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Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Lifestyle: Eating Sustainably

Perhaps the awareness began in the sixties with the hippie movement or perhaps it happened more recently...but there's no question that many Americans are beginning to seek the sources of their food just as ardently as they assess the flavor and nutritional profile. The truth is, it's virtually impossible to become more aware of the food that you are eating without also becoming aware of the problems of the local farmer, the changing climate, species extinction...you name it. 

But there are so many groups clamoring for attention, so many companies claiming to be so many things, sometimes it feels a little insurmountable to decipher it all. How do you know what brands to buy, and what to avoid? What does "sustainable" mean, and how is it regulated? Are these foods healthier? Is organic enough? Sometimes a trip to the grocery store can feel more like a guilt trip than a shopping trip, and that's when you know...something has to change.

But knowledge is power, undoubtedly, and with a little knowledge, your trip to the market should become much less frustrating.
It's best to look beyond the label when it comes to sustainable shopping. Doing a little research into better brands is very important, as you can learn much more about a business on the internet than you can on the label of it's products. To make things a little easier on yourself, shop at retailers who have proven themselves environmentally aware, such as Publix, Whole Foods, and Trader Joes. In my part of the country, we don't have any of those retailers, so I try to support my local ethnic and whole foods market as much as possible.

Shop local! Join a CSA and go to the Farmer's Market. Buy your meat, milk, and eggs directly from the farmers who raise the animals for the maximum benefit to the environment and your local economy. Of course, sometimes this isn't possible, so try to support retailers who buy from local farmers. 

Even if you can only do a few things here and there, don't get discouraged! Cutting down your waste through recycling, upcycling, composting, and reusing makes a huge difference, even if it feels small. You can do things like carpool, which saves gas and money, or ride a bike to work if you live in a bike-friendly city. Everything that you do counts, so do what you can and don't feel guilty about what you can't afford. 

It's good to stay on top of the news about climate change as well. Grist.org is a good resource for green news. I don't always agree with their politics, but it's a great way to get an alternative viewpoint on hot-button issues. A Google (green company!) search will pull up endless amounts of information on green brands, climate change, and sustainability. There's a wealth of information, and even the very mainstream brands (like SC Johnson) are making a sustainable, green effort.

Climate change is a fact, a proven fact. If you are eating healthfully and consciously, you can't avoid the arguments for sustainability and for good reason! Saving us from ourselves is the great burden not only of the younger generation, but of everyone who is alive at this time. 

The most important step to sustainability is doing what you can to work toward a greener earth. If that's changing your lightbulbs to something more energy efficient, or making sure you always take reusable shopping bags, or drinking out of sustainable water bottles...do what you can. If everyone did what they could, the world would be a healthier, greener place.

The Calm Cook

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