WORDS & IMAGE: KATE WEINER
Aligning our values and our actions isn't always easy. We very rarely have full control over the systems that provide us with food and energy. We can, however, turn to our communities to create change. Exercising greater mindfulness toward the how and why of what we eat is vital to diversifying and decentralizing food production. "Eating greener" in that sense is a direct vote for a more sustainable future. When we choose to support local foods and sustainable farming practices, we directly challenge the gross government subsidies that are wrecking our environment. We promote nutrient-rich soil, nurture interconnected agricultural networks, and support the rights of farm workers. Want a better future? Practice putting your money where your mouth is.
And remember, these solutions are not the only ones. Consider the following four steps a launching pad for growing green.
(1) ADJUST EXPECTATIONS
By and large, choosing to eat in a more sustainable way will likely be pricier than mainstream modes of consumption. That doesn't mean it is necessarily expensive. The majority of prices at farmers' markets are competitive with their supermarket peers, especially in light of recent developments to support and sustain more holistic, accessible, and diverse local food projects.
That said, buying better food isn't dirt cheap because dirt cheap doesn't take into account the ecological impact of production. Dirt cheap doesn't respect the hard work that farmers pour into feeding us. For that reason, I don't want my food to be dirt cheap. I want to know that I am contributing to better conditions for farmers. I want to know that I am supporting the necessary work of enriching the vital soil that sustains us.
And that means adjusting expectations about what food should cost. It's not our fault that we think the price of supermarket food is the "right" price: we've been deceived by government subsidies and tricky advertising. We have it in our power, however, to fight back, beginning where all good things begin: at the kitchen table.
(2) EAT IMPERFECT
As Loam has chronicled throughout our Ugly Fruit Initiative, food waste in the "developed" world (note that development is in quotes) is seriously unchecked. A Guardian article from last August noted that nearly 1.3 BILLION tons of food goes to waste worldwide. That's crazy!
What can you do to change this? Get over little blemishes. Embrace crooked carrots. Try out root-to-stem cooking to make use of every part of the vegetable. Compost scraps and drink whey juice. Petition your local grocer to buy less-than-perfect fruits and veggies. Sign up for a CSA. Eat less meat. Eat whole foods. Be a member of the clean plate club. Carry glass canisters to take home food when you eat out. Do your shopping in little bursts throughout the week so there's less of a chance that you'll let a forgotten bundle of broccoli go to waste. Check out grocery outlets that sell soon-to-be expired products. Because when there are so many sources of food waste, there are also so many solutions to this multifaceted problem.
(3) AIM FOR 80% LOCAL
The badass nutritionist and farmer Joan Gussow Dye has been an ardent advocate for eating local for decades. When you eat local, you eat seasonal. It's a potent recipe for reducing your carbon footprint.
Of course, you can't always eat local 100% of the time. Price, the generosity of friends, and a love of tea can all conspire to make locavore living a little tricky. By committing to eating local 80% of the time, you give yourself a margin of error, as it were, to make room for life's vagaries. That, and the revolution happens in both small steps and big bounds. Start somewhere.
(4) FREQUENT FARMERS' MARKETS
Early last year, I got into a fight with my older brother about farmers' markets (it was enough of a tiff that I threaded it into my thesis!) My brother felt that farmers' markets were overpriced and bourgeoisie. Having worked in urban agriculture for three years—and having manned the stall at many different markets—I knew that this was fundamentally false. The alternative food movement is exceptionally diverse. There are so many different kinds of farmers and farms and farmers' markets. If one doesn't work for you, keep searching. You will find, with time, a community that nurtures affordable, ethical, and accessible eating—even if it means creating your own.