eco.fact: Distance your average item of food travels to your plate: 1,500 miles (John Hendrickson, Energy use in the U.S. Food System: A Summary of existing research and analysis).
During the No Impact Man family’s no impact year, not only did they eat locally and seasonally, all packaged and processed foods were eliminated from their grocery list. And they live in New York City!! This I knew would be a challenge for us. I purchase organic as often as possible and go to the farmer’s market when it’s in town–we were even receiving weekly deliveries of mostly local, seasonal fruits and veggies from a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture). At times, we had more than we knew what to do with (there’s just the 3 of us), so I’d end up giving some of it away to friends with financial trouble. We had to shut it down completely when my husband was laid off last December. I’m thinking of sneaking a similar service back into our lives and cost|produce share with another friend or two.
The good news is, on this day, I didn’t shop for food (or anything at all), although we had very little in the house. I got creative with the food we already had –eggs, lentils, edamame, frozen veggies (bad, I know) and pasta/rice–and we survived.
I’m sorry to admit (stabbing guilt pangs) that I frequent Trader Joe’s and find myself purchasing things like pre-made frozen meatballs, cans of chili, Craig’s fave already-made-single serving of Shepard’s Pie because I don’t do meat-and-potatoes. There are also the cans of salmon and tuna that I can’t seem to get away from. After a full day of working, helping my 8 year old with homework after school, I (big excuse alert) “have little time to plan”. Believe me, I am ridden with guilt from this enormous environmental flaw. I do try to buy in bulk at Costco–but I cringe every time I grab the huge container of organic spinach packed in a plastic container. Or the processed chicken nuggets, which even my husband and I love to eat on occasion.
The reality is, you don’t need a lot of money to eat locally and reduce the packaging waste. Better time management on my part would allow me to make a fast meal in the crockpot. And on our zero budget, we’ve talked about eating mostly pasta, rice and beans–well it wasn’t exactly a discussion… my husband practically shouted, “NO!” We haven’t purchased red meat in eons (I don’t eat it) and if we ever have to appease my son and husband, it’s grass fed, organic. Any chicken is organic, free-range and eggs come from these happier chickens.
Tips to a lower “foodprint”:
- Instead of sugar, use locally harvested honey
- Purchase ocean-friendly fish
- Reduce or eliminate meat consumption
- Purge “processed foods” out of your vocabulary and don’t let it enter your grocery cart — especially single-serving packages!! Not only will you help the planet, your health will benefit. Processed foods can be loaded with chemicals, additives, etc.
- Say no to heavily packaged foods–this one is hard in our busy lives… but maybe we just need to slow down a bit