Earth Day Goal Update #6 – Effects of Winter and Other Topics

For Earth Day 2010, I made a pledge to eat better and have added periodic updates to define and refine the pledge, as well as update on progress. This is the latest one and involves several topics I’ve encountered since my last update.

New foods tried and loved

Sugar snap peas are peas you could eat the pod instead of throwing the pods away because they were way too fibrous for most people to eat. That seemed such a waste to take a few peas out and throw away most of the mass, and a good portion of the nutrients as well. I ate these as mid-morning and post-run snacks and they were delicious, nutritious and so convenient to pack and compost. These are not generally available in the grocery stores in Halifax, at least, due to their inefficient distribution systems.

Ground cherries are little bits of Cloud 9 on Earth with their sweetness and ease to eat, second in taste to the Heaven on Earth that is the lychee. The Chinese lantern cover on the ground cherries, which you don’t eat, also make great air fresheners with their heavenly aroma. My apartment has never smelled so good as when I had ground cherries at home. I have never seen ground cherries in the Halifax supermarkets, though that’s not to say I’ve searched long and hard, but I doubt it’s there often, if ever.

I have also tried other foods like kohlrabi, but they haven’t stuck with me. Crunchy vegetables don’t make their way far into my diet, apparently. I discovered this from not buying at certain farms at the farmers’ market, some of which were ran by people who were friends of friends. It wasn’t anything personal, of course, but when I analyzed why, I found they sold mostly crunchy vegetables. I will have to try more new foods if I am to keep on purchasing more of my food from the farmers’ market than the supermarket, as pledged for my indicator #1, as winter comes and less of the summer food which I eat so much goes out of season. I’ve asked about ground tomatoes and such, but am not yet willing to work with them because they are too much work for my liking. I will defend my cooking, though, to say it tastes good, is simple and effective enough to sustain me on marathon training all year round.

Diminished selection with winter coming

Sugar snap peas and ground cherries were the first to go with the colder temperatures among the foods I regularly bought at the farmers’ market. Too bad I only had a few weeks with the ground cherries, but I’m going to start a fund for them when they come back in season next July cause I’m going to be eating a ton of them!

Tomatoes, which are a staple to my diet next to only rice and pasta, are now only greenhouse grown. They probably have a larger greenhouse gas (GHG) footprint than tomatoes in the supermarket despite being local, due to energy intensive greenhouse growing, but I’m not eating local for the environment as stated in my Food Miles Myth post. I’m eating local to support the local economy and because I know the quality that went into the food production that benefits my health. I’m sticking with the greenhouse tomatoes at the farmers’ market, though, because it is the same price as the same type shipped in from far away. There are cheaper plum tomatoes which I used to eat by the ton, but they aren’t much cheaper, and I’m not keen on ethylene used to make them grow faster, but with less nutrients in them. You do get what you pay for.

I’ve also reverted back to certified organic soy milk from the grocery store instead of the farmers’ market version which became more expensive with winter, but didn’t last nearly as long. I converted for the latter reason. I hate throwing away food and throw away very little, unlike the average American, and probably Canadian, household that throws away 30% of its food (Reuters, Aug 22 2008). I fall easily under 1%. Aside from throwing away very little, I also eat stuff like the white part of green onions, and finely carve out the tops of various fruits and vegetables, where their stem would be, in eating those foods to waste very little.

Giving up pop at home and work

This is a move towards fulfilling Goal #2 to eat less fast food. I generally have eaten far less fast food than before, but this is beyond buying fast food.

I generally drank about 2L of Coke a week, most of it at home where it’s easily within reach in the fridge. It’s the only bad thing I drink as I don’t drink alcohol or coffee. It was a convenience drink, especially at home, so the easiest way to eliminate this was to stop buying pop. I always went cold turkey for a week a few times each year to make sure I wasn’t addicted, and had no problems, so if pop weren’t within reach, I wouldn’t be drinking it. At work, I have designated someone to whom I have to report if I get pop. So far, I have only done it once, but I might have fallen asleep at a meeting if I hadn’t. Job vs. personal no pop pledge. I went with the job.

I will allow myself pop any time I eat out, should I want it, as I believe in moderation. However, I don’t eat out much these days, not even for lunch, so it’s effective. I’m 2 weeks into this pledge now, am doing fine and am very happy for it!

Reducing waste

The more I buy from the farmers’ market, where I bring my own containers as well as shopping bags, the less waste I incur. In buying more fresh food and cooking it, rather than slightly packaged food from grocery stores for the home, and eating out more when I cooked less at home, I am shocked at how little waste I incur compared to my eating lifestyle before. I use the one meat package I get each week as my garbage bag at home now. That’s all I need because the other cardboard containers are recycled. I have found other sources to recycle or reuse other main sources of wastes from food, like wax paper from cereal boxes and jars of pasta sauce… and the people who get and use them are grateful for them, too!

Spending 53% of grocery money at farmers’ market

The original Goal #1 was set at 50%, but when I met it too easily, I upped it to 66%, which is a lot harder than 50% despite the seemingly small 16% increase. It’s now $2 at the farmers’ market for every $1 at the grocery store, unlike 1:1 before. I knew this would be tough to meet, which was why I set it, not afraid of failing. I was at 53% a few months, but have actually made progress despite the percentage not changing. That’s because a whole bunch of staple foods I buy from the grocery store, like salad dressing and pasta sauce, have been on drastic sale so I’ve stocked up. I suspect I won’t be needing any more pasta sauce, salad dressing, soya sauce and pasta till next Earth Day. I won’t be needing any pasta, cereal or rice till at least January. 2L of soy milk a week, the odd occasional other item is all I expect to be buying from the grocery stores until at least January 2011. Let the chipping away begin!

I am eating local for the economy, not the environment. I estimate that between the two Earth Days of 2010 and 2011, I will be sending about 40 cents per food dollar spent to the Nova Scotia farmer. Compare that to 18 cents for the US, where all US farmers are counted so eating California food in Maine is considered helping the “local” farmer. Compare that to 13 cents for Nova Scotia. Reference figures are explained in the linked article earlier in the paragraph.

I’m doing “OK”. 🙂

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