Wednesday, April 23, 2014

30 Day No Waste Challenge

Happy Earth Day, everyone! It's my favorite day of the year!

Since it is a special day to celebrate, appreciate, and protect our lovely home planet, I thought it would be a great day to start something I've been meaning to for a while.

I'm going to challenge myself to not throw away any food for the next 30 days. Since I got pregnant last June, my habits of wasting food have been a little sad. Being super sick, fatigued, and hating vegetables resulted in a lot of food going bad in the refrigerator. Then the heartburn made it so that I couldn't eat certain foods, which were really weird at times, so that didn't help either. Things have been better since Eddy was born, but I still forget stuff in the fridge because I've been cooking a lot less. Granted, in the grand scheme of things I think I'm actually doing ok, but any food thrown in the trash is too much food in my opinion.

Did you know that the average American throws away over 200 pounds of food per person, per year? Though that number can vary depending on the source, whatever it is, the fact that it is more than zero isn't ok. I think most of that is from the food service industry (that's another can of wasteful worms,) but we're not exempt from some of the blame. Cliche moment of the day: Think of the starving children in Africa! (Or in Seattle, for that matter.)

Seeing food get tossed is a huge pet peeve of mine. Working with kids and having this issue is really hard. Kids throw away so much food. They just don't get it. I've seen my students and campers toss whole bananas, unopened granola bars, and apples with one bite out of it, right into the can like it's nothing. There have been countless times I've picked perfectly good food out of the trash and tried to get some sense out of the kids. And they look at me like I'm crazy. It drives me crazy. I will definitely instill this value in Eddy, you can bet on it.

Why is this important? The other day, much like a fourth grader (sad face), I threw away an entire avocado that I let go brown and mushy in the refrigerator. Let's think about this one avocado. It grew from a tree, was picked by some dude, packed by another dude/machine, loaded into a truck, used fossil fuels to get to the store where I bought it, and unpacked and put out into the produce section by someone else. That's a lot of energy, effort, and hours used to get it to me, just so it can go into the compost. I definitely feel some guilt about that. And that's just a piece of unprocessed, uncooked produce. Imagine how much more wasteful it would be to throw away a loaf of bread, or a piece of meat, or a granola bar that has had even more fossil fuels pumped into it in production.

This is important to me and I think we as a society that is constantly drowning in food just aren't used to the idea that food is energy.
Food is fuel.
Food is resources.
Food is sacred.

This challenge is going to make me change my lifestyle a bit.

Tangent - Currently, I am team teaching a class at the community college with my dad called Sustainable Business. This is a class that looks at various industry and discusses the different ways businesses can be more sustainable. Making changes in the name of sustainability isn't just good for the environment, but also has economic as well as social benefits as well, that in turn, help the business itself become more efficient and profitable. It's a great class. One of the first assignments we gave the students was an ecological footprint assignment where they took an online test to see how sustainable their home lives were. After they took the test they were asked to pick 5 (out of the dozens) of possible lifestyle changes that the results page offered. Most people were thoughtful about their choices, but the answers of one lady blew my mind. She started her paper by saying that she thought she was already doing everything right. (Her result was not that of someone even trying to live sustainably.) Then she continued to say that it was really hard for her to come up with five lifestyle changes because all of them required a little bit of sacrifice on her part. THAT'S THE WHOLE POINT YOU CRAZY WENCH! It drove me nuts, but I had to give her full points for the assignment for doing it. Ok, thanks for letting me get that out.

So my sacrifices (that I'm willing to make because I know how important it is):

1. Buy less food - If I only have a few options, then I'll eat what I already have, and won't forget about something that's in the back of the 'fridge.
2. Meal plans - Have a plan for everything I buy. The avocado went bad because I liked the idea of it, but didn't have any plans for it.
3. Don't go out as much - I threw away some french fries last week because the burger I got just came with them and I couldn't eat them all. We all know day old fries are nasty.
4. Eat something that might not be the tastiest - Take responsibility for acquiring something and just eat it. As long as it hasn't gone bad it won't make me sick. 
5. Eat the thing that will go bad over the thing that can wait - If the dinner options are vegetables in the crisper vs. vegetables in the freezer, always go for the fresh ones, the frozen ones can wait.

Here are the rules I've set for myself:

1. Food counts as trashed if it goes in the garbage, disposal, or compost.
2. It does not count if the chickens eat it. (It turns into more food and fertilizer to grow more food.)
3. Peels and things that a normal person won't eat don't count either. (I'm not going extreme here.)
4. If it has gone bad, I suck, but I don't have to eat it.

So we'll see how it goes. I think this will help with my overall health, as well as keep a few dollars in the pocket since I won't be throwing them away. I have some slightly wilty carrots in the crisper that I should do something with before they get to the point of petrification.

What sacrifices can you make in the name of Earth Day?

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