Sustainable Living: Big Picture, Baby Goals (Week 1)

Ever since I watched Dive! (http://www.divethefilm.com/) a few years ago, I have been ultra-concerned with the amount of food we waste. I learned that about 50% of all the food produced in the U.S. ends up in the dump. When students approach me about writing on GMOs “because they are going to save the world,” I’m the (annoying) teacher who challenges their thinking by forcing them to consider the amount of food we waste as a potential solution to the food crisis. My request is logical: Do not overstate the impact of any one solution on world hunger. I must admit that my ulterior motive is to save myself from reading another paper on the GMO debate, primarily because the issue is a confusing mess from which no one has derived a clear definition that distinguishes genetically modified from hybridized organisms. After all, humans have been hybridizing crops since agriculture began. Only one of my students has addressed how to solve the food waste problem. Obviously, individuals must first take personal responsibility for their waste and do what they can in their day-to-day lives to eliminate as much garbage as possible. Once I accepted responsibility for my waste, I realized that this endeavor would require a thorough examination of my lifestyle. It’s overwhelming: Almost everything I do creates waste! My epiphany for today is that I need to break my sustainability efforts into manageable pieces of my lifestyle, and I will start with eating. I chose eating first because it captures four priorities: health, efficiency, waste reduction, and avoiding contributions to corporate entities. If my health is good, I will be able to minimize food-related tasks and handle the stressors of life, freeing time for working on goals such as waste reduction. I do not doubt that eating is the most waste-inducing activity of my life. Waste is produced as a result of processing, packaging, preparation, expiration, and digestion. I recently read that meat processing is the most detrimental to our environment. However, I have decided I am not willing to give it up because vitamin B is essential to me. Thus, my sustainable action this week was to call a local organic meat producer (http://www.langefarmmeats.com/) and place an order that should last me one year. The order will cost me about a third of what I usually spend on meat per year. Next week, I will look into joining a CSA for which my health insurance company offers a reimbursement. In the meantime, I will search for recipes that will allow me to prepare and store meals, so I can avoid resorting to fast food when I need to eat on the run.

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5 thoughts on “Sustainable Living: Big Picture, Baby Goals (Week 1)

  1. GreenEggs

    Reblogged this on Greens, Eggs and Cans and commented:
    I came across this blog and her ideas about accepting personal responsibility for our food consumption AND WASTE is compelling. I have heard the stat that she quoted before: that 50% of food produced in US ends up as waste (!!). Extraordinary!

    I know I am guilty of not planning meals out properly and allowing veges to mould in the back of the fridge before I use them. I have over ordered at restaurants, maybe even taken the leftovers home but left them on the counter instead of refrigerating them, thereby allowing them to spoil. My kids pour too much cereal into their bowls and don’t finish it. In my weaker moments I allow them too many afternoon snacks which ruins their appetites for dinner.

    I think being more mindful and aware of how much we really do waste is a good step in a sustainable direction. And firing up the compost heap! I do feel like the spoiled cucumbers aren’t a complete loss of they go back into the garden at some point … right?

    What do you do to minimize food waste at your house?

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  2. The Urban Villager

    Food waste is a HUGE issue, especially in industrialized countries. Like most contemporary problems, the root cause is human behavior (not including food that expires or has “defects”). Raising the issue is crucial because most people don’t even think about it. Just like water – you turn on your faucet, flush your toilet, water your lawn, etc etc. But it’s only when you do not have water that you actually realize what a precious resource it is. “Wow, I can’t really do anything with water…” you’ll think.

    Similarly, people put more on their plate than they can fit in their stomach because they are used to it. I’m not saying that we should starve our children to death, but juice fasting for a few days will make them realize, first hand, that they do not need to eat so much. It will also make them think twice about what and how they eat – not to mention positively benefitting their health.

    “Almost everything we do creates waste.” <– This is true AND false – depends on our definition of waste. The key is to close the loop in our lifestyle by mimicking natural systems. If you look at the natural world, there is no such things as waste because everything, even poop and rotting carcasses, serves a significant purpose. In the same way, we need to realize that there is no such thing as waste if we properly design and utilize systems – even plastic packaging can be used for something (Although, the best solution would be to eliminate plastic from the consumption stream for good!).

    Lastly, although "B vitamins are particularly concentrated in meat [products], good sources for B vitamins include legumes (pulses or beans), whole grains, potatoes, bananas, chili peppers, tempeh, nutritional yeast, brewer's yeast, and molasses" (Stipanuk, 2006. Biochemical, Physiological, Molecular Aspects of Human Nutrition).

    –"But what about Vitamin B12?!" <– The perennial question posed to people on a plant-based diet.

    As Vegan Coach, Patty Knutson clarifies: Vitamin B12 is found MOSTLY in animal products because the bacteria in their stomachs synthesizes B12, "which is then absorbed by their small intestines, thereby imparting the animal with B12." Just like animals, humans ALSO make B12-synthesizing bacteria in their large intestine. In summary, you CAN eat a plant-based diet and receive all the vitamins and nutrients needed. In fact, most, if not all, vitamins and supplements are derived from plants, not animals.

    For more info on this subject see: "The China Study" by T. Colin Campbell AND "Is Vegan Vitamin B12 REALLY Necessary?" by Patty Knutson.

    Liked by 1 person

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  3. April Mwf Post author

    Thanks for your reply and for all the information. I am open to absorbing as much new knowledge as possible while keeping my goals personal, flexible, and most importantly, manageable.

    I always assume that waste reduction includes reusing and repurposing. For me, waste is stuff I put out for someone else to take care of, i.e., stuff I can’t find another use for in my realm. As Green Eggs suggested, I must start composting. And of course, please feel free to teach me about other ways of sorting/reusing/repurposing “waste.”

    My brother is a vegan, so I know it is possible to live without vitamin B. What I failed to get across in my original post is that my preference is to keep eating meat. I prefer it over anything else as a source of protein and vitamin B. However, I will only buy it from a place where I can see with my own eyes how the animals are treated and environmental impacts are managed. Thus, I support a small family farm and the local ag economy. Also, I have cut the amount of meat I consume to a minimum. I don’t think it’s necessary to eat meat every day.

    In my mind, only whole food sources provide reliable nutrients. Absorption capacity and unverifiable content are problematic with supplements, and I’m not going to compromise on quality where my nourishment is concerned.

    From you, I have learned some new sources of vitamin B. I did not know about bananas as a source; I eat one a day… another way I’m already doing well. 🙂 I’m loving this whole experience! It’s making my life even more fun!

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  4. The Urban Villager

    Reblogged this on The Urban Villager and commented:
    Food Waste, Rotting Carcasses & the Mysterious Vitamin B12

    My comments in response to: “Sustainable Living: Big Picture, Baby Goals”

    Food waste is a HUGE issue, especially in industrialized countries. Like most contemporary problems, the root cause is human behavior (not including food that expires or has “defects”). Raising the issue is crucial because most people don’t even think about it. Just like water – you turn on your faucet, flush your toilet, water your lawn, etc etc. But it’s only when you do not have water that you actually realize what a precious resource it is. You’ll realize: “Wow, I can’t really do anything without water…”

    Similarly, people put more food on their plate than they can fit in their stomach because they are used to it. I’m not saying that we should starve our children to death, but juice fasting for a few days will make them realize, first hand, that they do not need to eat so much. It will also make them think twice about what and how they eat – not to mention positively benefitting their health.

    “Almost everything we do creates waste.” <– This is true AND false – depends on our definition of waste. The key is to close the loop in our lifestyle by mimicking natural systems. If you look at the natural world, there is no such things as waste because everything, even poop and rotting carcasses, serves a significant purpose. In the same way, we need to realize that there is no such thing as waste if we properly design and utilize systems – even plastic packaging can be used for something (Although, the best solution would be to eliminate plastic from the consumption stream for good!).

    Lastly, although "B vitamins are particularly concentrated in meat [products], good sources for B vitamins include legumes (pulses or beans), whole grains, potatoes, bananas, chili peppers, tempeh, nutritional yeast, brewer's yeast, and molasses" (Stipanuk, 2006. Biochemical, Physiological, Molecular Aspects of Human Nutrition).

    –"But what about Vitamin B12?!" <– The perennial question posed to people on a plant-based diet.

    As Vegan Coach, Patty Knutson clarifies: Vitamin B12 is found MOSTLY in animal products because the bacteria in their stomachs synthesizes B12, "which is then absorbed by their small intestines, thereby imparting the animal with B12." Just like animals, humans ALSO make B12-synthesizing bacteria in their large intestine. In summary, you CAN eat a plant-based diet and receive all the vitamins and nutrients needed. In fact, most, if not all, vitamins and supplements are derived from plants, not animals.

    For more info on this subject see: "The China Study" by T. Colin Campbell AND "Is Vegan Vitamin B12 REALLY Necessary?" by Patty Knutson.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply

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