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Food and drink

30 days of food-wise sustainability, One step at a time

By Glenda Bartosh

The second “30 Days of Sustainability” campaign recently wound up. Sponsored by an unlikely assortment of bedfellows, ranging from the Georgia Straight to Alcan, the province-wide initiative that kicks off on Earth Day grabbed more attention this year. The big seller was the “turn it off” campaign May 16 that saw lots of folks — including the lightkeepers on Lions Gate Bridge — power off.

One woman interviewed on CBC was integrating one new thing that was sustainable into her life for each of the 30 days. Her ideas were totally doable — things like buying a low-flow showerhead to only running the tap to rinse her toothbrush instead of recreating Niagara Falls the whole time she brushed her teeth. She intended to retain all 30 new choices permanently.

That got me thinking, why not do the same with food-based initiatives? So here are 30 things you can do that will make this beleaguered planet — and maybe even you — healthier, ergo more sustainable. Most of them are small but totally doable. And even if you do just one of them once, it will make a difference.

1. Go organic, even just once. Try it. Buy one organic apple. Or one piece of organic meat. See if it tastes better. Or if you feel better knowing it was grown without chemicals, or sprays, or raised without hormones or antibiotics. You don’t have to get too hung up on it being certified. If you know the source and they say they aren’t using chemical fertilizers or pesticides, it’s got to be okay.

2. Cut down on meat, or go vegetarian all the way . Try eliminating just one meat dish this week for starters. I know it’s tough when you’ve been raised a meat-lovin’ Canadian. My husband and I both wish we didn’t like meat so much, so what we’ve done is compromise. We eat much less meat than we used to, and we do our darnedest to buy what I call clean meat — either certified organic or from a source we trust that’s raised the animals with respect and care. There are a lot of good moral and practical arguments out there for going vegetarian or even vegan if you can, and now’s as good a time as ever to make the switch.

3. Eat porridge . Lots of it, every day for brekkie. It’s a great fuel, satisfying and tasty, and easy on the old Earth to grow, produce and even cook. (Boiling up a pot of porridge uses about 10 minutes of stove-based energy vs. how many hours in an oven for a roast?) Besides, if you have porridge for breakfast, I guarantee you’ll be less hungry all day long. How sustainable is that?

4. Buy local. You know what that means. B.C. over Washington. Pemberton over B.C.

5. Read labels . So you can achieve point 4 — and more.

6. Eat local . For groceries and otherwise. Just once this month when you get the eat-out impulse, choose a restaurant that’s closer to you than you would have otherwise. If you walk or cycle, of course it doesn’t matter.

7. Eat less! How’s that for an easy but sustainable initiative? One conscious forkful less is one less forkful of food something or someone somewhere had to produce. Not such a difficult thing to do, but if 32,932,878 Canadians each ate one forkful less…

8. Go raw. It’s simple, fun and crunchy — and nine times out of 10 really good for you.

9. Use less! Run the dishwasher only when it’s full. Take fewer napkins at your favourite café. We’ve all gotten into these habits of entitlement that are just that — habits. Pretend it’s the last tree on earth, the last egg, the last coffee bean that just got used for you. Feels different, doesn’t it?

10. Go clean with the cleaners. We’re nearly cleaning ourselves to death. Organic, gentle cleaners with not-so-perfect results are really better for everything. Maybe even give cleaning a skip once this week. Have fun with the time you save.

11. Take a break on take-out. In an ideal world nobody would get take-out, or if we did, we’d each have our own stainless steel tiffin carriers like they do in India. So just once, think twice about take-out. If you go for it anyway and the server starts lobbing everything into the usual plastic containers, ask if they are biodegradable; if not, gently ask why not. Containers made from corn starch and potato starch work fine.

12. BYOB. Bring your own bags. Pop small items in your purse or pocket or do something really radical and walk out of the store carrying them — keep your receipt handy.

13. Look for fair trade bird-friendly coffee. Try it. Once. Listen for a bird song that morning and tell the singer (always a male) what you did for him that day. Think about what you did for the people growing the coffee.

14. Keep it simple. Make simpler dishes. Spend the time saved connecting with family or friends.

15. Use family recipes. They usually do the above and connect you with generations past. They might also make you think of those yet to come — the ones you’re doing all this for.

16. Meet a farmer. Ask her about her work.

17. Learn. About all the stuff to do with food, especially the stuff you don’t see or even think about.

18. Plant a garden. Even a small one. Okay, that’s pretty ambitious, so…

19. Plant ONE food plant. In a pot on your balcony, or on your windowsill. Try basil, parsley, whatever.

20. Grow your own sprouts.

21. Eat what you buy.

22. Buy what you need. Or want. Just quit stockpiling.

22. Go French. Shop more often and buy less, which means “fresher” — ooh la la.

23. Buy in season. That means you can freeze fresh berries when they’re around. Just pick out the bits you don’t want and freeze them in small bags. Wash them under the tap when you’re ready to use them and you’ll clean and thaw them at the same time.

24. Share more meals more often. You’ll save time, energy — yours and the planet’s — and you’ll have more fun!

25. Fast. One day? One afternoon?

26. Share food or clean water with somebody in another country. Join Foster Parent’s Plan or any initiative you trust that helps sustain people not as lucky as you.

27. Drop a jar in the food bank bin. Sustain somebody at home.

28. Buy pet food that makes sense. Ask, read and learn.

29. Drink more water. It’s simple, healthy and fills you up.

30. Compost. In a bear-thoughtful way. Making your own dirt is a humbling experience that takes you to ground zero.

Glenda Bartosh is an award-winning freelance writer who is on Day 17.