Category Archives: local food movement

end semester review: Sustainable Me

This post rounds out the completion of a semester’s project.  To bo honest, participating in a blog has gone completely against my nature: I am a very private person, so much so that I do not even commonly use facebook. I am uncomfortable with the notion that these electronic logs will exist long after we pass away, and that the words and thoughts expressed in them can take on a life of their own.

That being said, particpating in SustainableMe has served a purpose: there is much I have learned from my fellow bloggers about little and big changes one can make in life in an effort to make the world more sustainable.

For me, the has coincided with what we have been learning in tandem with our Merchandising class- my userstanding of the concept of sustianablity has gone from basic to analytical. Initially, the word “sustainability” applied only to the environment, but as we proceeded with our lessons, I cam to understand the economic and social aspects as well.

English: Sustainability chart

English: Sustainability chart (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

That said, I did not accomplish all I had planned to achieve.  I still have a number of “outstanding” agenda points to take care of, such as:

Dansk: Glødepærer med med forskellige fatninge...

Dansk: Glødepærer med med forskellige fatninger: E10, E14 og E27. De to sidstnævnte er købt i Danmark. E10 er en 40 watts glødepære fra Kina og den er svær at finde i Danmark. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

1.) Properly dispose of my “hazardous waste” recyclables- I have been hording batteries and light bulbs to take to the Richardson Hazardous Waste Recycling Center, the pile keeps growing, but I simply have not been able to make it out of my routine to take the stuff there. But, there is a light at the end of the tunnel- Finals are almost over! Ya Hoo!

 

 

 

Česky: Pitná voda - kohoutek Español: Agua potable

Česky: Pitná voda – kohoutek Español: Agua potable (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

2.) Water Conservation– my guest bathroom faucet has a slight drip, which falls back into the sink. It has been driving me nuts, even more so as we have discusses all the water issues throught this learning, and has become a real point of contention between my spouse and myself (he does not see it as a problem, as the water drips back into the sink basin, and our water bills are low). Again- I will steahily have to attack this issue when the time allows- get a few repairmen in, to evaluate the costs of repair, and get some estimates.  As we learned with many “corporations”, sometimes the only way to sell sustainabity improvements is based on a “cost/benefit” analysis, which is what I am going to have to perform for my very frugal husband!

 

 

I feel particularly proud that this project has moved me into a course fo action: for example, joining my child’s elementary school Green Acres Garden board in an effort to launch their school garden and sustainable food program. This will evolve over time, and as the kids are very young, should have lasting impacts until they reach middle school.  It will also give me the chance to learn how to “operationalize” sustainability in the “public works” realm- dealing with multiple stakeholders: school boards, governance bodies, and small companies from which we will be soliciting support, and families.

Learning by Doing

Learning by Doing (Photo credit: BrianCSmith)

God bless you all and have a wonderful “sustainable” holiday season!

Is dining out unsustainable?

wasted-food-250x166

I feel I am becoming more and more concerned about trash, and have to do penance anytime something is thrown out.

My current “aha” is food waste- and dining out is a big part of it!  As a parent, in the currently unstable economy, most people know that moving to a “home cooked” philosophy makes for the best remedy for better health and nutrition.

Unfortunately, as a student ans stressed out mom, this last month has had me put cooking on the back burner, and instead focus on my studies, and just getting through the day?

But besides nutrition, at what cost is my behavior impacting the environment?

food-waste

According to a study done by the EPA, Food Waste is becoming the #1 material in land fills. http://culture.wnyc.org/npr_articles/2012/nov/27/for-restaurants-food-waste-is-seen-as-low-priority/

“Food waste is huge,” says Schwab, a senior analyst in the waste division at the Environmental Protection Agency. “Food waste is now the No. 1 material that goes into landfills and incinerators.” In a recent interview with NPR, Schwab explained that food waste from restaurants makes up 15 percent of all the food that ends up in landfills. And all that food doesn’t just take up space and attract pests — it’s also changing the climate. “Because it rots so fast, basically it starts to generate methane really quickly,” says Schwab. Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Source: NPR

Methane is a greenhouse gas that’s 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide. And reducing methane emissions from sources like landfills is one of the Environmental Protection Agency’s biggest priorities in the fight against climate change.

NPR also reports that apx three cents of every dollar consumers spend on food away from home ends up in the trash. And that doesn’t even include the food left on your plate or the slimy lettuce forgotten in the fridge.

In my family, we try to be very aware of what we have in our fridge or pantry- most of my friends are hard up when they come over, just because of our lack of “perceived” options- but that’s only to force us to eat everything we buy, and not waste!

The figures are staggering, and will definitely make you want to thin twice before stopping off at that local fast food joint!

Here’s a few collected on July 13, 2009, by Green Eco Services: http://www.greenecoservices.com/food-waste-in-restaurants/

I Just Gotta Tell Ya

  • A single restaurant disposes of more than 50 tons of organic waste every year.
  • Food waste is 76% organic and can be recycled
  • Meanwhile cost of food has increased 8%
  • 27 percent of all food is thrown out, which works out to a pound of food every day for every American.
  • Full service restaurants waste more food than fast food eateries. Food scraps make up 66 percent of restaurants’ trash, compared to 52 percent at fast food places.

Why don’t restaurants donate food the the needy? It seems they cite liablity and other issues. I wonder if they are just lazy and don’t want to take the time.

But at the restaurant level, what can be done? (Perhaps donation to food banks!)

Earth Talk magazine reported on the issue recently: EarthTalk® E/The Environmental Magazine, http://www.foodreference.com/html/a-restaurant-waste-511.html

Dear EarthTalk: I work at a fast food place and I am appalled by the amount of unpurchased food we throw away. The boss says we can’t give it away for legal reasons. Where can I turn for help on this, so the food could instead go to people in need?
— Ryan Jones, Richland, WA (11/14/2010)

Many restaurants, fast food or otherwise, are hesitant to donate unused food due to concerns about liability if people get sick after eating it—especially because once any such food is out of the restaurant’s hands, who knows how long it might be before it is served again. But whether these restaurants know it or not, they cannot be held liable for food donated to organizations, and sometimes all it might take to change company policy would be a little advocacy from concerned employees.

A 1995 survey found that over 80 percent of food businesses in the U.S. did not donate excess food due to liability concerns. In response, Congress passed the Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Act, which releases restaurants and other food organizations from liability associated with the donation of food waste to nonprofits assisting individuals in need. The Act protects donors in all 50 states from civil and criminal liability for good faith donations of “apparently wholesome food”—defined as meeting “all quality and labeling standards imposed by Federal, State and local laws and regulations even though the food may not be readily marketable due to appearance, age, freshness, grade, size, surplus or other condition.”

Unused or even partially eaten food waste can
also be utilized even if it’s not edible by human standards. The U.S.
Department of Agriculture approves of food businesses giving or selling food
waste to local farmers for use in composting or as animal feed. If such food
contains or has come into contact with meat, it should be boiled for 30 minutes
to reduce the risk of bacterial infections in the animals that eat it. Many
states have complementary laws on the books regulating the donation of food
waste at the local level.

Diverting food waste to feed hungry people or for animal feed or compost is a winning scenario for all concerned parties as it not only provides relief to overburdened landfills but also helps meet social welfare, agricultural and environmental needs. Also, those restaurants, grocery stores and other businesses that donate food will likely reap the additional reward of saving money on their actual waste removal bill as their trash bins and dumpsters won’t be filling up quite so fast.

Get Involved

Feeding America- Feeding America, the nation’s largest charitable hunger relief organization. Feeding America supports a network of 206 food banks in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. Before September 2008, Feeding America was named America’s Second Harvest—The Nation’s Food Bank Network. The organization adopted a rebranding effort in order to help better educate and engage the public about our role in the fight against hunger. The new brand will allow them to build the support they need to feed 1 million more people each year, to significantly increase participation in federal nutrition programs, and to inspire the public to take action.

CONTACTS: CalRecycle, http://www.calrecycle.ca.gov; Mama’s Health, http://www.mamashealth.com; North Carolina Division of Pollution Prevention and Environmental Assistance, http://www.p2pays.org

SEND YOUR ENVIRONMENTAL QUESTIONS TO: EarthTalk®, c/o E – The Environmental Magazine, P.O. Box 5098, Westport, CT 06881

Bibliography

Barclay, E. (2012, 11 27). For restaurants, food   waste is seen as low priority. Retrieved 12 3, 2012, from NPR:   http://culture.wnyc.org/npr_articles/2012/nov/27/for-restaurants-food-waste-is-seen-as-low-priority/

Cathy. (2009, July 13). Food Waste in Restaurants. Retrieved 12 3, 2012, from Greenecoservices.com: http://www.greenecoservices.com/food-waste-in-restaurants/

 

 

 

Greening my kids school: launching ACM Acre Learning Garden

Last Friday, my girls and I proudly joined the PTA’s newly formed Green Acre board at our elementary school.

As an extension of RISD (Richardson Independent School District)’s Environmental program, http://www.risd.org/group/aboutrisd/RISDGoesGreen.html, our local PTA at Arapaho Classical Magnet ( http://www.acmpta.org/) partnered with the Green School Initiative (http://greenschoolsinitiative.com/) in an effort to elaborate on their pillar of “Greening the School Yard” (see additional information at : http://www.greenschools.net/article.php?id=131

Help has also come from partnering with the EPA through their EPA Environmental Education (EE) Grant Program: (http://www.epa.gov/education/grants_faq.html)

Through the assistance of the Home Depot Foundation, as part of their communityYouth Garden Grant  (http://www.kidsgardening.org/), the school not only received money and resources (topsoil, mulch, fruit trees), the Home Depot team actually came out and helped us build the garden beds! Here are a few pictures of our fabulous time spent (kids, parents, teachers, and Home Depot volunteers) last Friday laying the groundwork for the garden! Everyone had a blast!

The initial challenges were to getting everything in order to meet the EPA grant requirements:

  • The garden had to be completely organic (no pesticides)
  • The garden has to be completely self sustaining (makes use of rainwater and roof runoff). This required us to invest in a rainwater conservation system, generously donated by Comerica bank.
  • We had to have a certain fund established ($5000 for startup, to $25000 to sustain) in order to break ground, which is separate from any of the other school funds or programs already in place.

Active fundraising and solicitation helped us to bridge the Home Depot Foundation (who donated fruit trees, wood, soil, and other materials as well as manually labor to build the project!), as well as establish some future relationships which will expand the garden’s life throughout the school year,

For example, Central Market (http://www.centralmarket.com/about.aspx) has signed up to donate herbs for an herb garden, and later come in once the crop is ready to do a cooking presentation for the children incorporating the herbs and stressing the need for healthy eating.

 

Future Goals

Future goals also include establishing a composting garden:

Earth 911 takes about composting in their article: Why compost in the first place? http://earth911.com/news/2012/05/02/how-to-choose-the-right-composting-system-for-you/

“If recycling hasn’t kept your household trash cans as empty as you expected, food waste is likely to blame. The EPA estimates that each American throws away an average of 1.3 pounds of food scraps daily. Composting allows you to recapture these resources and reuse them as fertilizer in your own garden or another garden in your community – keeping loads of useful materials out of the landfill.”

The school is also looking into a worm bin for composting the food products left over from kids’ school lunches:

“Let worms eat your organic waste! They will happily turn it into some of the best fertilizer on earth – worm compost, otherwise known as “worm castings” or “vermicompost.”

Only a few things are needed to make good worm compost: a bin, bedding, worms and worm food.”

More information on worm bins can be found at Eart911: http://earth911.com/news/2007/04/02/composting-with-worms/

Related articles

Too Much Stuff!

Too much Stuff!

Ever heard of “the materials economy“?  Author and activist Annie Leonard breaks it down very clearly in her book and documentary series (the Story of Stuff, http://dev.storyofstuff.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/annie_leonard_footnoted_script.pdf) as what we THINK we already know of the sustainability issue: “extraction to production to distribution to consumption to disposal”.

The Story of Stuff

The Story of Stuff (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Natural Capitalism: Creating the Next Industri...

Natural Capitalism: Creating the Next Industrial Revolution (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

 

 

 

 

 

In fact, according to author Paul Hawkin, in his book Natural Capitalism (1999), p.81, apx 99% of all the product society comes across is TRASHED after 6 months!

Now, of course, that doesn’t just apply to what we BUY,the author here is referring to the whole systemic product lifecyle: extraction, production, packaging, transporation, and selling all that stuff is involved too… so where does my “ownership” of the problem come in?

The Story of Stuff

The Story of Stuff (Photo credit: net_efekt)

Well, think for a moment about the fact that the “average American” now consumes twice as much as they did 50 years ago! Why is that? (“Why Consumption Matters” by Betsy Taylor and Dave Tilford,in The Consumer Society Reader Edited by Juliet B Schor andDouglas Holt (2000), p. 467.)

The New York Times - How Americans Spend their...

The New York Times – How Americans Spend their Money (Photo credit: davidcrow)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Is this generational, you might ask?  My own Grandma used to reference how they were “war babies” and participated in “rationing”, but I was too young to pay attention. Now that she is gone, I wish I could have learned more from her example….

Grandma's Class

Grandma’s Class (Photo credit: Henthorn)

We seem to be losing touch with our connection to what we surround ourselves with and where it comes from. For example: growing up, both my parents and grandparents had a garden.  We would supplement our dinner table with fresh greens and fruits.  Now, I have to hit the local farmers market, or Sprouts, to have a similar experience for my own children….do they even know how these things are grown?

So, what can we do?  Well, everyone loves a party.. and there is one coming up just on this topic! Instead of taking advantage of Black Friday sales, many activists will be taking to the streets this year to bring awareness to the issue in celebration of “BUY NOTHING DAY”

Credit on Toast

How do you want to butter your bread?

So, this year for Thanksgiving, I plan on making my “vote” count, and “speaking” with my dollars, by staying home with my family and NOT shopping for a while!  I hope that this will set an example for my children, that quality of life is not in the goods that you own, but in how you act with the people you surround yourself with.

 

Buy Nothing Day promo

Buy Nothing Day promo

 

 

Activists take to the streets on Black Friday to protest compulsive consumerism!

 

Extensions on Recycling- “Re-Use” ing

Richardson Four Seasons Farmers Market

Another nice reason to frequent our local farmer’s market ( http://www.fourseasonsmarkets.com/ ) right here is Richardson is that one has the opportunity to “double dip” on the sustainability issue, working with vendors who allow their customer to return the packaging used to the point of purchase for an added discount.

I found two suppliers who offerred this program as an incentive, and I am sure there are probably more:

Cita’s Salsa
DALLAS, TX-75214

Mimi’s Bees
Highland Park, TX-75219
Category: Honey – Soaps/Candles

(don’t worry- she doesn’t actually bring the bees with her to the market- just the products)

Mimi with honey bees

I makes me feel better that not all things need to be “disposed of”- that we can “re-purpose” too!

 

Becoming a “Loca-vore”

Becoming a “Loca-vore”

Image

With much romanticism in my heart, I then moved to France to continue my studies.  Paris is a very historic city with tradition engrained into the heart of its culture.  Every weekend, Parisians would flock to the farmers markets surrounding the city, where local farmers, butchers, bakers, and just about every other type of food related vendor set up shop for the morning.  You could pick out your own chicken from a coop, or a bushel of fresh eggs that had just been laid that morning, fresh milk and local honey, the list goes on and on.  In Paris, apartments are small, so people don’t “stock up” as they do here in the US, the concept was more along the lines of what you could consume within a week’s time, the fresher the better. The philosophy has stuck with me ever since- piggy backing on my early childhood memories of eating beans, peas, and tomatoes right off the vine.

“Loca-vore” speaks to the grassroots local food initiative taking place in your own community.  Here in Richardson, there is a small farmer’s market just down the street  on Campbell from the hospital held every Saturday morning, called the Four Seasons Farmers Market, where you can buy grass fed beef, locally harvested honey (great for helping build up resistance to local allergies), and a variety of Texan farmers selling fresh fruits and vegetables.

http://bikefriendlyrichardson.org/2011/06/25/there-is-a-farmers-market-in-richardson/