Last time, we discussed how you can be responsible consumers both at home and on vacation by educating ourselves and navigating the problem of “greenwashing”. Today, we’re talking about what many of us may have on our mind at this very moment — food! We also hope that the 2018 Ocean Guardian Contest is never far from your mind as the countdown is official on! Remember, this 6th annual environmental contest has some epic prizes from responsible companies as well as the grand prize of a surf and yoga camp for two!
You are what you eat. If this is common adage is indeed true, many of us are made up of a lot of low-quality, low-cost, and even harmful foods. From the way it’s grown, to how it’s produced, packaged, and shipped. There is a fairly widespread notion that the current food industry in its entirety is a disaster waiting to happen. For generations, our ancestors were eating so healthily, they would barely be able to recognize what we call food nowadays. So with that said, get ready to make your kitchen into a sanctuary and your body a temple!
The global industrial food complex
Long before T.V. dinners and McDonalds would come around, people were eating food that was more closely tied to nature. It would have been impossible to eat anything other than fresh fruits and vegetables that were local and in season. They may have eaten meat occasionally, but it would have been from animals that that were truly free-range, eating what they pleased, and having high quality lives.
The global industrial food complex that exists today relies on several factors:
- Uninformed consumers
- Ill-permitted unsustainable business practices
- Disregard for basic human health by the government agencies tasked with overseeing the production of food.
This system is trying to accommodate for overpopulation, diets that are dependent upon meat, and people’s desire for instant gratification. Yet sustainable food production is what will truly preserve the land’s ability to cultivate food for the future. Farmers protect the land by growing their crops using less fossil fuels, synthetic pesticides, artificial hormones, or routine use of antibiotics. We should treat nature as an ally rather than an enemy! In so doing, we can reduce the impact of climate change while cultivating more nutritious food. It’s win-win!
One major solution: eat locally
Last week, I asked the girls I babysit if they knew where the cucumber sticks their mom cuts for them came from. I was astounded that they thought the grocery store made the cucumbers. I have noticed that so often, kids are navigating social media like professionals before they learn where their food comes from. A deeper appreciation for how fortunate we are to have fresh foods should be embraced and explored, not glanced over.
Expectations for instant-food-gratification have led to unsustainable eating habits and negative environmental impacts. For example, having the luxury of eating tropical fruits year round or increased deforestation for cattle-grazing. As Ocean Guardians, we can reclaim our health and the environment’s by controlling what we eat and starting to make more informed purchases in buying local goods and products.
Find out where your local farmer’s markets are or local food co-ops so that you can get better and fresher produce. Below are four resources to help you eat locally!
- Learn about local and regional food systems from Sustainable Table. These food systems help local, sustainably-run farms protect consumer health, contribute to the health of the local community, and stimulate local economies.
- Learn about community supported agriculture: this will help you as a consumer buy local, seasonal food directly from a farmer.
- Check out these seasonal ingredient maps to find out what’s fresh in your area:
• Epicurious Seasonal Ingredient Map
• National Resources Defense Council’s Eat Local Map
- Find out what fish are local to your region (United States) at Fishwatch
Be diligent in your food choices
To protect our oceans, we can continually improve our habits as consumers and be educators to those around us who are being blindsided by the industrialized food system. In addition to eating locally, we can reduce our meat consumption, which is the main contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. We can also we can choose seafood that is not on the “avoid list” to keep our oceans from being depleted. Remember: we can protect the planet through our diet. Next time you are perusing the grocery aisles, ask yourself if your great-great-great-grandmother would understand what you were looking at. Maybe this will help put it into perspective for you! Until next time Ocean Guardians and bon appetit!
Written by Kerry Dunn