Earth-Friendly Changes, and Eating Local

| January 14, 2010 | 10 Comments

CSA BoxDo you know where your food comes from?

Yes, you probably know where you purchased it. But do you know where it was before it entered that store? Some people do, but many people do not. I am not even sure if the majority of people think about these things. But I do. These are questions that I ponder a lot. After seeing Food, Inc. last month, I knew I needed to know these answers for the food in my house.

A few short years ago, I shopped by price point only. We were on a tight budget and staying within that budget was essential. But then, the budget got looser and the fears got greater, so I started to pay more attention. Do you remember the recalls of spinach and other tainted foods? They scared me. A lot. So, I researched my local foodshed. It was hard because a few years ago there weren’t as many resources to help with this task. But it was worth it. Today, I am lucky to know of local bloggers like Sophie at Late Bloomer’s Farm, who has put together a great foodshed resource for my area.

Last summer, I tried my hand at growing our own food and had reasonable success. This summer, we will do it again. Bigger and better. Will and I have been talking about what we will grow (he’s requesting watermelon-that will be interesting). I am debating between ordering seeds and buying starter plants … I am just not sure which way we’ll go. But either way, we will be growing more this summer.

The more I learn, the more passionate I am about eating local food bought from local places. We have a wonderful array of farms around here. With minimal effort, we can have delightful grassfed beef from a few towns over, mouthwatering smoked cheddar from New York and other wonderful foods. Yes, I spend more on food now than ever. Yes, I still go to the grocery store and Trader Joe’s. But I also feel good about what we eat and worry less.

How do you feel about eating local? To me, it encompasses so much – being gentler on the environment, eating well, truly knowing my food (and those that grow it).

I had the most interesting conversation with someone from Fine Cooking Magazine on Twitter over the past few days about making the mental shift to a local-mindedness. I mentioned how overwhelming it was to make the actual shift to doing after I made the mental shift. And it really was. Eating locally is a huge commitment and one that takes a full rewriting of all the food philosophies you have inherited through your upbringing. Anyway, my Fine Cooking friend pointed out that what it comes down to isn’t making a total change overnight, but rather making whatever change you can today.

It’s so true.

10 Small Earth-Friendly Changes You Could Make Today

  1. Reuse your leftovers. I’ve never been a huge fan of eating leftovers, but the truth is that with a bit of ingenuity, you can transform last night’s dinner into a whole new dish tonight. Read about some of my suggestions for Double-Duty Dinners on SheKnows.
  2. Use everything. When you squeeze a lemon or an orange, what do you do with the peel? Unless you need it for zest right away, you probably toss it. Don’t! That peel makes a great flavoring for food in the form of zest. Simply toss it in a resealable bag or container and freeze it until you are ready to use it.
  3. Stick a reusable bag in your purse and/or car. When I first started using reusable bags, I forgot them half the time. Now, I always carry one with me in my purse. Even if I forget my other bags, I can at least trade out one plastic bag for the reusable one. Every bit counts.
  4. Grow herbs. Have a sunny windowsill? Stick a pretty pot up there and start growing an herb or two. Once the plant gets to be a good size, you won’t believe how easy it is to constantly have fresh herbs at your fingertips.
  5. Ask your neighbor if they need anything at the store. Have you ever had a moment where you ran out of one little but extremely important food item and had to run to the store for just that? Wouldn’t it have been awesome if your neighbor called just then to ask if you needed something? Do it. Start the trend. If you are going, why not save someone else a trip?
  6. Write a shopping list. If you write down what you need and buy only those items, you will purchase less, save more and prevent overbuying.
  7. Write that shopping list on your smartphone. Yes, saving even one sheet of paper matters.
  8. Check Local Harvest’s website. Do you know where your local farms are? What they sell? Just look! Who knows, you might even be inspired to head on over.
  9. Read the labels. You could be walking right past local sausage and not know it. If you see an unfamiliar label, take 10 seconds and read the packaging. Who knows, your local market could be stocking all sorts of local goodies.
  10. Go natural. Supermarkets are catching on to the idea that people want food that is free from antibiotics, growth hormones and the like. Look for items that are labeled to be free from these things and buy them.

Category: Eating Locally, Homecooking, Gardening

About the Author ()

Sarah Walker Caron is a freelance writer, editor and recipe developer. Her work has appeared in countless online and print publications including iVillage, BELLA NYC Magazine, Yum for Kids magazine and more. She lives in Connecticut with her two kids, two beagles and husband.

Comments (10)

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  1. Sook says:

    Love #1! I just reused my left over tuna steak and it was fab! Thanks for the list.

  2. Sophie says:

    Excellent suggestions Zoe!

    And way to go with growing your own. Just one thing:

    I am debating between ordering seeds and buying starter plants …

    Make sure you know where the starts came from too!

  3. carrie says:

    Agree with Cate, and agree with you. A friend planted a plot in our community garden last summer and started watermelon from seed in containers in her house, and we got about a dozen of them. They were small and delicious. I’m looking forward to summer and hopefully having some interested helpers in the garden, too. ;)

  4. zoe p. says:

    Um. This is Zoe. And while I totally love all of these suggestions, I did not make them! I think Sophie had a CT food bloggers keyboard hiccup.

    But I especially love #9. By reading labels – and then reading up on companies that distribute to my local grocery stores and corner stores – I’ve found that I can support local small businesses more easily and more often than I would have thought. Even when things get hectic.

    Oh wait, I do have a suggestion: READ LOCALLY. Take a look the local paper every now and then. Check local internet news sources and (if you’re not already inundated) sign up for newsletters and emails. Even if they aren’t necessarily food related you’ll learn about transportation and economic issues, environmental efforts and food policy decisions that affect your daily life, and your community’s future.

    • Sarah Caron says:

      LOL, Zoe! I didn’t even notice when I approved that. Hehehe. And great suggestion. Reading locally is so important too.

      Carrie, wow, really? I am going to pick up a few of those mini greenhouse boxes to get Will’s watermelon’s started. Do they spread like pumpkins?

      Sophie, thanks! And very good point about starters. I typically get mine from Shortt’s.

      Sook, excellent! I LOVE tuna steak.

      Cate, I can’t wait to see what YOU grow this summer :)

  5. Sarah,
    Our Twitter convo has me thinking more deeply about the changes that we can make in our own household and your list is a great tool (I’m encouraged to see that we have already implemented some of them) Thanks for keeping the conversation going-I intend to as well.
    Best,
    Michaela

  6. This is one of my biggest challenges for the year! Last year was the very first time I tried to do a garden of any kind. Didn’t produce a whole lot, but it was a good learning experience, and an important part of the process for me. Hopefully I’ll be able to do much better this time around.

    One place I screwed up a bit was trying to do EVERYTHING from seed. Not that it’s not possible, but it was a bit advanced for MY level of skill. I did get three ginormous zucchini, a few tomatoes (to of which were delicious!) and some kale. Plus quite a lot of herbs, until I left town for 2 weeks and the person taking care of the house neglected to water them.

    So! Onward and upward!

  7. Marcia Earth says:

    I’ve always stored leftovers because I generally find that I can’t often eat a full portion of whatever it is at one sitting

    More to do with saving money than saving the planet.

    I’ve been very surprised to find people who won’t eat leftovers.

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