Welcome to 52 Weeks! A weekly tip, challenge or suggestion on how to reduce your carbon footprint over the year. Some are quick and easy, some build habits towards a more sustainable lifestyle.
Starting on Earth Day, April 22nd, you will be emailed a weekly tip that gives you a challenge, or something to think about that week. It will also be posted on social media, local media pages, and here on our blog.
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If I had a different life, I’d want to live in Italy. Or France. Somewhere where people still browse daily for the food they’ll eat that day, the buildings are all ancient and crumbling (that’s charm, not deterioration), and everything is freshly grown and made in that village. Where everything closes down for siestas, and people come home for a homemade lunch (with wine), and then a nap. Where organic, local food is normal (not political), and anything that comes out of a box is suspect. This lifestyle appeals to me so deeply, that usually somewhere in the middle of winter, I drag out Under the Tuscan Sun and A Good Year, and then I look for rentals abroad (and not go, because, well, my life!).
I love this romanticized scenario because it feels slower, and more connected. Noticing the little things. The luxury of time. Appreciating what you have. A quality of life that often comes second place to whatever needs doing. After 18 weeks of these articles, you’ve gotten the gist that living more sustainably means looking at things from a different angle, and often, slowing down so you can enjoy the new scenery. This week is no exception. Eating local is on our menu, and to do it well, you’ll have to slow down a little (you’re welcome).
Eating local presents some challenges if you are usually racing from task to task, with your hair on fire. That crazy, unconscious, rat in a maze lifestyle isn’t doing you, or the planet any good. You know it too. Something’s gotta give, and hopefully, it’s letting go of behaviours that don’t serve you, and adopting new habits that do.
If you want to eat better, and eat local, you will have to adjust your once a week, one stop shopping patterns. We’ve all been there. Thirty minutes between this thing and that; grab a cart, put as much quasi-relevant, food-like stuff in it before the buzzer goes. Hand over your debit card. Block out the total. Race to your car. Victory! Your family will eat for another week. And you were only a few minutes late to the game.
Eating local requires attention. You’ll have to read your labels. Probably stop at a few places to get everything you need. It means dropping in at A&D Bird Seed in Stayner for eggs. Rural Roots, or Theo’s food stand on Airport Road for produce and flowers. Foodland, for some Miller’s Dairy. 100 Mile Store for organic meat. The Refillery in Creemore for your household and hygiene products. You can also hit the farmers’ market to pick up your orders (thanks, COVID). You may see a roadside stand with sunflowers along the way. You can’t do it in half an hour between gigs. You’ll have to know what you need, and where you need to go to get it. And you have to be flexible enough to stop when you need to, and eat based on what’s fresh, and available then and there. That’s the fun part.
Maybe that sounds horrible to you. After all, life is full. No room for more things to do. But is that really true? Do you really have no time to do the things you want, because it’s all taken up by things you don’t want? Are you mortgaging what you care about for things you don’t? We all do it. But, knowing it, and changing it are two different things. One leads to depression. The other, leads to freedom.
Here we go again. You’re right, this isn’t a philosophy blog. However, a sustainable lifestyle means more than living environmentally consciously. It means living Consciously. Period.
It means “able to be maintained at a certain rate or level”, so you have enough in the tank for another day, and don’t collapse at the end of it, exhausted. Living sustainably means living holistically, so all of you, and the environment, and your family, and your job, and your community, and your well-being, and your finances are healthy, and can carry on, without a mental health, relationship, or medical crisis. Everything’s connected.
All that to say, Week 18’s challenge is to eat as locally as you can! Why does it matter? First, it reduces your food miles. That’s how far your food travels to get to your plate. So, the carbon footprint of that carrot out of your garden is virtually zero. But, if it was flown in from California, then trucked to your store, then driven home by you, well, it’s had more travel than you probably have in the past six months.
Second, it eliminates the need for extended refrigeration, packing facilities or packaging, which increase your food’s carbon footprint.
Third, it produces less food waste, because local food is picked in real time. A local farmer doesn’t need to pick a whole field of cauliflower at once. Did you know, 58% of the food picked in Canada is wasted? That’s 35.5 million tons annually. 4.82 million tons ($21mil) are lost just through processing and manufacturing. The annual cost of food waste per year, per family, is $1,766, and if that doesn’t strike you, get this: $49 billion in food is lost or wasted each year. That’s enough to feed every Canadian for five months.
Food waste is an environmental problem, because when it is not disposed of properly, it produces methane, and toxic soup in landfills. Methane is 25 times more damaging to the environment than carbon dioxide.
Challenge 18: Eat as locally as you can!
How close can you get to creating an entire meal from only local ingredients? Ontario (Good), Georgian Triangle (Better) Your own garden (Best).
One great way to eat locally is to know your farmer. Building a relationship with the people who grow your food gives you more control over what you’re eating. At the grocery store, you can’t ask what was sprayed on your celery, who picked it, or whether they were paid fairly. But, when the farmer’s also your vendor, you can always shoot the breeze, and learn about what inspires them. Maybe their produce isn’t certified “organic”, but they’re a no-spray, or no-till farm, using sustainable practices. Bingo.
Of course, nothing beats walking out to your garden and picking tonight’s dinner. It’s still a thrill for me to see the tomatoes I grew from seed this year, mostly because I am notoriously bad at keeping indoor plants alive. The fact they even made it past my kitchen counter is almost a miracle. Eating fresh pasta, made with eggs from my chickens, with my tomatoes and basil, local garlic and cheese, is as close to living in Italy as I’m going to get any time soon.
Yours in sustainability, Sherri Jackson & Laurel Hood
52 Weeks of Climate Action was created by Sherri Jackson and Laurel Hood. Sherri is a writer, speaker and musician. She is the candidate of record and communications coordinator for the Simcoe-Grey Greens. Laurel Hood, is a retired secondary teacher, transportation lead for the Collingwood Climate Action Team, and volunteer coordinator for the Simcoe-Grey Greens. Visit our blog or sign up at www.52weeksofclimateaction.com.