Friday, April 29, 2011

Eating Sustainably

As an end to our April Earth Day tribute, please enjoy an article about sustainable eating.

By Brooke Barcheski, Administrative Associate

My boyfriend’s mother is a seasoned camper and hiker, and a lover of all things outdoors. She taught her son well, instilling in him as a child, the mantra ‘leave no trace’ when spending time in nature. If you head up a mountain with a banana, you better come back down with the peel! If each hiker that visited a national forest left behind a piece of trash, imagine what the trail would come to look like.

St. Joseph Worker Volunteers
In the same way, volunteers can think of themselves as bearing that important motto to leave no trace. When volunteers enter into a new community, it is with an excitement and enthusiasm to ‘be the change’. Volunteers are ready to put to use their knowledge and life experiences to serve others. In general, volunteers are placed in communities, cities, and countries new to them. Just as a hiker should leave behind a mountain with no remnants of their experience there, so too should volunteers aim to minimize their carbon footprint in the communities in which they serve. On a deeper level, we are also called to be mindful of the choices we make, and how they affect our own minds and souls.

In an article entitled “Taking Personal Action, The Good Life from a Catholic Perspective: The Challenge of Consumption,” Msgr. Charles Murphy writes “Consumer choices and consumer demands are moral and cultural expressions of how we conceive of life.”

Msgr. Murphy goes on to discuss the dangers of having too much, particularly in a world where so many have so little. In that light, it makes you wonder if you really do need that new something you want to buy, or if that money might better be spent on paying that bit extra to purchase organic produce. One great way to help your volunteers to reduce their carbon footprint is to encourage them to explore the idea of eating sustainably.

There is a lot of information out there about food miles. Wikipedia defines this as the distance food is transported from the time of its production until it reaches the consumer. Studies indicate that it is not only how far the food has travelled but the method of travel that is important to consider. It can be an arduous process to sort through the statistics in terms of our carbon footprint in relation to food, and it can take a lot of time and research to figure out if we are eating sustainably. A few key points below though, will generally hold true wherever you are:

  1. Buy produce which was grown locally, using sustainable practices. Farmers markets are a great place to find local, organic produce. According to the 2007 Census of Agriculture, the number of young farmers is increasing across the nation. Sustainable farming is a practice increasing all over the country, as people become more aware of the negative effects that fertilizers from large, non-organic farms are having on the environment. You can also find a cooperative market near you, or join a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) to have great, organic produced delivered directly to your volunteer communities.
  2. Grow your own vegetables. Don’t have a backyard? Check out this site: www.sharingbackyards.com/ Imagine the joy in biting into your own heirloom tomatoes in mid-summer, knowing that you grew them and equally important, they have almost no carbon footprint.
  3. Eat less meat. It takes a lot more energy to raise meat for consumption, in fact, Greenpeace reports that more than 260 million acres of U.S. forests have been cleared to grow grain for livestock. Find tons of vegetarian recipes here: www.cok.net/lit/recipes/resources.php When you do eat meat, chef Chris Cosentino emphasizes ‘Head to tail’ cooking, where the cook uses all parts of the animal. Waste not, want not. www.starchefs.com/features/head_to_tail/html/index.shtml
  4. Cook. Eating in will reduce waste and minimize your carbon footprint. Explore this article for some basics on getting started: www.nytimes.com/2011/01/02/weekinreview/02bittman.html?_r=1
There are other small things you can do to be a more responsible cook in the kitchen. Think about the meals you prepare and consider how you might reduce the amount of dishes used, ultimately saving water when its time for clean up. One example of a healthy treat that uses very few dishes is this savory Quinoa recipe:

1. Mix 1 cup dry quinoa with 2 cups water, bring to boil, then simmer on low for 15 min or until seeds open and the white part is visible.
2. Mix 2 tablespoons olive oil in large glass bowl with 1 Tablespoon curry powder, 1 teaspoon cumin, heat in microwave for 30 second intervals and stir, until you can smell the spices releasing.
3. Dice 1/4 red onion, grate 1 carrot, chop 2 jalepeno peppers, some salt and pepper, chopped bunch fresh cilantro, and juice of 1/2 lime.
4. Let cooked quinoa cool and mix everything together in the bowl in which you heated the spices.
Enjoy!

The most popular community meal has to be pasta. It is both simple and easy to prepare for large groups. Did you know there are also ways to save water and energy when making a pot of pasta. Most of us have been taught to bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil, then add the pasta and cook until al dente. It really isn’t necessary to cook pasta in that way though, and it uses a lot of water and energy. A recent story on NPR explained that you can get the same results by using about half as much water, and time. Just let your pasta soak in some water in the pot, then put it on the stovetop to heat. Test it out after 10 minutes and figure out how you like it.  Mine tastes great every time!

Researchers at Cornell University say people make an average of 200 food decisions per day. We hope the next food choices you and your volunteers make will be sustainable ones!

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