sustainability

Mother Nature for Rent

greenacres

 

 

It starts with a weekly visit to the farmers market.
It’s all fresh, in season, and you see who’s growing your food.

Then you join a CSA.
The food is more abundant, the commitment to sustainable agriculture is greater. Your weekly farm share has you eating with the growing season, and with your pre-paid subscription you’re contributing to the stability of a small and local producer.

What’s next?
Dirt under the fingernails and you’re own diesel rototiller?

Rent Mother Nature takes you to the next level of connectedness while keeping your fingernails clean. Similar to but more direct than a CSA, RMN inserts you into the growing cycle by leasing you your own little corner of the farm. You’ll lay claim to a beehive in the Catskills, an oyster bed on the Puget Sound, or a pistachio tree in the Arizona desert, and for one season the harvest is yours.

Massachusetts-based Rent Mother Nature was started in 1979 as a way of helping small-scale New England farmers improve their pre-harvest cash flow. The company now works with farms across the country and even a few from other parts of the world, so you can lease an organic date palm tree in California, a wild rice bed on the Red Lake Indian Reservation in Minnesota, or a cocoa tree in the rainforest of Costa Rica.

Rent Mother Nature sends out periodic progress reports during the growing season, and many of the farmers welcome personal visits from lease-holders. There is a minimum guaranteed bounty, and a roll-over to the next season if it’s not met. If it’s a bumper crop, you’ll get first dibs on the larder.

Rent Mother Nature partners with artisanal producers and farmers practicing natural and organic agriculture, and engages in fair-trade in foreign countries. When you lease a dairy cow you’ll get wheels of brie or cheddar from an animal you’re on a first-name basis with. The sap of your leased sugar maple tree is boiled into syrup in a traditional wood-fired sugarhouse in the Adirondacks. The wheat from your leased acre of land is sent to a Rhode Island mill that’s been operating since 1711, and the great-great-grandchildren of the Massachusetts textile mill’s original owner are still shearing the wool and custom-weaving the blanket from your leased sheep.

On the Rent Mother Nature website you’ll find nearly two dozen 2013-2014 leases available for crops and products including prolifically-producing Florida citrus or Georgia peach trees that can be leased in their entirety or by the branch, lobster trap leases that land you the yield from a ten-day fishing trip in Maine, and hive leases for jars of raw, unfiltered honey produced by a single, flower-specific beehive.

 

 

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The U.N. Wants You to Buy Funny Food

 

image via The Mutato Project

image via The Mutato Project

 

‘Funny’ is their word.
Let’s call it like we see it. We’re talking about ugly fruits and vegetables; the two-legged carrots, blotchy apples, crooked cucumbers, and lumpy lemons. They’re the culinary misfits that are culled by the farmer in the field, tossed out by the supermarket produce department, and if they make it far enough, passed over by consumers.

Farmers plow under more than a fifth of their crops every year because they don’t meet marketing standards for their appearance, and retailers generate another 1.6 million tons of food waste. It’s estimated that one-third of the world’s food production goes to waste, and about half of that is for cosmetic reasons. The U.N. says it could feed 900 million of the world’s hungriest citizens with our cast-offs.

Market standards for appearance are often circumscribed with awe-inspiring precision. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s document for greenhouse-grown cucumbers goes on for 10 pages describing the allowable gradients of the curves for cucumbers that bend, bow, or taper toward the ends. Field-grown varieties are guided by a separate document. The color of a red apple is delineated in the following paragraph:

That an apple having color of a lighter shade of solid red or striped red than that considered as a good shade of red characteristic of the variety may be admitted to a grade, provided it has sufficient additional area covered so that the apple has as good an appearance as one with the minimum percentage of good red characteristic of the variety required for the grade. For the striped red varieties, the percentage stated refers to the area of the surface in which the stripes of a good shade of red characteristic of the variety shall predominate over stripes of lighter red, green, or yellow. However, an apple having color of a lighter shade than that considered as a good shade of red characteristic of the variety may be admitted to a grade, provided it has sufficient additional area covered so that the apple has as good an appearance as one with the minimum percentage of stripes of a good red characteristic of the variety required for the grade. Faded brown stripes shall not be considered as color.

The Federal Trade Commission sets additional standards of beauty for fruits and vegetables that are shipped across state lines, and there are separate benchmarks for imports.

The European Union has already loosened its notoriously arcane produce regulations (sample banana spec: The thickness of a transverse section of the fruit between the lateral faces and the middle, perpendicular to the longitudinal axis, must be at a minimum of 27mm). Britain’s Sainsbury’s supermarket further relaxed its own standards, putting forked parsnips and knobby apples on the shelves of its 1,000+ stores.

Here in the U.S. we waste nearly as much as we eat, tossing out 20 pounds of food each month for every man, woman, and child. We spend a billion dollars a year just to dispose of  it. Unlike so many of the challenges we face, food waste doesn’t require a technical solution so much as a new mindset.

The U.N. is taking on the global leadership, partnering with consumers, producers, and governments to address waste issues in the food system. It’s just launched Think.Eat.Save, a global campaign aimed at raising awareness of food waste issues and facilitating cooperation across society’s producing and consuming sectors.

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The Happiest Place is Also the Most Organic

Bhutanese photo-illustration via The Weekly Standard

Bhutanese photo-illustration via The Weekly Standard

 

The Happiest Place On Earth®
Disney owns the trademark, but the Kingdom of Bhutan has cornered the market for Gross National Happiness. Bhutan is a quirky little nation perched in the Himalayas between India and China with few roads, no railway, and a per capita income of around $1,400. It has the second worst soccer team in the world, beating Montserrat in FIFA’s World Cup match for that distinction; cigarette smoking is a crime; and television has only been broadcast throughout the kingdom since 2006. But they sure are happy.

BhutanmapInstead of the single, economic yardstick of Gross Domestic Product, Bhutan has always tracked its progress with a multidimensional happiness index. It’s only had a constitution since 2008, but as far back as 1729 the national law stated “if the government cannot create happiness for its people, there is no purpose for the government to exist.”

Bhutan’s Gross National Happiness Index takes into account all the usual standard-of-living data like literacy rates, life expectancy, employment rates, and housing stock. The index also incorporates holistic factors like quality of meals, social relations, ecological diversity, and individual ties to community and environment. The Bhutanese have decided that this comprehensive definition of happiness will elude them without a national policy of environmentally-sound and sustainable agriculture.

Bhutan is aiming to be the world’s first 100% organic nation.
In 2011, the government implemented policies that will convert all of the nation’s agricultural land into organic farms within 10 years; a goal that’s all the more significant in a country where two-thirds of its citizens are agricultural workers.

Bhutan is already well on its way there. As a poor, less developed country, many of Bhutan’s farmers engage in sustainable practices by default. Even if they can afford modern equipment and materials, the geographic remoteness and lack of transport have kept pesticides and synthetic fertilizers out of their hands. The majority use local water sources and homemade compost, and farm on land that’s untouched by industry, traffic, and other forms of urban blight. The government roadmap to organic conversion is primarily focused on rural education and organic certifications.

Bhutan should be an interesting laboratory for whether a nation can become organic.
And it will be just as interesting to learn if their Gross National Happiness Index trumps our Gross Domestic Product as the true measure of a nation’s well-being.

Read A Short Guide to the Gross National Happiness Index from the Centre for Bhutan Studies.

The nation’s road map to sustainable agriculture is found in The Royal Government of Bhutan’s Economic Development Policy.

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It Takes 640 Cups of Water to Make 1 Cup of Coffee

images-1

 

imagesYour morning coffee was made with an entire bathtub full of water.
That’s what it takes—about 40 gallons of water—to grow and ship the beans for just a single 8 ounce cup, black, no sugar. That’s 640 cups of water to produce the one cup of coffee. It boggles the mind.

When you say water conservation, most people think of low-flow shower heads and turning off the taps while they brush their teeth. But all the water you see going down the drain is a mere drop in the bucket compared to what we can’t see in our food. Household uses make up just 5% of the water we consume, while the food and drinks on our tables soak up 75% of the total. In fact an entire day’s worth of washing, brushing, and flushing doesn’t add up to the water contained in a single chicken drumstick.

A cup of coffee, a chicken leg; that’s just the beginning. Here are the water totals embedded in some of the foods that get you through your day:

Breakfast: orange juice, two eggs, and toast– 127 gallons
The juice of two oranges = 26 gallons (more if it’s commercially-processed juice)
Two eggs = 46 gallons
Two slices of bread, two teaspoons of butter = 55 gallons (butter’s a killer at around 50 gallons per tablespoon)

Lunch: grilled chicken breast sandwich, little bag of chips, iced tea with lemon and sugar– 209 gallons
chicken breast, bun, lettuce, condiments= 149 gallons (make it a cheeseburger and you’re looking at 673 gallons)
chips = 50 gallons
iced tea= 14 gallons (better than a 16 ounce Coke at 66 gallons)

You’ll think twice about an afternoon snack when you realize that a single serving of peanut M&M’s requires an eye-popping 500 gallons of water in its production and transport.

Dinner: steak, corn on the cob with butter, salad with avocado, red wine– 891 gallons
6 ounces of beef =  700 gallons (if only we ate more goat; the water used to produce 6 ounces of beef would get you 6 pounds of goat meat!) 
1 ear of corn plus 1 teaspoon of butter =  54 gallons 
lettuce, ½ tomato, ¼ avocado, vinaigrette dressing =  117 gallons (it’s mostly the water-intensive olive oil in the dressing)
2 glasses of California wine = 80 gallons

Add in another coffee, maybe some ice cream or a handful of cookies before bed, and over the course of a single day the water contained in a typical American diet will fill and refill that bathtub 38 times.

bathtubs

Generally speaking, plant-based foods are produced with less water than animal products because meat and dairy items are embedded with the water of all the grains that were used as feed. Grass-fed and foraging animals are vastly more efficient and sustainable than water-guzzling, industrially-raised, grain-fed varieties, but pound for pound, animal products have a larger water footprint than crop products. The same is true when we look at the water usage per calorie or protein contained in the food product.

Where the food comes from also matters. India’s tea industry relies on irrigation while Sri Lanka’s tea plants are fed by abundant monsoon rains. Israel grows especially thirsty crops in the desert but does so with reclaimed seawater and the world’s most efficient irrigation. Still, when you realize it takes nearly 30 gallons of water to make a single chocolate Hershey’s Kiss, the fact that cocoa beans grow in rain-fed tropics is less compelling.

Here in the U.S. where fresh water is so plentiful and well-managed, we tend to overlook just how precious and valuable it is. Water is a scarce resource in many parts of the world, and as our food system grows ever more globalized, water shortages elsewhere become our food security problem. Add in the uncertainty of a future marked by global climate changes, and it’s a good bet that water will become an increasingly important component in both domestic and global affairs.

How-Much-Water-Do-You-Eat

Know your water footprint. National Geographic has an online calculator that tallies your personal usage based on home, garden, diet, and energy practices.

At Water Footprint.org you can explore a water footprint database of 132 countries. Yes, we Americans are the water hogs of the planet.

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Big Food Swallows Up Small Organic

There’s nothing ‘alternative’ about organic foods anymore.
The category is a $30 billion industry that accounts for 4.2 percent of all U.S. food sales, Whole Foods Market is in the Fortune 500, and most of your favorite brands like Bear Naked, Kashi, Health Valley, and Spectrum Organics are owned by global brands like Coca-Cola, Cargill, ConAgra, General Mills, and Kraft.

Organic goes global: a victim of its own success
It’s been years since organic food was the back-to-the-land ideal of blue skies over happy cows. We can lament our disillusionment, but growth is the result of a cycle of success.  And it’s not all bad news when corporate America comes knocking.

No love for multinational agri-business conglomerates
Make no mistake about it; organic food is a fast-growing, wildly lucrative business, and that’s why Big Food wants in. If a company doesn’t want to make the investment in improving the eco-friendliness of its heritage brands, it can acquire an organic business and ‘green’ its image by claiming improved environmentalism throughout its overall product line. It’s misleading, hypocritical greenwashing, but here’s why we’ll take it:

Organics for everyone
Big food brings economies of scale that allow organic brands to produce and deliver more products to more people at lower prices. Three-quarters of America’s grocers now carry organic products, and the growth necessary to achieve that kind of  mainstream success would have been impossible without corporate investment. We might view the developments warily and cry ‘sell-out,’ but it is possible that at least some of the conglomerates will continue to produce first-rate organic products and continue the commitment to the socially responsible values of the companies they now own.

The weight of marketing, the power of persuasion
Pepsi sells the heck out of bubbly, brown sugar water, and Kraft taught America that cheese is spelled K-R-A-F-T. Imagine what that muscle and expertise could do for organics. Imagine if just a small fraction of the half a trillion dollars spent on worldwide consumer advertising last year was used to persuade people to buy hormone-free milk, or to feed their kids organic breakfast cereals, or to buy compostable ketchup bottles. Big Food has the power to change consumer behavior in a way that Small Organic never could.

Heighten public awareness and you have a catalyst for further change.
As consumer interest turns toward organic foods, agri-businesses will no doubt seize the opportunity to capture market share by expanding their investments in the organic sector and perhaps over-hauling their heritage brands. Grow the market large enough and it won’t even matter if they share a commitment to environmentalism; the profit motive will propel Big Food into a greener future.

See who really owns the organics: Dr. Philip H. Howard at Michigan State University created the Organic Processing Industry Structure  charting the organic food chain of acquisitions by U.S. food processors.

 

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Try Some Rabbit. Or Would You Rather Eat a Cricket?

Bunny plate from Etsy

 

Scientists tell us we need to start eating bugs.
The booming global population is straining the world’s supply of meat, and the planet just can’t handle any more livestock, which already contributes one-fifth of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. The United Nations has been studying the problem and concluded that entomophagy—the proper term for consuming insects—could be key to future food security.

We should take a closer look at rabbit.

Like insects, rabbit is plentiful in the wild.
Nobody knows just how many billions of rabbits are out there. There are too many to count, and with their notorious fertility and reproduction rates the population is a fast-moving target. Wild rabbits are found on every continent, with the exception of Antarctica, and overpopulation is a frequent complaint.

Raising rabbit is light on the environment.
You can get six pounds of rabbit meat from the same feed and water that it takes to produce one pound of beef, and it can all be foraged. In one year a single doe can produce ten times her own weight in the meat of her offspring. And they’re true locavores— rabbits and the grasses to feed them are found in all 50 states. They’re cleaner, quieter, and easier to butcher than cows, chickens, pigs, or sheep, and their droppings make the best fertilizer of the bunch.

Rabbit is a healthier meat.
Rabbit meat is lower in fat and more protein-dense than beef, pork, lamb, or chicken. There’s almost no cholesterol but lots of healthy fatty acids. And the timing couldn’t be better for introducing a new food into our diets. In recent years we broadened our palates with forays into snout-to-tail dining: we happily spoon marrow out of roasted beef shins; relish the gelatinous succulence of simmered pigs’ feet; and we don’t bat an eye at oxtail and pork jowl. Is rabbit really such a stretch? The meat is delicious— lean and mild-flavored, like a slightly sweeter, slightly gamier chicken. And like chicken, rabbit is a kitchen chameleon that takes well to a multitude of seasonings and preparations.

The pets-or-meat-problem.
We’ve always had an uneasy relationship with rabbits as food. They are cute and fluffy and starred in our Saturday morning cartoons. They bring us chocolate at Easter and are the third most popular pet in the country, after cats and dogs. But if you think about it rabbits are no cuter than baby lambs, and we make room on our plates for them.

We need to get past our rabbit squeamishness.
It shouldn’t be that difficult. Especially when you consider the creepy-crawly alternative.

 

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When Organics are Worth It (and when you can get away with conventionally-grown)

 

Do I dare to eat a peach?

– T.S. Eliot, from the Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock

There’s no two ways about it: we pay dearly for our organics.
The premium is usually 20–100%, and when the conventional counterparts are laced with toxic chemicals we gladly fork it over.
But an all-organic diet isn’t always practical or available, much less affordable. Thankfully, there are times when it’s not essential.

The Dirty Dozen and The Clean Fifteen give you a strategy for stretching your grocery budget. Using pesticide residue testing data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration, the Environmental Working Group ranks the most popular produce items by levels of pesticide contamination. Shop selectively with these rankings as your guide and you’ll reduce your exposure to pesticides while getting the most bang for your grocery buck. 

The Dirty Dozen
You just have to bite the bullet and pay the premium for organic varieties of these twelve fruits and vegetables. Pesticide levels are so high that even with careful washing and peeling there is no way to avoid ingesting a good-sized dose.

Thin-skinned fruits and vegetables are almost always more susceptible to pesticides leeching into the flesh. Apples have especially high levels because of the crevices at the top and bottom of the fruit. Similarly, spinach and celery are very porous, leaving pesticides trapped in the small openings. While peppers have thick skins, pesticide residue clings to the surface even when they are scrubbed.

It’s estimated that you can reduce your total pesticide exposure by 80% if you stick with organic varieties of just this dozen fruits and vegetables:

AppleApples           StrawberriesStrawberries                     Red PepperBell peppers        CeleryCelery
PeachesPeaches         NectarinesNectarines (imported)       GrapesGrapes               Spinach Spinach
LettuceLettuce          Blueberries Blueberries (domestic)     Potatoe Potatoes            Cucumber Cucumbers

 

The worst of the worst:
Based on pesticide residue testing data, imported nectarines are the worst offender. Every single sample tested positive for pesticides, and the total weight of pesticides clinging to the fruit is the highest of any food crop. Apples, celery, and imported plums are close behind, all testing positive in more than 95% of samples. Bell peppers have the distinction of contamination by the greatest variety of pesticides. The USDA found 88 different pesticide residues among its bell pepper samples, with as many as 15 different pesticides detected on individual samples.

The Clean Fifteen
These fifteen fruits and vegetables tend to have low levels of pesticide contamination even when they are grown conventionally. Most of the fifteen have thick, protective skins, husks, or pods, while broccoli and cabbage are cold weather crops that are grown when pests are less prevalent. Tree fruits often require fewer pesticides because they are high above the ground where they are less susceptible to insects.

If you’re rationing your grocery budget, there’s room for compromise with these items:

OnionsOnions           Sweet CornSweet Corn        PineapplePineapple                      AvocadoAvocado
CabbageCabbage        PeasSweet peas        Asparagus Asparagus                    MangoMangoes
EggplantEggplant        KiwiKiwi                  Cantelope Cantaloupe (domestic)   Sweet PotatoesSweet potatoes

GrapefruitGrapefruit     Watermelon Watermelon       Mushrooms Mushrooms

 

The best of the pretty good:
Based on pesticide residue testing data, avocado, sweet corn and onions are the cleanest conventionally-grown food crops with no detectable pesticide on 98% or more of the samples tested. Pineapple tops the 90% clean mark, while about two out of three melons are pesticide-free. Multiple contaminations are rare among the Clean Fifteen, and no more than one type of pesticide was detected on more than 90% of cabbage, asparagus, sweet peas, eggplant, and sweet potato samples.

 

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Can She Bake a Cherry Pie?

image via SF Girl by Bay

 

Not this year, Billy Boy, Billy Boy.

Three-fourths of the nation’s tart cherries—the kind baked into pies and cooked into jam—come from Michigan, and the latest report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture forecasts that virtually all of Michigan’s crop will be lost to freakish weather events. If they’re lucky, cherry growers will eke out 5 million or so lbs., compared with a typical year’s production that hovers around 180 million lbs.

Yes, folks, global warming is here.
2010 was the world’s hottest year on record; that is, until 2011. Now we’re six months into 2012, and it’s clearly another one for the record books.
A bizarre mid-winter heatwave with two weeks of near-90° temperatures brought early buds to Michigan’s cherry trees. When temperatures dropped back into the seasonal range of frosts and freezes, the cherry blossoms dropped too.

Michigan’s disaster is a taste of things to come, a kind of cherry on top of the global warming sundae.
Barring a swift and sudden reduction in greenhouse-gas emissions, here’s what else will happen to our food:

  • Dairy cows will produce less milk and chickens will lay fewer eggs.
  • Grapes will wither into raisins before they can be pressed for wine.
  • We’ll drink  summer ales year-round—the only palatable brew that can be made with the milder, low-acid, warm-weather hops.
  • Fish will flee the southern hemisphere, vegetables will wither in the fields, and maple syrup will be just a memory.

Popsicles and iced drinks can only take you so far. What will you be eating as the planet heats up?

 

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How to Eat Roadkill

Guinea Fowl crossing the road via My Retirement Chronicles

 

Should we eat roadkill?
In theory, it’s an excellent exercise in ethics, environmentalism, and self-reliance.
Why leave it to rot when you can take it home and cook it for dinner?

According to PETA, roadkill is a better choice than the factory-farmed, shrink-wrapped product you find in the supermarket. The group recommends it from a health standpoint, because it doesn’t contain antibiotics, hormones, and growth stimulants. And it’s the more humane option because the animals haven’t been castrated, dehorned, debeaked, or suffered through any of the other horrors of intensive animal agriculture.

Perhaps you prefer the term flat meat.
Roadkill is fresh, organic, and free. It was clearly free-ranging, as some unlucky driver knows all too well. It’s sustainable and supportable through an enlightened political ideology, and there’s plenty of it—according to estimates by Animal People Online, the annual roadkill toll tops 100 million animals, and that’s not even counting the species categorized ever so delicately as indiscernible.

The legality of taking home roadkill varies by state.
Alaska considers it state property but residents can get on a waiting list for a moose, caribou, or bear; Illinois says the driver gets first dibs, though the privilege is only extended to state residents; Texas had to outlaw roadkill because of too many not-quite accidents; and in Tennessee, on the day that the legislature legalized the taking of roadkill, the state senator who had introduced the bill was presented with a bumper sticker: Cat—The Other White Meat.

Tastes just like chicken.
Steve Rinella, who collided with and then stewed up a raccoon for an episode of his now surprisingly defunct Travel Channel show The Wild Within says that “[roadkilled] meat is actually much fresher than what you might find in a grocery store.” The wiki How to Eat Roadkill recommends that you “learn the signs of healthy roadkill”: it should be freshly killed, preferably from an accident you witness, although you get some slack time in the winter months; you want a fresh stench, since the impact can force excrement rapidly through the animal’s digestive tract; and fleas are a good sign, maggots are not. And not to worry about rabies—sure, it’s a deadly communicable virus that infects the central nervous system, but the wiki tells us that it dies off quickly with the animal.

Should we eat roadkill?
Waste not, want not, right?

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Why Twitter’s Founders are Going into the Fake Meat Business

image via 365 Days of Appreciation

 

Mock, faux, vegan, fake
That hunk of seitan isn’t getting you to pass on a ribeye anytime soon. Let’s face it, meat substitutes are no substitute for meat.
So why are Twitter cofounders Biz Stone and Evan Williams, guys who know a thing or two about trends, calling vegan meat substitutes the next big thing?

Stone and Williams are funding and also participating in the marketing of a vegan meat maker called Beyond Meat. The company website touts its product as “the first plant protein that looks, feels, tastes, and acts like meat;” and Stone calls it “A little bit freaky… just too real,” claiming that the experience might even be disturbing to long-time vegetarians. Their target market is not just vegetarians; they see it as anyone with religious or health-related dietary restrictions, or anyone who is concerned about the environmental impact of raising livestock. They have their work cut out for them.

Crimes committed in the name of the frankfurter
The conventional hot dog is the poster child for all of our food system’s woes: highly processed, factory farmed mystery meat loaded with fat, sodium, and preservatives. That’s why, for many meat eaters, the veggie dog is the first foray into meat substitutes. This is an unfortunate place to start. The true frankfurter’s snappy casing with its barely contained salty-smoky-spicy-juicy interior defies replication by soy, gluten, and textured vegetable protein. Instead, you get rubbery skins and spongy, off-putting textures; and a taste that no amount of mustard can salvage. It can be a Smart Dog, Tofu Pup, or Tofurkey frank; it doesn’t matter because they all get it wrong.
It’s worth noting that Beyond Meat doesn’t list a hot dog in its product line.

To faux or not to faux
This is the vegetarian’s dilemma. Most people don’t stop eating meat because of the taste, but more often for health or ethical reasons. Meat substitutes offer them a meatless way to recreate favorite recipes and replace the protein in their diets, and might even move confirmed meat eaters to make more sustainable choices. But many vegetarians say that cooking with faux meat is no different than the questionable morality of wearing faux fur. Just like some anti-fur advocates wonder if wearing faux fur promotes real fur as fashionable, there are vegetarians who feel that meat substitutes send a message that meat is desirable and that the vegetarian lifestyle demands sacrifice and deprivation.

The Twitter team is banking on Beyond Meat as the gateway meat substitute, the one that will wear down faux meat resistance from vegetarians and non-vegetarians alike. They believe it can have a real impact on meat consumption–and in turn, our health and the environment. And you know, they’ve been right before.

 

 

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The Dark Side of Goat Cheese: Killing the Billies

 

It’s the dirty little secret of the dairy goat industry.
Most male kids are killed at birth and their carcasses are tossed out as waste.

Birds and bees on the goat farm
Male goats serve little purpose on a dairy goat farm. They impregnate the female does so that they can produce milk, but artificial insemination minimizes even that need. After that, you don’t even want them around because of their smell. If you keep them around when the does are lactating, no one will go near the resultant cheese.

This is no ordinary farm smell—male goats are so stinky that they sully everything on the farm by association. It’s a smell so foul that it takes your breath away; so foul that even the liberal, permissive, and food-centric city of Berkeley, California has banned male goats from its city limits.

Male goats have scent glands on their heads that release an acrid, penetrating oil that’s like a skunk’s spray on steroids. Since the goats have little to do on the farm, they spend a lot of time excreting oil and spreading it all over themselves and everything in reach. Their other hobby is urination. They like to roll around in their own pee until their coats are yellow and matted and even smellier.

Of course about half of all kids are born male. Females tend to give birth to twins or triplets, so goat farms end up with a lot of these charming creatures. Without a strong end market for goat meat, the billy kids are disposed of immediately before they can become a logistical nightmare and financial drain on the farm.

The other red meat
Goat meat is a hard sell. Goats have a lowly reputation as gamey, scavenging beasts. At a time when adventurous diners are eating pigs from snout to tail and exploring the outer limits of offal, goat meat is the final frontier—at least to Americans. Goat is the world’s most popular meat, accounting for 70% of all red meat eaten globally. It’s got a lot to recommend it. Goat meat is lower in fat and higher in protein than chicken, beef, pork, and lamb. It conforms to halal and kosher laws. And goats are the ultimate free-ranging animals— they’re browsers rather than grazers, happy to munch weeds on tiny plots of land.

122 days til Goatober
Killing billy goats is ethically troubling and indefensible from a position of sustainability. Heritage Foods USA launched No Goat Left Behind in 2011 with the twin goals of raising awareness of the plight of male kids and raising the culinary profile of goat meat. The month of October was dubbed ‘Goatober’ when the Heritage Foods program partnered with farmers and restaurants in New York and the Bay Area. They’ll be bringing it to more cities for the 2012 season.
Save the billies and look for a Goatoberfest near you.

Posted in food trends, sustainability | 3 Comments

Should You Be Buying Your Groceries Online?


Clicks or Bricks: which is cheaper, easier, greener?

Who wouldn’t want to cut out all those trips to the supermarket?
Hopefully you’ve already cut way back, with a larger portion of your food coming from farmers markets and other local sources, but you just can’t get everything. There will always be a need for the cans and bottle, cleaning supplies and paper goods that large chain stores offer cheaper and with better selection. We are still left with that most detestable of all household errands—the trip to the supermarket.

It’s misery from start to finish: the parking space in the next county, the shopping cart with a cranky wheel, the checkout line that inches along, and finally the multiple trips from car to kitchen hauling all those grocery bags. What if you could eliminate that dreaded chore AND reduce your environmental impact?

A study conducted by Carnegie Mellon University’s Green Design Institute concluded that online purchases with home delivery can result in 35 percent less energy consumption and carbon dioxide emissions than traditional shopping. Approximately 65 percent of total emissions generated by the traditional retail model comes from driving your own car to and from the store. Even though a huge, fuel-burning truck will be bringing the groceries to you, the incremental energy consumption and emissions created by one more shopping order and one more delivery stop added to the truck’s route is less significant than if you make the drive yourself.

There are also logistical differences in the supply chain that can lessen the environmental impact of online shopping. Traditional bricks-and-mortar retailers generally have items shipped from manufacturers to distributors to regional warehouses, where they are then redistributed to individual store locations. Online sellers can streamline the process. They usually eliminate at least one tier of regional warehousing, and some can even skip a few steps by relying on distribution partners to ship directly shipping to customer homes. This cuts back not just on the transportation of products, but also the bundled packaging and packing materials needed along the way.

Try it; you’ll like it.
Online grocery purchases are still at a miniscule 2% of overall sales, thriving in just a few urban niche markets. But those users are hooked. Among shoppers who tried out online shopping over the past year, 43% have become regular, weekly online customers and 12% are now monthly shoppers.

Here come the game-changers.
We’ve grown comfortable with online shopping, the modems are a lot faster, and gas prices are hovering around $4.00  a gallon. Walmart, already the nation’s biggest grocer, is experimenting with a new online service called Walmart To Go, while Amazon, the king of online retailers, has big plans for a national roll-out of its own service, AmazonFresh. There are plenty of alternatives for the Walmart averse— SOS eMarketing lists 50 online grocers including ethnic, regional, and specialty retailers, and we now have the nation’s first USDA-certified organic online grocer.

For the little things on your list…
We all know about the wasteful gas-guzzling miles spent on last minute trips for a few items. For that desperately needed quart of milk or bag of Milanos, we can look to an Italian crowd-sourcing experiment called Milk, Please!. The app lets a user send a shopping request to Milk, Please!, which is accessible online, via smartphones, and at supermarket kiosks. Someone who is planning a shopping trip or is already at the store can view the request and add the items to their own shopping list. They then drop the item off on their way home, and Milk, Please! handles the payment and reimbursement. Massachusetts-based Neighbor Favor is trying a similar tip-based service harnessing the abundant idle time and energy of college students.

Posted in home delivery, shopping, sustainability | Leave a comment

Bottled Water Comes Out Swinging

You have to buy bottled water because you can never find a decent, working drinking fountain.
Drinking fountains are disappearing from public spaces because everyone buys bottled water.
WeTap wants to break the cycle.

WeTap is a new, free smartphone app that uses Google Maps to locate public drinking fountains, nearby or along your route.
Water fountain data is currently available for just a few U.S. cities, but it’s already the largest database of its kind, with information on location, working condition, water quality, plus a photo of each fountain.

From the expense to the environment impact, there is just so much wrong with bottled water; but you already know that. While in the U.S. we’re still going through 85 million bottles every single day, we are catching on. More than 100 cities and towns and an equal number of college campuses have banned sales or restricted the use of bottled water, as have many national parks including Zion National, the Grand Canyon, and Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.

The bottled water industry is not taking this lying down. With 20 billion dollars in annual domestic sales at stake, the International Bottled Water Association has launched a marketing campaign to defend itself against what its press release calls “well-known anti-bottled water groups [that] are recruiting college students to spread misinformation.” The IBWA has launched an online campaign urging the public to protect this threat to its “freedom of choice,” and has launched a video titled Student Activism: 101 reminding students that past generations have used college campuses to protest against war, racism, and other social injustices like Darfur and sweatshop labor.
Uh huh, just like bottled water.
That’s some serious chutzpah.

Alternatively, concerned citizens can channel their activist energies toward reducing the 50 million or so barrels of oil used to produce and transport a year’s worth of water bottles, and eliminating the 38 billion water bottles that end up in our landfills each year. You can help reinvigorate our public water systems— some of the cleanest, safest, and most abundant waters in the world. The WeTap app encourages crowdsourced contributions. Install the application and you can contribute to your area’s map and ratings through the add a fountain function.

See what restaurants are doing to break the bottled water habit. One small change has already saved 9 million gallons.

Posted in phone applications, sustainability | 2 Comments

Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is

currency cover art from 'Inquiries into the Nature of Slow Money'

 

The Wall Street Journal said: ‘Forget conventional 401(k)s; think goat cheese and fennel.’
Business Week called it one of the ‘big ideas that will change small business and entrepreneurship,’ and Time Magazine explored its potential to ‘remake America’s food industry.’
They’re all talking about the nascent Slow Money movement bringing seed capital to local food systems.

This is an idea whose time has come.
Local foods are in the spotlight, focusing our attention on the need to strengthen and promote sustainable regional food systems and move away from corporate agribusiness. And our food interests happen to coincide with an opening for new investment models. The last financial market meltdown convinced us that we need to understand our investments. Forget about credit default swaps and subprime-backed derivatives—let’s put our money in investments we can sink our teeth into. Literally.

Kickstarter (and the similarly structured Indiegogo) has had great success applying its crowdsourced funding platform to food-related projects.
It began as the go-to place for filmmakers, designers, and other creative media types, but food entrepreneurs quickly staked out their own small but vibrant corner. Last year more than 30,000 Kickstarter investors pooled their funds- in increments as small as $5.00- to fund 241 food and beverage projects like a community gristmill, a magazine for high school foodies, an urban apiary, a doggie cupcake bakery, and lots and lots of food trucks (plus one tricycle vendor).

This is not a loan or an investment; Kickstarter participants are patrons, and their patronage is usually rewarded in the form of project mementos or perks— a $10 pledge might entitle you to a snack bag from an organic nut roaster, or $200 to a pickle maker could get you a weekend brining workshop.

Not all your eggs in one basket
Credibles nudges the model closer to an investment.
If an individual were to make a direct investment in, say, an egg farm or a jam maker, payment in-kind would bring them more eggs and marmalade than they would know what to do with. Intead, Credibles creates a single fund from the contributions of multiple investors. The loans it makes to small and artisanal producers are repaid in-kind—a farm returns crops, a restaurant returns meals, a small-batch ice cream maker returns pints of rocky road—but since an investor is buying into the shared pool, repayment comes from the collective pool of businesses in the form of edible credits, ‘credibles,’ that can be redeemed for a wide assortment of products.

Slow Money for Slow Food
These new investment models are part of the larger concept of Slow Money. Equal parts movement and investment strategy, it takes more than just its name from the global grassroots Slow Food organization. In the same way that Slow Food is a response to fast food and the globalized, industrialized state of our food supply, Slow Money offers an alternative to the fast money of our global financial markets. It asserts that our current paths, both agricultural and fiduciary, are irresponsible, unhealthy, and ultimately unsustainable.

Slow Money redefines investment returns to measure not just profits, which will come more slowly, but to also consider the value of social responsibility in return-on-investment calculations. Land preservation, crop diversity, food safety, and strong local economies all pay their own dividends.

Crowdfunding just got a lot easier.
Earlier this year, a bi-partisan group of senators introduced a piece of securities legislation called the Crowdfund Act. While it adds to the compliance burden of funding portals like Kickstarter, it’s a boon to both individual investors and entrepreneurs, lifting many of the regulations that restricted the crowdfunding of small businesses. Approved resoundingly by the Senate, this month President Barack Obama signed it into law as part of the JOBS Act.

You can read the full text of the Crowdfund Act (Senate Bill 2190) at the Library of Congress website.

Posted in food business, local foods, sustainability | Leave a comment

Is Williams-Sonoma’s Agrarian Brand the Real Portlandia?

American Hipster by Kyle Mahan

 

Who needs Portlandia when we have Williams-Sonoma Agriarian?
The urban DIY sustainability movement comes painfully close to self-parody with Williams-Sonoma’s new Agrarian line of tools and supplies.

Launched last week, Agrarian brings us shiny tin bronze garden trowels hand-forged by Austrian coppersmiths ($58.95 not including optional monogramming on the linseed oil-rubbed turned beech handle), the cedar shake-roofed Alexandria Chicken Coop and Run ($1,389.90 in your choose of colors with “White Glove delivery; we’ll assemble the coop and place it for you“), and a $14.95 ball of twine “handcrafted in Scotland by a company known for its high-quality garden twine since 1922.” The merchandise line also includes a $299.95 metal tub that can be repurposed as an herb planter (described as an “authentic found object, circa 1920s–1940s”) and the Kumbucha Brooklyn Kit complete with “organic, fair-trade cane sugar from Brazil” and a “pristinely propagated symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast;” everything you need to brew your own ancient tea-based beverage just like they do by the Belt Parkway.

It’s the self-conscious virtuousness of urban homesteaders.
Agrarian will give a big déjà vu feeling to fans of the Portlandia television series. The sketch comedy loves to skewer the precious concerns of the studiously trendy, and foodies are a favored target. Portlandia has brought us the lactose- and wheat-free Allergy Pride Parade, the overzealous briners of We Can Pickle That!, and the unforgettable Colin, a menu item presented to restaurant patrons with a pedigree and photograph identifying him as a local, free-range, heritage-breed, woodland-raised chicken that was fed a diet of sheep’s milk, soy, and hazelnuts.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m all for a conversation about our broken food system. I have nothing but respect for the ethos of sustainability and self-reliance. I admire the artfulness, passion, and ingenuity of those who reclaim fallow land for food production. But the high-end, sanitized homesteading represented by Agrarian smacks of elistist puttering by hipster backyardatarians and status beekeeping by weekend getaway home-owners.

It’s an easy target for Portlandia-style parody; like hitting the broad side of a barn painted a perfect Martha Stewart Living™ Barn Door Red.

I think you’ll like Brokelandia. A love letter to Portlandia, it’s a Brooklyn-based spoof of a spoof covering everything from beer-flavored salted caramels to deep-fried sardine skeletons.

Posted in Entertainment, sustainability | Leave a comment

Can You Eat Ethically and Still Eat Meat?

It’s not like you’re suddenly going to go cold turkey, if you’ll pardon the pun. We humans didn’t claw our way up the food chain so we could eat quinoa.

Meat-eating and ethical eating don’t have to be mutually exclusive. There are ways to eat meat that are sensitive to the environment, to our health, and to the animals involved.

All meat is not created equal.
We all know that factory farming is a grotesquery. It’s basically institutionalized animal cruelty and it creates a product that is unfit and unhealthy for human consumption. It depletes resources and is destructive to the environment.

Then there’s grass-fed or pasture-raised beef.
These animals are raised in open, humane, sanitary conditions. They conserve resources by passing on a diet of grains grown with petroleum-based fertilizers and pesticides. Better for your health, grass-fed beef contains fewer antibiotics and hormones, is leaner than grain-fed and grain-finished beef, and has a more favorable ratio of omega fatty acids.

The well-managed pasture system sustains natural resources by reducing erosion and water pollution, conserving carbon, and preserving biodiversity and wildlife. Their sales methods—either operating as an independent, selling directly from their own property, or selling through small, locally focused producer groups—help support local communities, promote local foodsheds, and earn a fair price for the producers.

The industrialization of the calf.
We took an earth-friendly, solar-powered ruminant and turned it into a fossil-fuel powered machine.
The problem with banishing all meat from the dinner table is that ranchers of conscience are caught in the sweep, demonized along with factory farmers. These ethical producers should be celebrated as the vanguard of a growing revolt against industrial agriculture, not penalized by association.

Let’s face it, we are not heading toward a meatless society.
But we can be a society of ethical carnivores. We need to eat meat in moderation and avoid animals raised in confined spaces and fed an unnatural diet. Choosing grass-fed beef can have a lasting impact on our health and the health of the planet.

Posted in sustainability, vegetarian/vegan | 1 Comment

What We’ll Eat as the Planet Heats Up

image via World Magazine

How’s that climate change thing working for you?
Not everyone is in agreement on the causes, but the effects are undeniable.
Popsicles and iced drinks can only take you so far. What will you be eating as the planet heats up?

2010 was the world’s hottest year on record. Centuries-old records fell as we went on a rollercoaster ride of weather events. Then the summer of 2011 stunned us with a heatwave the breadth, duration, and strength of which we’d never seen, pulling the year into the all-time top ten. And with historical high temperatures bested by 40 degree margins this winter, it’s a pretty safe bet that 2012 will be another one for the record books.
Climatologists are telling us it’s just a taste of things to come.

Atmospheric scientists at the University of Washington and at Stanford University’s Program for Food Security and the Environment analyzed data from 23 climate models. They predict, with 90%  certainty, that by the end of the 21st century, average growing-season temperatures will be hotter than the most extreme levels recorded in the past. Barring a swift and sudden reduction in greenhouse-gas emissions, here’s what will happen to our food:

  • Fruit trees will blossom weeks early in the warmer spring weather, before insects arrive to pollinate them. Without successful pollination, small fruit will form and quickly drop off the trees before it can mature.
  • Grapes will wither into raisins before they can be pressed for wine.
  • Dairy cows will experience reproductive failure and produce less milk.
  • Hogs and cattle will go off their feed and take longer to get to market.
  • Chickens will lay fewer eggs.
  • Coffee-growing regions will fade away as growers are forced to either move to higher ground or pack it in.
  • We’ll drink  summer ales year-round—the only palatable brew from weaker, low-acid, warm-weather hops.
  • Fish will flee the southern hemisphere, vegetables will wither in the fields, maple syrup will be just a memory.

We’ve seen food prices rise by 20% as the hot weather torpedoes production, but what if dinner costs 20 times what it did?

The midwestern breadbasket will be redubbed the tropical fruit bowl.
Mashed cassava will stand in for potatoes, we’ll eat french-fried yucca, and scramble the eggy akee fruit for breakfast. It’s already happening across Europe, where England has begun producing bananas, olives, and oranges, and central Russia is planted with fig trees and lemons.

The evidence continues to pile up.
This is not an ordinary heatwave but part of a larger trend that is indisputably based on measured concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Global warming as a result of human activity is recognized by the national science academies of  every major industrialized country.

Learn how your personal choices  impact the environment. Read Ten Personal Solutions to Global Warming from the Union of Concerned Scientists.

Join 350.com, a global, grassroots movement to solve the crisis.

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The Environmental Impact of Chopsticks

Every 10 days or so, each of China’s 1.3 billion citizens tosses out a pair of disposable chopsticks.
Do the math—this is no small thing. Even as spilled oil barrels bob in its waters and its cities are blanketed in a miasma of hazy smog, a bunch of wooden chopsticks has emerged as one of China’s leading environmental woes.

About 100,000 Chinese are employed in the chopstick manufacturing industry turning out 77 billion pairs annually. Greenpeace China has estimated that 100 acres of trees are cut down every 24 hours just to feed chopstick production; that’s twenty-five million felled trees in a single year. A 2008 United Nations report estimates that 10,800 square miles of Asian forest are disappearing each year. Deforestation has lead to environmental epidemics like soil erosion, flooding, landslides, food shortages, carbon dioxide release, and species extinction. Environmentalists warn that if China continues to use timber at current levels, its remaining forests will be gone by 2020.

China uses several types of chopsticks, each with its own advantage. Longer sticks are used for cooking while shorter ones are for eating. Disposable bamboo and wooden chopsticks are the least expensive, costing about a penny a pair. Plastic chopsticks are also cheap but they’re not suitable for cooking at high temperatures, and like more durable but costly metal and lacquer versions, restaurants are required to sterilize them between users, which can add 15 cents or more to the cost for each use.

China’s consumer ministries are campaigning to create chopstick awareness and get people to recycle, reuse, and bring their own, and the government has imposed a 5% tax on disposables. In recent years, an independent Bring Your Own Sticks movement has been gaining traction. Markets and takeout noodle shops now ask if customers need chopsticks rather than sticking them into checkout bags by default. Some employers will fine workers who don’t bring their own sticks to the office, and restaurants are offering incentives like a free bowl of soup or tea for customers who bring their own utensils. Manufacturers are designing a variety of portable, folding chopsticks and carrying cases, and one company is turning out eco-friendly disposable chopsticks made of biodegradable cornstarch.

Not made in China
Last November America’s first-ever chopsticks manufacturer opened its doors in Georgia. Georgia Chopsticks, LLC currently produces 2 million chopsticks a day, nearly all of it shipping to China, and expects to raise that to a daily 10 million by year-end.

Wooden chopsticks don’t pose the same kind of environmental threat to the U.S. Here, wood is an abundant and renewable resource. While less ideal than reusables, disposable wooden cutlery is more environmentally friendly in its manufacture and disposal than oil-based, non-biodegradable plastics.

We might not have to worry about the environmental impact of chopsticks like they do in China, but we make up for it with the 39 billion plastic forks, spoons, and knives that annually make their way to American landfills.

 

Posted in sustainability | 1 Comment

Kudos and Criticism for Chipotle’s Farm Ad


It’s been 2 weeks and the buzz still hasn’t died down.
Fast food marketer Chipotle Mexican Grill ran a doozy of a commercial during the Grammy Awards. The company went all out for its first national ad buy, a 2 minute spot during which it screened a short film celebrating sustainable agriculture.

Back to the Start uses stop-motion animation to tell the tale of a small-time farmer who transforms his family farm into an industrialized animal feeding operation, then sees the error of his way and returns to his former small-scale methods. It starts out as a sweet little Fisher-Price playset of a farm, green and lush with a single red barn and open pastures where a handful of spotted cows and plump pink piggies roam freely. Then it scales up to a gray landscape of bloated animals, crowded warehouses, and mechanized feeding lines with sludgy feed and a rainbow of chemical supplements. The soundtrack comes from Willie Nelson singing a mournful rendition of the Coldplay tune The Scientist: “Science and progress/Don’t speak as loud as my heart/Nobody said it was easy/No one ever said it would be so hard/I’m going back to the start.”

The film succeeds on many levels.
It’s playful but unsettling. It confronts the horrors and pitfalls of concentrated, mechanized agriculture, but does so without the stridency and gory shock tactics of most animal rights messaging. It’s simple but not dumbed down.

The critics began chiming in while the final frame was still flickering on TV screens.
Proponents of Big Agriculture blasted the message as a ‘prescription for worldwide hunger,’ claiming that they make the tough calls regarding animal husbandry on our behalf. In a New York Times opinion piece, Missouri Farm Bureau president Blake Hurst warned that our political correctness actually backfires because it drives small farmers out of business because only “big multistate operations will also be able to afford to make the changes, or will at least have the political sway to resist them.” He also questions Chipotle’s assumption that a pig would prefer a pasture to a warehouse. Have there been “porcine focus groups,” he wonders, with “response meters designed for the cloven of hoof?” “… for all we know, pigs are ‘happier’ in warm, dry buildings than they are outside. And either way, the end result is a plate.” [If Mr. Hurst’s name is ringing a bell, perhaps it’s because he first made a name in the food world as the author The Omnivore’s Delusion, the anti-foodie screed he penned in response to Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma]

Chipotle also drew criticism from members of the food reform community. Chipotle, whose motto is “Food with integrity,” has demonstrated a deep commitment to the humane treatment of animals, but has come under fire numerous times for ignoring the unethical and abusive labor practices of some of its vendors. Some also have a cynical view of a corporation that has co-opted a movement and turned it into a marketing tool.

It’s true that we can’t presume to truly know what’s inside a pig’s mind. It’s also true that Chipotle mixes self-interest with the environmental message. But ultimately, it’s the message that matters. Back to the Start addresses deep and important issues about the food supply, and Chipotle succeeded in bringing them to the attention of a broad national audience.

 

Posted in entertainment, fast food, sustainability | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

The Cheeseburger Footprint: Can you be green and eat fast food?

Nike shoeburger via LOL Gallery

Can you be green and eat fast food? Some fast food chains are better than others, when it comes to their environmental impact, but is a cheeseburger always going to be ethically challenged? We know about the carbon footprint of the greenhouse gases produced through burning fossil fuels for electricity, heating and transportation—the normal activities of our day-to-day lives. What about our cheeseburger footprint?

Each year, the green-living website Greenopia rates the environmental impact and healthy dining characteristics of popular fast food chains. The rankings are based on factors like sustainable building design, integrity of the supply chain, and participation in recycling and composting programs. We learn that McDonald’s is greener than Burger King, and Subway is doing a better job than Taco Bell. Good to know, yes, but this still doesn’t answer the question, Can you be green and eat fast food?

Can fast food ever be green?
Fast food chains generate tremendous amounts of waste. Recycled or not, no other dining format can touch its levels. And once you peel back the wrappers and packaging, you have the food miles and greenhouse gases, and the salt, fat, and high-fructose corn syrup of factory farmed, heavily processed foods.

Fast food will ultimately hit the wall when it tries to go green.
We, the customers, are hooked on fast, cheap, and convenient. The fast food giants can improve their use and disposal of packaging materials. They have the clout to push food producers toward more sustainable options that are organic, fairly traded, and additive-free. But the high volume, low cost model will always dictate the terms and impose its own limitations. Processed travels better than fresh, fruit-flavored is cheaper than fruit, and a Big Mac is still going to cost less than a salad. Getting it ‘to go’ will always mean wasteful packaging, and cars will continue to idle in drive-through lanes.

Let’s go back to the original question: Can you be green and eat fast food?
There are plenty of anti-waste crusaders and Slow Food advocates who would answer with an emphatic, unequivocal ‘no;’ that even the greenest of fast food options run counter to their missions, producing more waste and carbon emissions than home cooking served on real dishes. But isn’t that like telling the owner of a Prius that hybrids are pointless, or even counterproductive, because they still burn fossil fuels?

While it’s true that a bicycle is a greener, more ethical option than any car, it obviously doesn’t work for everyone and in all circumstances. As an alternative, a hybrid car is a laudable, pragmatic solution, and even a catalyst for change—the presence of each one on our roads helps promote a worthy message in the public sphere.

Unfortunately, most of us won’t be giving up our quick, inexpensive meals eaten on the fly any more than we will quit driving. So when we opt for fast food, we need to patronize those chains that are making a true effort to minimize their impact on the environment, the ones given a 3- or 4-leaf rating by Greenopia’s fast food ratings.

Choosing to eat even the most ethical, sustainable fast food is an imperfect option in the same way that a Prius is an imperfect vehicle, and the self-righteous among us might challenge the ‘greenness’ of the choice. But it represents distinct, incremental progress and creates public awareness that just might be the catalyst for further change on our way to a greener future.

Just how bad is fast food’s impact on the environment? It’s all broken down for you in the Cheeseburger Footprint.

 

Posted in fast food, sustainability | Tagged , | 1 Comment
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