Monday, April 21, 2014

Meatless Monday: Being Mindful of the Food We Eat

It’s Meatless Monday and Earth Day Eve — the perfect day to think about what and how we eat. 

Raising and transporting the food we eat requires huge amounts of natural resources. Yet, in 2010, over 30% of the total food supply in the U.S. was wasted. That’s 133 billion pounds of food, or 141 trillion calories—a staggering 1,249 calories per capita per day according to Eliza Barclay in the NPR blog The Salt! The EPA estimates that in 2011 Americans threw away 36 million pounds of food — from uneaten leftovers to spoiled produce. Clearly wasted food = wasted resources, but food that is landfilled also breaks down to produce methane, a greenhouse gas. Food waste accounts for the largest percentage of waste going into municipal landfills — 21%!



Whether we are vegans, vegetarians, or omnivores, each of us can take some steps to bring these numbers down. Here are a few ideas:

As you eat, be mindful of the resources need to grow your food, of the farmers who raised it, and the energy consumed to get it to you. The high cost of raising beef has received a lot of press, but have you ever considered how much water it takes to raise the strawberry? An infographic in Mother Jones makes it clear that every bite of food is a precious commodity.

Do what you can to reduce the carbon footprint of your food. 

  • Try growing some of your own by starting as small as you like – say with an herb garden on your windowsill.
  • Support your farmer’s market.
  • Consider joining a CSA

Do what you can to cut down on your food waste.

  • Check what’s in your fridge before heading to the store.
  • Plan your meals ahead and shop with a list.
  • Buy just the quantity you need in the bulk section.
  • Eat your leftovers.

Convert your friends

Together we can make a difference.

Happy Earth Day!

On Mondays I often blog on food, food issues, or gardening in support of Meatless Monday, one of several programs developed in the Healthy Monday project, founded in 2003 in association with Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and Syracuse University’s Newhouse School of Communications. Meatless Monday’s goal is “to help reduce meat consumption 15% in order to improve personal health and the health of our planet.”

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Saturday Shorts: Getting Ready for Earth Day ’14

With Earth Day on Tuesday, “How to Live a Greener Lifestyle” is a popular theme in every form of media. 
The Original Earth Day logo

I’ve been sifting through the many hints and ideas I’ve heard and read as I look for new ways to make every day Earth Day — for some small steps I can take and sustain in the days ahead.

Here are some of the things I’ve tried:

  • I’m attempting to grow Red Swallowwort Asclepias incarnata, a native milkweed important to the Monarch Butterfly. The Monarch Butterfly is wholly dependent on native plants from this genus for egg laying and larval feeding. These seeds have a really long germination time (sprout time of 21-40 days). So far one seed has sprouted. [If you look carefully towards the center of the pot, you will see a tiny green shoot with the seed case on its head.]


  • I am continuing to cut back on prepared foods. Today for breakfast we had oatmeal with amaranth seeds, a dish I began last night by pouring boiling water over the grains and that I cooked in the morning. [More on this in a future Meatless Monday post.]
  • I continue to find good homes for good stuff I no longer need. I can’t wait for EcoWorks, Inc. to find a building and get up and running.
  • I got my old-school 1972 Raleigh Super Course tuned up and ready for next Saturday’s Rock to Rock Ride thanks to Sarah at the Devil’s Gear Bike Shop in New Haven. Want to support me? There’s still time. Here’s the link to my fundraising page.

This post was in the works before my friend Pennlee sent me this link to a story in the Los Angeles Times. “Finding Ways to Make Everyday Earth Day” addresses the anxiety that comes with wanting to do the right thing and examining the consequences of the lifestyle choices we make. The article concludes with a suggestion for raising our “consumption consciousness” by looking towards Buddhist mindfulness. David Glidden, a philosophy professor at UC Riverside urges that as we peel a tangerine we “think of all the resources that went into making that tangerine. Sun, water…As you eat each segment, think of all the people who labored to bring it to your table. If you do this, you will eat more slowly and consequently consume less.” I just happened to buy a bag of clementines today. I’ll be trying to do this small thing every day until they are gone. 

Let’s make every day Earth Day. Together.


Why Saturday Short Subjects? Some readers may recall  being dropped at the movie theater for the Saturday matinee — two action-packed feature films with a series of short subjects (cartoons or short movies, sometimes a serial cliffhanger) sandwiched in between. Often the short subjects were the most memorable, and enjoyable, part of the morning. That explains the name. The reason behind these particular posts is that we are all short on time. My Short Subject posts should not take me as long to write or you as long to read (or try).

Monday, April 14, 2014

Meatless Monday: The High Cost of Meat

Meatless Monday’s avowed goal is to help reduce meat consumption by 15%, to improve the health of our planet, as well as our personal health.

Thus, as we count down to Earth Day 2014, this seems a good day and a good place to share some sobering statistics on the costs of the escalating demand for meat. 


The World Watch Institute recently asked the question: Is Meat Sustainable? It concluded that “Like it or not, meat-eating is becoming a problem for everyone on the planet … it has become apparent that the human appetite for animal flesh is a driving force behind virtually every major category of environmental damage now threatening the human future —deforestation, erosion, fresh water scarcity, air and water pollution, climate change, biodiversity loss, social injustice, the destabilization of communities, and the spread of disease.” World Watch claims that “per-capita meat consumption has more than doubled in the past half-century, even as global population has continued to increase. As a result, the overall demand for meat has increased five-fold. That, in turn, has put escalating pressure on the availability of water, land, feed, fertilizer, fuel, waste disposal capacity, and most of the other limited resources of the planet.”

Food Day shared the infographic below that sums up some of the costs of meat production and outlines in the "Driving Range" section the impact of going without meat one day a week for a year.

Infographic shared by Food Day

Time reported today that the retail cost of beef has reached its highest price since 1987 — $5.28/pound — as ranchers cope with severe drought conditions and Chinese and Japanese markets put increased demands on a limited supply. For various reasons the cost of pork and chicken is also on the rise.

Each day during the month of April, the EPA has posted a new action step on its blog. Yesterday’s tip was; “Think about the life cycle.” The EPA pointed out that “Forty two percent of carbon pollution emissions in the U.S. are associated with the energy used to produce, process, transport, and dispose of the food we eat and the goods we use. In every one of these stages of the life cycle, we can reduce our impact.” Here is the link to their fact sheet: Reducing Food Waste Basics.

If and when you choose to eat meat, keep in mind that meat has a high price tag — in terms of your budget, and, more importantly, for the environment. Don’t waste it — not one single bite.


On Mondays I often blog on food, food issues, or gardening in support of Meatless Monday, one of several programs developed in the Healthy Monday project, founded in 2003 in association with Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and Syracuse University’s Newhouse School of Communications. Meatless Monday’s goal is “to help reduce meat consumption 15% in order to improve personal health and the health of our planet.”