Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Food as it relates to Climate Change (Blog Action Day 2009)

Growing up in an over-crowded Indian city, conservation was instilled in me in day-to-day life. We bought local fresh produce almost every day to cook our meals, rarely ate out, and seldom bought foods packaged in fancy cardboard, plastic and foil wrap. Rice, lentils, sugar, rock salt and other groceries were purchased from the local grocer's bulk bins, and packed in old newspapers tied up with recycled jute threads. I grew up in a vegetarian family, but even my friends who ate meat did so only once or twice a week. Water was a scarce and sacred commodity and wasting water was akin to frittering away our wealth. We generated very little trash. And finally, we walked, did not drive, not only to the grocer but pretty much everywhere (or used public transportation).

Globalization has changed India drastically. Eating out in restaurants and eating meat almost every day at McDonalds and Pizza Hut is quite common. The menace of plastic bags has arrived in India with full force and even the little vendor with her push-cart uses them. Even my kind-hearted mom, who patronizes the small vegetable/fruit vendor with her pushcart (to help her make a living), gets excited about the brand new supermarket selling exotic fruits neatly packaged in plastic wrap.

But I would be a hypocrite if I whined about it. We in the US still consume much more than the rest of the world. In the US, I find myself slipping into over-consumption mode without thinking too much; sometimes for convenience, sometimes due to lack of time, and sometimes due to lack of resources (like proper public transportation). Still, V and I have some fundamental rules that we follow more often than not. Some of them have become immutable habits, others we are still working on!

  • Eat vegetarian - This one is a no-brainer. We were both brought up vegetarian and find it rather easy to remain so. Despite what other vegetarians say, I have never felt annoyed by questions about why I am a vegetarian, and whether I miss eating meat (of course not, how can I miss something I have never had?), and how I get proper nutrition. And usually I am patient in explaining to the misguided waiter that chicken or fish dishes are not vegetarian. Also, V and I usually dig up atleast one exclusively vegetarian restaurant to patronize when we travel.
  • Farmers market / Local produce - Last weekend, as we were walking with bags laden with fresh pomegranates, carrots, and end-of-the-season eggplant, V proclaimed "I love the Saturday morning farmer market routine". Indeed, it has become a favorite part of our weekend. We are lucky that our local market is open throughout the year. Our friends P&V introduced us to the wonderful local CSA vegetable box delivery, but with both of us traveling, it quickly became tiring for us to deal with all that roughage! I was pretty enthusiastic in the beginning - spent evenings sorting, trimming, cleaning, cutting and making vegetable broth with the tons of inedible greens and stalks, and freezing the rest. Oooof, it was quite a chore! So we switched back to our farmer's market routine and we are happy again! Whatever works, right?
  • Fasting - As I already pointed out, Americans eat a lot more than people in other parts of the world. It is heart-breaking to find out that in this era of industrial agriculture and industrial meat-production, people are still dying of hunger! Fasting is a part of Hindu culture in which one abstains from food on a particular day. Sometimes it is abstinence from all food, and at other times it could mean giving up certain foods, such as, cooked foods (eating just fruits and nuts), or salted, or sour foods. V and I try to abstain from cooked foods once a week.

  • Not buying it - I just finished reading this book called "Not buying it - My year without shopping" and I became intrigued by the concept and impressed by the author's perseverance in the face of temptation. V and I sometimes try this on a small scale for up to 3 months, by not buying any packaged, processed foods for our pantry. Our food shopping consists only of fresh fruits, vegetables, yogurt, milk and eggs. No rice? Hey, let's use up that box of cous cous hiding in the pantry! It is a rather cathartic experiment (sorry for the pun) - the pantry gets cleaned out and our body thanks us for not putting any (new) junk in.

  • No plastic bags - V and I always keep a few big cloth bags in our car so that we do not bring hoards of those dreaded plastic grocery bags in to our home. We also reuse the bags from the farmer's market in which we put our produce in for subsequent shopping trips. It saddens me to walk in to a grocery store and see people walking out with 10 plastic bags filled with groceries, not to mention, two kids in tow. People, it's the earth you are going to leave to those two kids in tow, why do you want to litter it up with plastic bags? Is it so difficult to bring beautiful, convenient, strong and large cloth bags? Plastic bags are ugly, they are inconvenient and they are a menace to everyone. BYOB! Okay, sorry for getting a bit preachy.

  • Other stuff - And then there are other things. We are trying to not eat out so much. We minimize driving and finish our grocery shopping on the way back from work. We are trying to grow a few things in our yard like tomatoes, basil and cucumber. We try to take our own containers for doggy-bagging left-overs at the restaurant - need to get better at this. We always recycle our egg and milk cartons.

Every small thing makes a difference, this much I believe firmly. So please do share your ideas!

This was a special post for the Blog Action Day happening on Oct. 15, 2009 on the topic of Climate Change.

1 comment:

V S said...

Nice post - T

here are 2 things I do : I carry cloth bags in my car all the time. The times that I do bring in plastic bags, I save them and use them as trash liners in the bathrooms.