Thursday, October 22, 2009

No Impact Experiment- Wednesday, Food

Today's challenge in the No Impact Experiment was about trying to reduce the carbon footprint of your food by eating more locally grown foods, eating less animal products, and by purchasing foods with less packaging or processing. Oh no, I'm afraid shopping at Whole Foods isn't going to get me through this one.

Nevertheless, I marched off to Whole Foods yesterday to do some grocery shopping with this challenge in mind. I figured I could pick up some veggies and something from the bulk bins and put together a lower impact meal.

Unfortunately, I took Ryan with me and he immediately began rushing about the store trying to toss his favorite items into the cart. The first thing he tried to put into the cart was some store prepared salsa verde in a plastic container. I explained to him that we were trying to reduce our use of packaging and buy local. He begrudgingly put the salsa verde back as he explained to me that he needed to eat and that everything in the store comes in some sort of packaging.

I wandered over to the bulk bin area to look at the offerings. Of course none of it was local which left me in a quandary. Go for less packaging or less local? Which was worse? It was then that I remembered Colin had included a carbon calculator in his how-to manual which helps determine how to eat with a lower carbon impact. Wish I had checked that out before heading to the store. Given the array of decisions and choices, and none of them being good ones, I began to feel very overwhelmed and defaulted to shopping as I normally would. I rationalized my decision by figuring I was at least in Whole Foods supporting organic farmers from near and far, some items with lots of packaging, others less so.

As I walked home from the store, feeling badly about all of the processed, packaged, non-local foods in my bags, I thought about all of the changes I need to make to be more in line with reducing my food's carbon footprint- most of them not easy. Changing the way you do something can't happen overnight. Sure, I could have picked some of the lettuce I grew and made a salad and then heated up the stew I purchased at the farmer's market and made a lower carbon dinner for this challenge. But I can't eat stew and salad forever and wanted to be aware of what I need to do to make lasting change. To think the process through.

At first glance, I realize I need to reduce the amount of food I buy that contains lots of packaging and make more homemade items. For instance, I could skip the boxed cereals and purchase oatmeal in bulk. Or I could make my own muffins from scratch using flour from the bulk bins rather than store-made muffins encased in plastic. All this translates to spending more time cooking in the kitchen which I am not sure I am prepared for. So much to think about and process. Like I said at the begging of this challenge, this No Impact Experiment goes way beyond recycling and using cloth bags to carry your groceries in. It is a true challenge.

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