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For Earth Day: Eight Green Steps

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Ever since I read Russ Parson’s “How to Eat a Peach,” and a slew of articles in magazines encouraging “green” eating, I have been thinking, and sometimes writing about ways to shop, cook and eat that will reduce our carbon footprint.  True confessions: since my Earth Day post a year ago, I’ve done a pretty half-assed job. I have bought local produce when it was convenient, I grew nothing in my garden, I bought no locally raised protein, I canned and preserved nothing…my greatest effort was really switching to cloth grocery totes. There are also “green” choices that we made long ago, like cooking more often, buying fewer processed foods and choosing not to buy water in plastic bottles. There are reasons for all of these decisions and failure to decide, some good and some pathetic, but I’m ready to try again. That’s kind of the beauty of the whole “green” concept; it’s a good fit with the concepts of growth, and renewal, and cycling back to grow again another year.

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This Earth Day, I am going to commit to do eight “green” things related to food, in the hopes that I can help to preserve our beautiful earth and set a good example for Sam. I have done a little research to get ideas about what these “Green Steps” should be, and have borrowed from here and here and here and here. This is not going to be an easy thing; the budget around here is tight, and I have learned that my family will graciously eat a vegetarian entree, but that it had better be ample and hearty, or they’ll be into the snacks in two hours because they didn’t get enough to eat.  It also takes a lot (!) of hours to do a few of the things I am planning to do (gardening, canning), and I may have to make some tough choices about what I want to do with free time. (I am also hoping to blog, at least once a week, about how the Green Steps are progressing).

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Finally, as I compiled this list I became aware of the fact that some of these steps will save money, some will be more expensive, and some will likely be a wash. That means I’ll need to watch that balance, too, and I’ve indicated for each item whether I think it will cost more than my previous practices, save money, or do neither.

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Here’s my list

Eating Seasonally and Locally (Should Cost Neither More Nor Less)This is an easy, easy promise to make right now, and I can’t tell you that in the fall and winter I will not be buying any fruit or vegetables flown in from California or Florida. I can say that I am going to keep track of what’s in season here in Michigan right now, and to concentrate on buying those things from the most local sources possible. Consulting a couple of sites that lists local, seasonal produce, I have discovered that in April I should be concentrating on:

  1. Asparagus
  2. Broccoli
  3. cabbage
  4. mushrooms
  5. “greens”
  6. rhubarb

I like all of those things (although Sam hates mushrooms) and I think I can work with that list for the next week or so – May looks more promising in terms of local stuff. I will need not only to create menus starting tomorrow using these seasonal ingredients, but I’ll have to check at the store on shopping day to see if the Asparagus, Broccoli, etc. was grown in Michigan or flown or trucked in from elsewhere despite the fact that it is available locally. If it’s all “imported,” I may have to reconsider where I do my grocery shopping. This will all be infinitely easier when the Farmers Market opens…and harder again when it folds up in the fall.

Grow a Row (Should Be a Net Savings)I have already told you all that I have these fantasies about gardening; it’s time to get serious. I can’t promise a mini farm, but I can try to grow some “easy” things this summer, like cherry tomatoes, green peppers, cucumbers, strawberries and herbs. If I can really do this, it will involve O carbon footprint and save us money. It’s a big “if” though….

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Save it For Later (Will Cost Money This Year Because I Need to Buy Equipment). If I can jar, can, bottle or freeze as much as possible when it’s fresh and in season, we can have at least a version of it when it isn’t without having it processed or transported. I am going to learn to do this. I am.

Less Red Meat/Make it Grass Fed (More Expensive) This is going to be VERY tough in the Nichols household, where both males are serious carnivores, and Sam’s favorite food is “steak – duh.” On the other hand, I think we need to be aware that meat comes from animals, and that as animal lovers we have some responsibility to think about where our beef comes from, and how the animals were treated during their lives, as well as how the cattle farming practices impact the environment.

In a perfect world, I would buy a side of locally raised, grass-fed beef and freeze it, but we have neither a large freezer nor the cash for both a side of beef and a large freezer in one fell swoop. Since the side of beef isn’t practical for now, my plan is to save for a freezer, and to plan that we will only eat red meat twice a week (if that) and that it will have to be grass fed/organic. It costs the earth to buy that kind of meat, and I’ll have to plan very carefully to be able to afford it, and to use it for maximum meat-ilicious impact. (In other words, if you really like meat, ground beef in a spaghetti sauce does not make your heart sing like a steak on the grill).

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Choose Seafood Carefully (More Expensive) Rob and I tend to eat seafood once a week, when Sam is otherwise engaged. I’d like to bump it up to twice a week and let him eat cereal, if he insists. My sources tell me that it is environmentally unsound to buy or order: Chilean sea bass, swordfish, and ahi tuna. It’s okay to eat Tilapia, wild salmon (especially Alaskan), domestic mahi mahi, Pacific halibut, Pollock, white seabass and sardines, as well as oysters, clams, calamari, and American lobster. (I will NOT be eating any sardines, thank you very much).

Buy in Bulk (Should Save Money). Okay; this is an easy one. Anything scooped out of a bin bought in bulk uses less packaging, and I can get exactly as much as I need.

veggies

Join a CSA (More Expensive) Another no-brainer. I would love nothing more than to have a weekly assortment of locally grown CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) stuff to play with in the kitchen. There are several CSA options in our area, including one that is organized around the organic agriculture program at out outstanding local University, originally founded as “Michigan Agricultural College.” Doesn’t get much better than that.

Eat More Vegetarian Meals (Should Save Money). According to Bon Apetit: “Vegetables require less energy and water to grow and produce no greenhouse gases, so they’re a far more efficient food source than domesticated livestock.” If we can eat two vegetarian meals a week, I’ll call it a good start. Of course, Rob may call it a cold day in hell…..

As I said; I’ll keep you posted. I’m committed to trying, and I’ll make the menus, ask the questions, call the CSA, buy the seeds and canning jars as promised, but there will have to be a workable balance for the members of my family who are not making this commitment. You know, though, as long as we’re trying to make life cleaner and greener on this  earth on which we hurtle through space,  we might as well keep the ride interesting, too…..

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About imagineannie

I feel like I'm fifteen - does that count? I'm lots of things, I get paid to be the Managing Editor for a local news publication, and I love my job. I am also inordinately fond of reading, animals (I have four), elephants, owls, hedgehogs writing, tramping in the woods, cooking India, Ireland, England, avocado toast, Sherlock Holmes, Harry Potter, Little Women, Fun Home, Lumber Janes, Fangirl, magic, Neil Gaiman, Jane Austen, YA books, not YA books, classical music, Salinger (OMG SALINGER), Brahms, key lime pie, indie music, podcasts, sleeping in, road trips, marmalade, museums, bookstores, the Oxford comma, BBC, The Miss Fisher Mysteries, birdwatching, seashells, kombucha, and stickers. Not a huge fan of chewing gum, jazz, trucker hats or dystopian and/or post-apolcalyptic fiction (but I'll try anything).

12 responses »

  1. We might be willing to share some of these possibilities with you–splitting a side of beef, splitting a CSA share and/or growing veggies in our immense, sunny yard (altho bunnies and deer are an issue).

    Reply
  2. what about canning salsa?? I know a lot of people who do that. I have some of the same dreams Ann. Let’s all do better. I have visions of us all riding our bikes to the new farmers market. . . ahh.

    ps Daniel LOVED the hill by your house. “it’s so high” he was thrilled. Wouldn’t it be nice to get excited about something like that?

    Reply
  3. Mary – that sounds good! The beef will have to wait until we have room (although maybe a quarter of a steer would fit in our regular freezer?) and I would LOVE to have a little plot where I could grow some veggies and not have to move them around to follow the sun. Do you have a CSA in mind? My first choice is MSU’s, but the last times I tried to sign up, there was a wait list.

    Michelle – that’s on my list. Tomato sauce, salsa, jam, chutney, pickles, chutney…probably a little ambitious, but I like to dream big. 🙂 It would be great if we could just head down to Valley Court and buy things to “put up;” very Laura Ingalls, in a good way. I’m glad Daniel loved the hill. I need a happy association with it (that’s where John Ropp was killed) so now I’ll think about how much Daniel likes it, instead of the accident.

    Reply
  4. Great goals! We should all follow suit!
    I would question the seasonality of broccoli and cabbage grown locally in Michigan. Unless they’re grown in cold frames ? Perhaps. They are usually a fall crop around here and I’m guessing you are in a similar growing zone.
    Have you checked the availability of renting a meat storage locker? We used to have a butcher here who rented space in his freezer to local hunters and folks who raised beef animals for home use. I don’t know if anyone still does this.
    Oh, and watch garage and tag sales for canning jars and supplies. I’ve gotten loads of old jars that way. Then you only have to buy new seals and rings!

    Reply
    • Trisha, turns out you were right about the broccoli and cabbage – pipe dreams. As for the meat storage, I’ll check. This is a big hunting area (well, we are pretty urban, but surrounded by communities where people hunt) and lots of folks here hunt in “Up North” Michigan and come back with deer and other critters. As for canning stuff; I’m on it. My sister in law and I are thinking of going in together on a pressure canner – any opinions about whether we actually need one? We don’t want to give our kids botulism…most of the time….

      Reply
  5. Ann,

    Lots of differant kinds of footprints we leave. Being thoughtful of how we treat the old girl is important enough to just make it habit and instinct. 2 generations back it wasnt thought of, 2 generations from now it will be critical to survival. And we find ourselves here now, it is up to us to turn this thing around. Who says God doesnt have a sense of humor.

    Congratulations on caring kid. Those following in your footprint will thank you for it……….

    Reply
    • Well said, and thanks for the encouragement. We are all pretty entrenched in out non-earth friendly ways around here, and it seems funny some times that it’s so hard to live more simply and use less stuff. To quote Pete Seeger (or who ever wrote the song) “inch by inch, row by row; I’m going to watch this garden grow….”

      Reply
  6. Ann,

    We have an attorney in Grand Rapids who is part time lawyer, part time farmer/large animal vet. A lot of attorneys in Lansing and GR split his cows that he raises. I think he has dairy cows and cattle. You can even go meet your cow. Once you get a freezer, holler at me if you are interested.

    As for us, I’m in the market for someone to share a Michigan pig. I think they have them in St. Johns. We are just too small of a family right now for a whole pig, particularly when I only love a few parts of the pig. Mmmm… pork tenderloin without thinking about the documentary Death on a Factory Farm. I can only wish.

    Reply
    • imagineannie

      Kristin, that lawyer sounds fascinating – the getting of the freezer is a summer project, and I will absolutely let you know when we’re ready. I am ecstatic about the pig possibility – that’s the only thing I haven’t been able to source locally.

      Reply
  7. Pingback: Gone Fishing: Earth Day Style « Regal Springs Tilapia Blog

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