Monday, August 16, 2010
Monday, July 27, 2009
So far this summer I am at about 150 miles, and will probably get to to 300 before Labor Day. Will this save the planet? No. Does it help? Yes. Could you help. You betcha!
Something holding you back? Maybe you have a "Would-But!" Check here and see.
Tuesday, May 19, 2009
At this time (see item #2) I tend to view the need to ride in a car as a failure; of errand route planning, of ability to find a truly local option, of trying to squeeze too much to fast into a life on the road.
Sunday, January 04, 2009
- "Conventionally Grown Food" is, really, something of a misnomer. Using heavy doses of petrochemical neurotoxins and artificial growth stimulants to grow our food has only been "conventional" (i.e., the usual manner) for the last 50 years or so. Before that, much more organic and near-organic food reached our tables -- because that was the norm. So, instead of "conventionally grown" may I suggest "chemically grown food" to accurately reflect the state of what's in the super market. Or as we sometimes call it around our house "dirty food." Try this term swap yourself, and suddenly organic food seems a lot more reasonable.
- "Organic Food" as a term is itself problematical. It makes that food seem special, even unusual. This is not good for at least three reasons: First, many large producers charge unnecessary premium prices for organically grown products, trading on the implication of "specialness" to make a higher profit. Second, organic food should be the norm -- i.e., "conventional" should mean "organic," but it never will so long as we refer to clean food as something special. Third, "organic" brings with it all sorts of baggage suggesting hippies eating brown rice stored in hand thrown pottery jars that many folks just don't want to be associated with, even if they really aren't all that excited about poisoning themselves or our farmland by eating the chemically grown variety. So, in our house, we call organic food what it is: "clean food."
- "Bike rider" or "cyclist" similarly does not convey the (should be) mainstream nature of human powered transportation in our cities and suburbs. I have taken to referring to "bike drivers" when discussing vehicular cyclists. Bike drivers have a right to use the road; bike drivers are serious vehicles, going places and doing things, not just sports enthusiasts out for a little ride.
- "Drivers" or "car drivers" used to refer to motor vehicles operators does not either accurately include all vehicles on the road, or the activity that takes place in a car. I actually drive my bike; I push it forward under my own muscle power. If you are in a car, the best that can be said is you are out for a ride. Thus, of course, I often refer casually to "car riders," both as the flip-side of "bike drivers" and to demonstrate the passivity of the activity.
So, you might hear me say something like this:
Tomorrow I'll drive my bike to the market after work; because of the bike I'll have an easier time parking than most of the car riders making the same trip. I'll buy our favorite clean pasta and sauce to cook for a big group of folks, but will probably compromise and buy chemically grown dark chocolate for the dessert we are making, and dirty artichokes because the clean ones are currently out of stock. "
See what I mean? The need to buy chemically grown and dirty food over clean food is terribly reduced. In my revised paragraph, the patchouli-tinged aura associated with a fluffy bike ride to buy organic pasta is reduced, as is the whingeing and whining factor that comes of complaining that your store is out of organic vegetables. No one could blame you for griping about having to buy chemically grown food -- even though most people don't realize that's what they're eating already anyway!
'When I use a word,' Humpty Dumpty said, in a rather scornful tone,' it means just what I choose it to mean, neither more nor less.' 'The question is,' said Alice, 'whether you can make words mean so many different things.' 'The question is,' said Humpty Dumpty, 'which is to be master - that's all.'
Saturday, November 29, 2008
The first item on the list, Buy it with Thought, itself embodies several factors. I don't know what the Dervaes family had in mind when they wrote it, but to me the following questions come to mind in order to buy food "with thought:"
- Will my family like it?
- Is it healthy for us or is it something we should limit (e.g., high or added fats and sugars?)
- Is the food organic, local grown or both?
- Is it fairly traded or certified?
- Is it heavily processed?
- Is it chemically augmented?
- Genetically modified?
For me, Cooking with Care means using both sustainable and healthy cooking methods. The PTF folks make use of a solar oven regularly -- which is beyond my personal commitment level. But we choose to use natural gas for our stove and oven, since it is a more efficient and less "carboniferous" (lower CO2) method for cooking than an electric range. If we ever had a surfeit of solar electricity on our hands it might make sense to use an electric range; but we only do 70-90% solar annually, so not yet.
I also like the common sense reminder Don't Waste It (food); that's a no brainer, of course, since trashing edible food costs the local household budget needlessly, but it also affects the larger ecosystem. Where a community or country is particularly profligate, the waste can really add up to a level that moves food production into a non-sustainable place.
The other half of waste, however -- at least in my mind -- comes down to what one does with the parts of the food one does not eat. Trimmings from vegetable preparation, for example. The potato that went soft in the back of the bin. Even the green beans which no threat or entreaty could convince the three-year-old to eat. Can we avoid wasting them? You bet!
A small bin on the counter and simple compost bin in the yard or on an apartment patio (yes they do have a sealed compost bin for just such a situation) is a great way to reduce landfill mass and avoid wasting the excellent fertilizer and soil builders one might otherwise throw away. For a longer rant on composting, click here.
The final concept -- Homegrown is Best -- is both one of the easiest to achieve at some level and hardest to achieve at a significant level. But it is an excellent aspirational goal -- especially since you know that the food is organic, definitely local and fair trade. More interestingly, I have found I am far less likely to be wasteful with food that I have grown. I know how long it took to get that bowl of broccoli or pan of fried potatoes, and you will see me turn positively miserly when it comes to using up food I have invested months of time in!In the end, most of these concepts come down to awareness; consuming while mindful of the real inputs and consequences of one's consumption, and of the options available to be a sustainable element in the natural system rather than a destructive and disruptive factor.
Saturday, November 22, 2008
- Own reusable bags. It may seem obvious, but if you don't have a set of reusable bags you will never remember to bring them into the store. You can make them yourself -- as a surprising number of folks do -- or collect them from all sorts of advertisers, or just vow to buy one (1) each time you shop for, oh say, two months.
- Own More Bags Than You Think You Will Need Reusable cloth bags get used for all sorts of things, especially transporting gear to special events or stuff to work or school. When a bag is otherwise engaged, it cannot be used for groceries. Also, we have found the most effective technique is to keep a set of bags in each car, and one or two sets in the house.
- Use Fewer Bags Than You Thought You Would Reusable cloth bags hold a lot of stuff. Four Trader Joe's-size canvas bag hold as much 10-12 of the plastic flimsies. So, even if you only have one bag -- take it! It makes a big difference. (Note: If you buy eight bags as noted in "Own More" above, you will have two sets.)
- Torture People If you have not yet come out as a green, reusable bags can be a little, well, embarrassing. So, turn the tables. Deliberately bring your reusable bag with you into a store that doesn't seem all treehugger-ish. Smugly watch the checker struggle with your reusable, maybe even trying to stuff their plastic bags into your cloth one. Kindly, but with unmistakable surprise and disdain, comment that those plastic bags will be illegal soon. Realize that now that you are outed, you can be your sustainable-self anywhere.
- Torture People II Take your reusable into a store that sells reusable bags but is not yet particularly sustainable . Watch the people in line eyeing your bag. Feel paranoid and embarrassed at being such a Green Goofball -- for a split second. Then accept the checker's heartfelt "Oh good! You have a bag!" Answer the follow-up quip from the person behind you that they "never remember to bring their bags" with equanimity and encouragement. Remember that that person was you yesterday!
In all seriousness, the reusable bag would-buts fall into three major categories -- old habits, self-justification (not enough bags, too many needed), and embarrassment at looking like an enviro-loon. None are insurmountable. You know you have made it to the sustainable place when you make an unexpected stop, feel just a little upset that you had to take a plastic bag for something that you couldn't at least carry away without a bag!
Sunday, November 09, 2008
NOVEMBER 28, 2007