Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Midweek reflections on the No Impact Experiment

I'm not sure I'm doing all that great at this, but it is making me think. First, I'm thinking about how many eco-choices I make based on convenience. I've addressed this before: no one can do everything they can/should do to live green, and every choice you make has a cost, whether it's of time, money, access, etc. Each of us personally has to decide what we can or can't do, and then just do the best we can.

That said, there's always room for improvement. Here is one specific area I've identified, from the "no trash" day experiment. I buy snacks for my daughter that she can easily obtain from the pantry on her own, such as snack puddings or 100 calorie cookie bags. I like these because my independence-seeking daughter wants to do for herself, and because it ensures a controlled portion size for her, so she doesn't overdo it on snacks. However, I am obviously creating waste, because these snacks are packaged in non-recyclable packages.

So what to do? I can make pudding from a box, but if I want her to be able to get her own, I need to buy some small (4-6 oz) reusable plastic containers with lids to put it in, and have a designated place in the fridge for them, so my daughter can reach them. I read on another blog about a mother who places a basket in her pantry with reusable snack bags filled with small snacks for her kids to grab. That's another idea.

A harder challenge has been eating locally. With all the veggies I picked this weekend, I made soup and also a pasta dish with veggies. The veggies and herbs were local, but the Imagine soup stock I used is manufactured in New York, and the beans in Michigan. I have no clue where the pasta is from, nor the peanut butter/soy sauce/rice vinegar I used to make the sauce. This week, unless I were to eat nothing but salad and veggies, I'm not sure what else I could have done.

I have made soup stocks before, but that only works if I have the time to make the stock and plan to use it right away. Otherwise, I have no place to store the stock for later use. I like the convenience of having a bunch of cartons of Imagine stocks in my pantry, so I can just open one up to make a soup whenever I want. And what local foods could I have substituted for the pasta? Potatos and lentils are grown locally, but as much as I love them, I can get sick of them very quickly. (I made a small batch of lentils last summer when my sister-in-law was here, and she and hubby told me they liked it and asked me to make some more. Then they didn't want any more, so I tried to eat the rest on my own. After three days, I never wanted to see another lentil!)

I haven't had much success at making yeast breads, although I'm pretty good at making quick breads. All this is to say that eating local, if I were to do it right, would take a lot more than just growing my own veggies or picking them at our friend's farm. It would take a real understanding of what's available locally, and how to cook a variety of meals using just that.

The thought is a little overwhelming. Even local recipes aren't 100% local, just the main or most distinctive ingredient (say, salmon or apples), while most of the other ingredients and spices in the recipe could be from anywhere. But I'll keep learning, and taking baby steps, and maybe as long as at least some of the ingredients in my meals are local, that's okay.

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