For Earth Day 2010, I made a pledge to eat better. By “better”, I meant healthier and better for the environment. Translated that meant better quality food and more locally grown. However, I wasn’t going to die for it, as oxymoronic as that may sound. After all, by eating food that don’t have what I need, I’d be shortening my lifespan if allowed to live out on health alone, so I was implying I’d rather die for bad food than good food. What I was committing to was a practical lifestyle change rather than something extreme.
This is the first of many installments I hope to blog about changes I have incorporated into my life towards my Earth Day 2010 pledge to eat better.
Goals and Indicators
I did not set goals or indicators when I made my pledge on Earth Day because I wanted to think about them a bit more. I wanted to make sure I had meaningful indicators. There was no hurry. I had a year to accomplish my goal of eating “better”, how ever I would choose to quantify “better”. There was no way I was going to get myself so off-track within the first month or two that I wouldn’t be able to recover to achieve my goals if they meant that much to me. I also already kept records like money spent on food and where, for which I knew amounts spent would be an indicator in one way or another, so I could go back and check.
After about six weeks of thinking about things now, here are a few initial goals I have set for myself. I reserve the right to change these as I get perspective on them, but I promise there will be good reasons for any changes I make. Here is the list so far.
- Spend more money on groceries at the farmer’s markets than in the grocery and other stores, without not being able to eat what I want or pay unreasonable prices for food I want.
I have purchased almost 100% of my groceries at the grocery and drug stores all my life. The closest farmer’s markets to me are but 1/2 to 3/4 of a mile away, but they only open Friday and Saturday mornings, which are not the most convenient times for me. However, a new farmer’s market a mile away will open daily starting in September so that will help my case. Still, getting more groceries at the farmers markets is a small and manageable lifestyle change I know I can handle. Spending more money at the farmer’s market than the grocery store would indicate I get the majority of my groceries from the local farmers, meaning most of my food would be local to reduce my food miles. The food quality would also tend to be fresher than at the grocery stores, having spent less time in storage and/or processing. My money would go directly to the farmers and not much to the “middle man”, if any, to help the local economy. Finally, the price may just be better as it seems they are from my comparisons so far. Please click here to see my first update on this goal.
- Eat and drink far less fast foods than before.
For a guy who has ran plenty of marathons and can clock some decent running times, I have led a semi-secret life of eating cheap fast foods. It’s semi-secret because many have seen me with fast food, but not as often as I had eaten it. Most would probably be surprised at how often I had eaten fast food. I’ll confess to that, but won’t divulge numbers, which I do have. I run so I could eat whatever, whenever, in however much quantity I like, but fast food wasn’t the intent. More like dessert. And yes, I have made jokes about how fast food was what made me fast, or that I ate Boston Cream donuts at Tim Horton’s to help me get to Boston (the marathon there).
- Take a food miles inventory (total) and average in the fall, winter and spring. (changed and why)
I am not yet ready to take a food miles inventory and average. I need to do more asking about from where I am getting my foods, especially the processed foods which packaging paths are harder to trace compared to, say, blueberries from Oxford, Nova Scotia. I also need to determine how to assign a fair food miles value to some general place like “Mexico”. I also need to find a weighting system for, well, weights, literally. For example, I’m not going to average 1 kg of tomatoes from 3000 miles away, and 10 grams of spices made down the street as 1,500 food miles per item. And especially not if I go through 50 kg of tomatoes a year versus one canister of spice! I have to do some research on a food miles calculator, or, in all likelihood, customize my own from one. I suspect I will probably come up with something like a “kg mile” unit. I am an analyst who puts the “anal” in “analysis”, you know! 🙂
- Improve on my food miles inventory and average from fall to spring. (changed and why)
Improvement is the ultimate goal, whether I succeed in my absolute goals or not. That is why I will set the absolute goals for my spring 2011 food mileage inventory and average, near the end of 2010, after I get an idea of what level I’m at. It’d be like determining how far you can run after you take a trial run with some decent effort, rather than just taking a wild guess not having ever ran. A baseline now would be nice to see how much I will really have improved since April 2010, rather than how much I will have improved from an improved lifestyle in the fall of 2010. However, my ego doesn’t care. As well, I am setting my goal for improvement from fall to spring, and not fall to winter to spring, because I know winter will pose a challenge. The Canadian winter doesn’t allow for growing of much of what I suspect I might want to consume during winter. I’m not about to fast on certain foods for the sake of food miles. That’s partly what I meant by I wasn’t willing to die for eating better. I also don’t buy the idealistic argument on freezing food to store until the winter. I’d bet you spend more energy freezing than transporting food from elsewhere, but that’s another argument. My goal is my goal, and it’s improvement from fall to spring. There should be plenty of local foods to eat in both fall and spring, to measure fairly. I’m also not going to try to minimize my food mileage for the sake of a measurement. I want a measure that I can sustain, meaning I can keep up after Earth Day 2011. I don’t want to have to wonder what my food mileage really is later in 2011, when I might not be consuming roughly the same diet I did when I took the food miles measurements.
Those four goals will do for now. I had thought about including a goal about money spent on “eating out” compared to grocery stores and farmers markets. I have had a long record of being able to spend more on groceries than eating out annually. However, I had dropped that goal this year as a vice I allowed myself given I don’t have many others. I don’t drink or smoke, or do coffee. I don’t have a car by choice and don’t even bus or cab much, like for groceries, opting to walk a mile to and from the grocery stores in the past carrying everything in sun, rain or blizzard snow. Life is too short to be cooking so much given how much I time I already spent on walking for groceries when others zip around with their cars.
If you have any suggestions on goals, food miles calculators, or other thoughts to help me accomplish my goals, please do share!
Oh, by the way, I’m hanging in at about no net change of material possession weight for my other Earth Day 2010 pledge. This is despite having purchased a few new things, but I have rid myself of others to compensate.
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