I just read a very interesting article on www.latimes.com about how to be a smart farmer's market shopper:
I had never thought that much about checking for farmer's market or organic certification at farmer's markets. I had just kind of assumed that it was all local, organic and seasonal, so this was an interesting article for me. I was also intrigued by their last comments on whether organic certification is always the more sustainable option, since my history of though with organic products went something like this: I did some research about organic, tried it out, decided it was more sustainable and made me feel better, and then never looked back.
Of the points he made that questioned whether organic is always better (even though he generally buys organic), I thought that this was the most legitimate: "organic farms generally produce lower yields, requiring more resources, such as fuel and water, with resulting environmental costs." However, when I went organic and started cooking for myself, the labor, extra cost and higher nutritional density of the wholesome, organic food I was preparing for myself actually resulted in me eating less. So theoretically if all farms became organic, the decrease in yield would not necessitate a need for more resource consumption and space to compensate for this, but would simply correspond with a decrease in demand for food.
Another interesting sustainability resource which includes (among many many other things) a list of all the farmer's markets in LA with their times, dates and contact information is the ESLP wiki page:
ESLP (Education for Sustainable Living Program) is a program through the UCLA Institute of the Environment that offers a series of courses each year. I took it this year, and the format always goes as follows: fall quarter they have a 1 credit speaker series for about an hour and a half once a week where speakers from different jobs within the green jobs sector come and share what they do, how it relates to sustainability, and why they do it. The next two quarters you can choose to join an Action Research Team (ART program) that works to make one aspect of UCLA more sustainable for 2 credits each quarter. You probably saw a lot of these groups if you went to the Earth Day Fair (and maybe you saw my group, Sustainable Food Systems). The students worked to put together the ESLP wiki page during fall quarter, and hopefully it is a helpful resource.
These are some other interesting articles I found when I went back through my facebook links (gotta love technology) so they are kind of old, but still worth a look:
This article discusses what is in the future of LA's food policy, featuring one of my favorite politicians, Eric Garcetti:
This article discusses the consequences of corporate monopolies on genetically modified seeds through intellectual property patents, specifically discussing Monsanto, which we will all learn about when we watch "Food, Inc" in class ("The Future of Food" is great for a more detailed and informative account of genetically modified organisms):
Thursday, April 29, 2010
Like many people from our class, I went to see the on-campus screening of "Food Fight." I have seen a few different documentaries about food, and am always impressed by how different they all manage to be (which also shows how food issues are so broad).
The first food documentary I saw was "Food, Inc." which was also the first time I learned anything about the food industry. I particularly like "Food Inc" because it provides a relatively comprehensive summary of the very broad issue of food production in an easily digestible (so punny!) form that appeals to a wide variety of audiences. This is why when I organize "food parties" where I make people watch this movie with me; because it gets the important points out there in a way that won't bore people who don't necessarily have an interest in the food industry coming into the film (*cough* "The Future of Food" *cough*).
Of the six times I've seen "Food, Inc," four were "food parties" where I basically force feed (punny punny) the movie to people while providing organic snacks. The last of these viewings was actually in the lounge on my floor, which I organized with my RA. The first two times I watched "Food Inc." were within a 48 hour period of each other (I watched it once with my brother based on his recommendation, and was so amazed and intrigued that I watched it again the next day).
I would say that "Food Fight" was less informative than "Food, Inc" and geared more toward people who already have a basic understanding of and interest in food issues. I thought the cultural approach that it took to documenting the changes in food production was very interesting and entertaining. I also liked the attention they gave to farmer's markets and the things that people like Alice Waters and the organizers of inner-city community gardens are doing to bring wholesome, solar powered food to places that are normally characterized by the exact opposite type of food production.
I got the chance to see Alice Waters in the flesh this past weekend when I went to the LA Times Book Fair and watched her do an hour-long presentation where she and a fellow Chez Pannise chef prepared a couple dishes using produce from the Hollywood Farmer's Market. I admire Alice for her ability as a chef, for being the most adorable and endearing hippie on the planet, and also for her efforts to help bring the local and organic foods to school children through her Edible Schoolyard program.
In "Food Fight" I really enjoyed seeing how chefs and communities are incorporating sustainable foods into their priorities, even if it's simply because of the taste. I'm a big supporter of the idea that food is an expression of culture that should be prepared and consumed in a manner that invokes pleasure: pleasure in what you're tasting, in the company of friends and family (or just yourself), and in the magnificence of the earth's biodiversity that gave you this meal. Accordingly, I loved hearing what the founders and chefs of restaurants that share these principles had to say about why they do what they do. Also, I was particularly interested in this cultural/restaurant component because of my semi-secret desire to someday open such a restaurant with my brother.
Anyway, these films and my (one-way) encounter with Alice have gotten me very excited about making my cookbook. I'm going to start outlining recipes this weekend to see if what I have in mind for the book as a whole is acceptable and feasible from an organizational standpoint.
I also found this interesting article about the future of farmer's markets:
Tuesday, April 20, 2010
When I had finished calculating my ecological footprint, I was very excited to compare it to the average American and bask in how green I am. Accordingly I had a little bit of a shock when I compared my ecological footprint of 62.6 acres to the average of 23.5 acres. The I realized that I had calculated my monthly footprint instead of my weekly one. Whewww! This reduced my overall footprint to 14.5 acres, with my food footprint being 1.0, my housing footprint being .2, my transportation footprint being .7, my goods and services footprint being .2, my stocks footprint being 12.2, and my waste being .2.
Needless to say, I was very surprised by my stocks footprint! This measured the production and environmental costs of manufacturing, selling and distributing my long-term "possessions." I use this term lightly because, as a college student living in the dorms, I do not actually own many of the things in my room. It would probably have been more realistic to divide the footprint of my bed by all of the college students who will use it in its lifetime before and after me. However, I nonetheless now look at manufactured items in a different light. Before I could not have quantified just how much of an ecological footprint my possessions could have, even when they are long-term possessions.
This experiment also made me realize that I am not as green as I think I am. Even though my footprint was considerably below that of the average American, it would still require 92.5 Earths to sustain a human population that lived like me. This also helped to quantify just how impressive it is for Merkel to live on a ecological footprint of just 2 acres. However, my results also helped me set up some short, medium and long term goals for my ecological footprint.
In the short-term (within this year) I have relatively few options concerning my lifestyle. I am already a vegetarian, which is basically the best I can do while eating it the dining halls. I can't control what the housing is like when I live in a dorm. I already use public transit instead of having my own car. I don't have a job and am a naturally stingy person, so I don't buy many things (although my laptop is a necessity as a student and just in general). I don't have control over what's in my room (bed, fridge, desk, etc). Finally, I feel like I already do a lot to minimize my waste.
One thing I could do in the short term is limit my seafood intake. I eat seafood when it presents itself (albeit, not very often), but I noticed that seafood has a very large footprint, especially when compared to something like chicken. I don't drink milk and have maybe 4 eggs a week, but I can be a little excessive in my dairy product intake due to my incalculable love of cheese. I enjoy making quesadillas
In the medium-term (1-10 years from now) I will have more flexibility to reduce my ecological footprint. Once I live outside of the dorms I plan to start a personal experiment where I only buy food (excluding when I eat at restaurants) from farmers' markets. I love the environment of farmers' markets and look forward to making friends with the farmers.
I will also still be using public transit or biking instead of driving myself, but the feasibility of this depends on where I live in relation to where I work (aka if I don't work by the beach, I will have a long commute). However, especially when I don't have a family, the most gas-guzzling vehicle I would have would be a city-cruiser scooter or motorcycle type of deal.
Due to my stinginess (I'm going to be living by the beach...) and my environmental concerns, I plan to live with multiple roommates until they are replaced by a husband-type of situation and kids. Growing up a triplet has left me very well suited for dealing with dealing with and sharing with a lot of people.
Regarding waste, I plan to institute composting, hopefully in conjunction with a small garden, and green technologies. However, I'll probably be living in an apartment or condo, so there may be rules inhibiting that.
Hoever, in the long-term (over 10 years from now) I will probably be in a position where I will own my own property, and will accordingly be able to institute changes like composting, gardening and installing green technologies. Another aspect of my long-term life that will reduce my footprint is my plan to only have one biological child and adopt others. For my future children and my own personal fulfillment, giving up my career and salary as Merkel suggests is not an option. However, I do plan on using my money to "vote" green in a capitalist economy through my purchases.
Sunday, April 18, 2010
As the beautiful harmony of Beyonce's voice washes over my ears, I think about my ensuing project: a sustainable cookbook. This is not because I am a budding Martha Stewart, nor is it because I feel like I am naturally obliged to learn to cook because I have a vagina. Big B (aka Beyonce) has taught me better than that, and "If I Were a Boy" I would still want to make a cookbook.
This is because food is such a great opportunity to make big changes to a person's lifestyle as it relates to sustainability, deliciousness and supporting local farmers. I probably won't have the chance to buy an organic T-shirt 3 times a day, but I do have the chance to vote for sustainability 3 times a day through what I eat. Well, maybe not yet, because I won't be an "Independent Woman" until this summer when I will go back to buying my own groceries (but this will stop again when I return to UCLA and start eating in the dining halls again). But when most of us start living outside of the dorms in a couple years, there will be no one to "Cater 2 U" and we will be able to cook for ourselves. For many of us, our cooking repertoire extends to cereal, canned soups and spaghetti when we're feeling fancy.
Well let me "Upgrade U." My cookbook will feature an introduction giving an overview of how sustainability relates to food, which will be "Deja Vu" for many of you. Next it will have several different appetizer, entree, and dessert options organized according to the four seasons in which they are in season. The conclusion will have a list of helpful references and links to food and sustainability-related multimedia to set you on your way to being a sustainable food "Soldier."
Maybe you're worried about how you will be able to pay your "Bills Bills Bills" while eating sustainably. Well stop "Jumpin Jumpin." There's no reason to "Ring the Alarm" because I got your back, girl.
I will also address the issue of meat-eating/vegetarian/vegan diets. If meat is "Irreplaceable" to you and you're a little food "Diva," I will help you find ways to enjoy a minimal amount of meat to the maximum. However, one aspect of eating organically that I experienced when I switched over last summer is that I felt full on much less food, I felt much more healthy, and my skin cleared up. Basically, organic food helped to "Get Me Bodied" and fit my (unfortunately un-"Bootlyliscious") badonkadonk in my "Freakum Dress" while walking around with a health "Halo." Can I get a "Single Ladies?"
I'm very excited to test out my recipes when I go home to visit my Mama J for Lil Mama's Day, but hopefully I won't "Lose My Breath" from trying to cook and/or eat too many things in such short a time period. I'll try to be a "Survivor." Hopefully you're at least sort of excited for my cookbook as well, and will want to "Check On It." I'm pretty pumped for a a cookbook to "Say My Name" on it. But for now, I'm off to have some "Sweet [Sustainable] Dreams!" Nighttttt y'all.
Monday, April 12, 2010
Since the summer of '09, sustainability has been something that I've worked to incorporate into my lifestyle, and I intend to become increasingly more sustainable throughout my life. However, if someone had asked me both before and after reading "Radical Simplicity" to envision my life 10 years from now, my answers would not be the same. In both instances I imagine myself working hard to be sustainable, but "Radical Simplicity" showed me new ways to live sustainably and broadened my views on consumerism.
Before reading "Radical Simplicity," I would imagine myself 10 years from now living in a small, energy-efficent apartment in a city near the beach with a roommate or two, eating completely from local and organic farmers' markets, and enjoying beach runs with an adorable female Chow-Chow/German Shepherd mix (http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/11/fashion/11handler.html?pagewanted=1). I wouldn't own a TV (all I watch is snippets of the intellectually enriching Chelsea Lately on youtube anyway) or a car because I would hopefully live close to my workplace and/or Villaraigosa's revamped public transit plan was successful (http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/lanow/2009/10/villaraigosa-has-bullish-plan-for-la-rail-transit-projects.html).
One of the main ways that "Radical Simplicity" has changed how I imagine myself 10 years down the road is by increasing the immediate significance of sustainable living and painting a broader picture of material production and consumerism. This has lead me to reevaluate the amount of items that I buy. Although the results shown in "Exercise 1: Trash Inventory" demonstrate that I waste less resources than the average American, I now realize that my ecological footprint is still above the sustainable amount of acres. "Radical Simplicity" outlined a lot of little ways to reduce my ecological footprint, like planting a garden and composting waste as fertilizer.
Furthermore, the fact that if everyone started only having 1 child, it would take just 100 years to reduce the global population to 1 billion (pg 1830). I have never wanted to have an only child because my experience with single children has not been very positive. I don't want to just adopt because my science classes and self-absorption have given me a desire to pass on my amazing genes for the benefit of humanity. However, limiting my biological reproduction is an easy way to work toward global sustainability, and I now plan on compromising my desires relating to reproduction, by having one biological child and then adopting more. This way my only biological child will not grow up a spoiled brat and other children up for adoption who may not have otherwise had opportunities for things like an extended education would now have that due to me adopting them.
However, two components of my envisioned lifestyle that will not change in accordance with Merkel's ideals are my desire to have a job and live in a city. I think that, although the system of, essentially, communism that Merkel proposes would work hypothetically, it would never become a reality in America because it would require the existence of a perfectly just society where no single individual valued their self-interest over that of their neighbors. Although a similar system seems to be working in Kerala, I still believe that the sociopolitical and economic upheaval that would have to occur in America to make such a system possible is impossible.
Additionally, it is unrealistic to expect everyone to go live in a forest and collect nettles, especially with demographic trends indicating that the majority of population growth will be occurring in cities. As someone interested in urban planning and public policy, I think that it is a better approach to develop and implement ways to make cities more sustainable than it is to pretend that Americans can live like Native Americans. Also, the cultural diversity found in cities provides an outlet for people wishing to pursue or enjoy "immaterial" pursuits like art and music.
Furthermore, I plan on having a green job that I find immaterial fulfillment through. I have a semi-secret fantasy that I will amass a small fortune during my early adulthood and use it to open a sustainable, local and organic restaurant with my brother. So although I now envision material changes in how I see my life 10 years from now (specifically, buying less long-term items like clothing, and buying little or no single-use items like water bottles), I don't see much of a change in my immaterial goals (having a fulfilling job, close friends and family, and the aforementioned Chow-Chow/German Shepherd mix). What I mean by fulfilling is that, if a situation arose where I could make the same amount of money whether I had a job or not, I would still choose to work because would be something that I believe makes the world a better place in some way.
By running, I think I also achieve a variety of the nonmaterial pleasures he suggests doing in the book. The repetitive motion of running mimics the repetitive breathing patterns employed during meditation which, with the natural endorphins released from the physical activity, results in a "runner's high" and the release of stress. Furthermore, because I run outside every single day, I have become very well acquainted with my surroundings, and I love noticing the seasonal changes in the local flora, deepening my connection with nature and the value I place on the environment.
For me and, I believe, a majority of Americans, such an approach provides a compromise by incorporating many of the more realistic suggestions made in "Radical Simplicity" while not implementing some of Merkel's more radical and impractical ideas.
Sunday, April 11, 2010
After a week of recording my food, paper, metal and plastic wastes, I discovered that on the average day I waste the equivalent of 3.3 banana peels, 9.3 pieces of paper, .3 aluminum cans, and .3 small plastic wrappers. This is probably less than the average American, although I would probably have more waste if I weren't living in on-campus housing at a university.
Although I've never thought of myself as a wasteful person, I was surprised by how much I wasted, particularly paper. I noticed that much of the paper I was throwing out was junk mail and handouts that I grabbed on places like Bruin walk, only to throw away later (into a recycling bin, of course). Some of the mail I get that I don't read is from organizations I've joined or supported at some point that send out periodic newsletters. I normally get this information online anyway, so whenever possible, I should suspend these newsletters. I can also stop grabbing handouts and fliers, and instead just ask for the information to be told to me verbally.
I think that the quantity and type of waste that I recorded is not representative of the average American. For example, the average American probably uses much more metal and plastic due to beverage consumption and fast-food dining (single-use items). Even though the opportunities to use these sorts of items is limited for me because I live on-campus and eat in the dining halls, I can't remember the last time I purchased a beverage that came in a single-use plastic bottle or aluminum can. Instead, I use a reusable plastic bottle.
My waste patterns reflect my own beliefs about the environment, which were fostered by the amount of time I spent outdoors as a youth and by educational programs and news articles that I've read on the subject of environmental degradation and sustainability. My belief that global warming is anthropogenic and that, accordingly, people can also be a solution to climate change, informs my lifestyle choices. I am also an extremely stingy person, which is also probably unrepresentative of the average American.
I think that people in areas like Europe that have been densely populated for very long periods of time are more likely to use fewer resources and live in higher-density areas (as opposed to sprawl) because, unlike Americans who still harbor fantasies of an endless frontier, Europeans know that their resources and space are limited.
My lifestyle as portrayed by my trash inventory is very paper-intensive with noticeable amounts of food waste and almost negligible amounts of plastic and aluminum waste. If I were living in accordance with the lifestyle laid out in "Radical Simplicity," I would probably compost my food waste to make fertilizer for my garden (the dining halls compost food waste, but don't use it as fertilizer), would basically not buy packaged items (essentially eliminating plastic and single-use metal waste), and would use less paper through a variety of methods (such as those listed in the second paragraph).
I may not be able to make many of the changes advocated by Jim Merkel due to my living situation, but there are many small changes I can make to further reduce my waste beyond the efforts I've already made to be an environmentally responsible person.