own salad dressing!
  36. Use glass storage containers instead of plastic. 
  37. Wrap baked goods with dishcloths instead of plastic wrap.

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