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Posts Tagged ‘local food’

One of my favorite non-fiction books last winter was Ecological Intelligence.  The book took our family’s attempt to live more deliberately to the next step.  Ecological Intelligence by Daniel Goleman takes a look at the disconnect between humans, our environment, and the skills that we used to need to survive our environment and the skills that we need to survive in modern society.

Goleman spends a good deal of the book investigating the life cycles of the products that we use and how we as consumers, and the industries can make better choices.  He looks at how companies can lower their ecological footprint, provide healthier alternatives with better ingredient choices, and provide better working conditions for their employees.

As I was reading the book, I turned to my web programmer hubby and said “Wouldn’t it be great if there was some sort of website that could sort out all of the eco-friendly claims and societal impacts,”  Low and behold, as I read on, Goleman mentioned a site GoodGuide.com that was in the works.

GoodGuide.com is one of my favorite sites on the interwebs.  It evaluates the items that we buy and rates them on three attitributes: Health, Environment, and Society.  Using hundreds of databases from many sources, the GoodGuide sorts through the claims that are made on packaging, and helps the consumer make informed choices about how we spend our money.

Each product is ranked from 0-10 with 10 being the best choice.  You can decide which value is most important to you when deciding what to buy, because each category is rated. They also average the scores if each value is of equal importance to you.  The database also gives you the option to sort buy vegan, organic, and low salt and low sugar products.  Information about price and ratings is accessible too so you can do a bit of comparison price shopping before you even hit the stores.

It does take some time to sort through the changes that you might want to make in the food and health and beauty products that you use.  However, once you’ve sorted through the products you use the most, shopping is a snap because you will be aware of what brand names you should stick with.  Goodguide also offers an iphone app that lets you scan barcodes in the grocery store to check on the company’s ratings.  Very cool.

The best part is that there is finally a way to align my spending with my values.

Another site that I discovered while reading this book is the Skin Deep Cosmetic Safety Database.  This database focuses on the health aspects of the beauty products that we use everyday, and the results can be quite shocking.

As per my modus operandi, I made my students take a look at their own personal values, and rank them in order of importance to them.  They then ran some of their favorite snack foods and toiletries through the GoodGuide and the Cosmetic database to see how the products they used stacked up.  Some students were shocked at the results.  Some pledged to make changes in the foods that they used everyday.  Some didn’t give a flying flip.  And some were pleasantly surprised by the results.  Most notably, one student realized that the canned ravioli they eat weekly scored a zero for health, and another student (a vocational cosmetology student at that) was tickled that her daily shampoo rated an 8 which isn’t too shabby.

I highly recommend checking out the GoodGuide site and Skin Deep and then let me know how your products fared in the comment section.  Then get your hands on Ecological Intelligence, and become an even smarter shopper!

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Hidden Roots of the Local Food Movement — YES! Magazine

The above link will take you to a brief photo essay that shows war support posters from WWII encouraging women to grow gardens, can, and eat less meat.  Sounds familiar doesn’t it?  All of this local food stuff that the “radical tree huggers” (self-included) are trying to incorporate into their lives were once just everyday life to most women.

If you’ve never heard about YES! Magazine, I encourage you to check it out.  If you are taking time to read my boring old blog, you will enjoy it.

I love YES! Magazine.  Last year, I got a free subscription as a teacher and I will be buying my own subscription this year.

The magazine  is “Concerned with building a more just, sustainable, and compassionate future with articles about economic alternatives and peace options.”  Most importantly to me, they have loads of articles on how environmental issues are affecting people, and what we can do as individuals.

They also have a great facebook page that posts articles of interest.  The radical homemaker blog and articles are pretty great too.  Click on the YES! links, and give it a quick read.

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Today I almost witnessed a rumble.

Luckily both parties were mature, and no one threw any punches.

The near rumble was over one person’s reasons for becoming a vegetarian.  He explained that he is a vegetarian because he wants to know where his food comes from.  He wants to know that his food he is eating was not raised in a closed, cramped, dark and dirty barn.  He went on to explain that as a vegetarian, he has more control over the food that he eats, and its origins.

Across the table from him, sat a hog farmer and agricultural advocate.  She asked him if he knew where all that food came from.  He said that he tries to buy things at farmers markets.  He also explained that he does eat tofu.

That’s where the rumble ended.

Jeremy, the chicken ark, and our raised beds.  In the distance is our neighbor’s garden.

This is a conversation that should happen, but doesn’t. We have folks involved in big agriculture, small farmers, and the consumers that are eating the products, that should be talking.  But we don’t.

The last several years have been a journey of learning about the food that goes into my body.  The conclusion that I’ve come to is that I want to control as much of the food that goes into my family’s mouth as possible.

We have issues of too many chemicals on our food.  Nutrients have been selected out out of our food and replaced with long shelf life.  Genetically modified foods change the composition of the foods that we eat, increase the resistance of pests and weeds, the long term effects of their consumption are unknown, and more importantly, these strains are being released into the wild where they cannot be controlled (tofu comes from soy, 91% of the soybean crop in the US is genetically modified).  Big agribusiness controls the family farmer and can shut down any of their “customers” (the farmer) at any time.  Not only do we import fresh fruits and vegetables from foreign countries, but canned and frozen ones too.   Most of the apple juice we consume comes from China; not only does add thousands of food miles to our food, but it also jerks around with the world water supply.

Becoming a vegetarian alone will not solve these issues.  Knowing exactly where our food comes from, how it was raised, and what is in it will.

Here is my current food mantra.

My step-daughter raking in the garden.

-We buy meats for our freezer from local farmers.  We buy lamb.  It can be fed out easily and quickly on grass, is gentle on the land, and is easy for small farmers to raise.

-I only use home raised eggs from chickens raised in the grass and sunshine.  Vegetarian eggs are bunk.  Chickens are omnivores, they love bugs and should eat them.

-We raise as many veggies as possible in our small raised bed garden.  We freeze and can tomatoes, beans, broccoli, and carrots.  We also raise potatoes, garlic, and onions.

-What we can’t grow, we buy from our local farmers at the farmer’s market.

-I try to buy cereals and breads made from organic grains.  This limits my family’s exposure to genetically modified foods.

-We are avoiding high fructose corn syrup even if it means giving up some of our favorite treats.

-We buy very few processed foods.

Vegetarians have the right idea.  Trying to reduce our carbon footprint is a good thing.  Trying to eliminate animal cruelty is also a good thing.  But, we need to know the WHOLE story.  It is so difficult to know the whole story.  As Americans we have slowly given away our choices and food freedoms for the “ease” of food preparation.  It really hit me the other day when I heard two girls talking about the flavoring they put in coffee at their fast food place of employment.  They aren’t serving up food at all.  Just something that sort of resembles food.

I want to eat real food.

I won’t try to kid anyone.  I still drink Diet Coke, and we have frozen pizzas in our freezer.  A couple of times a month, my hubby and I hit the local burger place.  This transition has been a long and slow process.

Canning and freezing does take time.  I do have to cook from scratch quite a bit.  But, I’ve learned to cook too much and freeze some for busy days.  It’s difficult because I work full time.  On the plus side, I seldom have to go to the grocery, and that’s just for yogurt and milk.

If you want to start a safer food journey my advice to you is to remember that it is a continuum.  You don’t have to become a vegan-treehugging-bark eating-hippie overnight.  Small steps will get you on your journey, and you can learn as you go.

Start getting acquainted with your food in three easy steps:

1.  Give up plastic water bottles for a reusable water bottle and carry it with you.  I love Diet Coke, but when I carry my water bottle, I drink more water.  By drinking water from the tap, you save food miles, lower your ecological footprint, and keep water in the ecosystem in which it belongs.  It takes 3 gallons of water to produce one gallon of bottled water, not to mention the wasted gase to get it to you.  Trucking water disturbs the water cycle.

2. Visit a farmer’s market and find one new vegetable, fruit, or vendor that you like.  Surprisingly, I don’t grow lettuce.  I have a favorite vendor that makes a great salad mix.

3. Start reading the labels on the processed foods you buy.  Find at least one substitution next time you go to the grocery.

If you are getting excited about learning more about what goes into your foods and products visit www.goodguide.com to check out the environmental impact of your purchases.  (This is a super-favorite site of mine-I’ll talk more about it later.)

No rumble today.  But I may be ready to step in and fight for my real food rights.

Bean and Goldie, the best chicken ever.  

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