changing buying habits to change big food

 
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During my college years I learned a lot about myself. I learned that I am incredibly introverted, that I am not cut out for east coast winters, that yoga is a life changing practice, that I actually like running, and that my greatest passions are health, wellness, and environmental sustainability. As a business student I instantly gravitated towards classes about ethics, sustainability, and innovation. I knew that wherever my career took me, I wanted to be doing something to create a positive impact on the world. As my yoga teacher training peaked my interest in health and wellness, I started educating myself about the environmental impacts of the food and agriculture industry. I became a vegetarian, started shopping at farmers markets, stopped buying plastic water bottles, and began making a handful of other life style changes in an effort to do good for our planet.

Our current day agriculture industry contributes to 1/5 of the fossil fuels we emit into the environment. Buying mass produced meat, dairy, and produce is single handedly one of the most harmful things we can do for the environment. Consumer buying habits drive the market. The more consumers buy inorganic, non-local food and mass produced meat, the more those products will continue to be produced. Not to mention, these products contain pesticides, antibiotics, and toxins like glyphosate that all contribute to chronic inflammation and illnesses.

Accessibility is a big issue here. As someone who grew up in an affluent neighborhood in southern California, went to school in Boston, and now lives in Portland, I have never felt I don’t have access to healthy food. I acknowledge that my situation comes from privilege, and that impoverished and rural areas have a much higher percentage of fast food restaurants promoting unhealthy eating habits. Going through life skipping breakfast and eating processed foods for each and every meal not only has the potential to lead to future life long health ailments, but it also affects a persons’ mood, behavior, and capability to be productive. There are countless studies that indicate the effect of food on behavior. Schools that replace genetically modified (GM) foods with organic fruits and vegetables attest to noticing a major shift in their students’ ability to focus and apply themselves in the classroom. It’s not rocket science…

The diet industry is another big issue here. Companies promote food products that they may genuinely believe are healthy for their consumers, but in turn are actually doing more harm than good. Common diet misconceptions lead people to make food choices that may not be beneficial to their biological needs. The Keto diet might work great for some, but in others it spikes their cortisol levels and leads to weight gain and imbalanced hormones. Veganism might seem like the end all be all for many, but for others the intake of soy products that contain phytoestrogens lead to estrogen dominance. Paleo might make some people feel amazing, but for some the limited list of foods that can be eaten leads to restrictive and disordered food behaviors. People’s food choices are personal, and I urge everyone to experiment and find out what works best for them.

Lack of accurate education about this topic is one of the biggest roadblocks for making change in the food industry. An organic label on a food package is not enough to confirm that it is a healthy choice. The calorie count, carb content, sugar content, or fat content are not good indicators of whether or not a product is a healthy choice. Genetically modified foods and toxic chemical like corn, soy, canola oil, carrageenan, and sulfites make their way into a LOT of organic products. Reading the ingredient label is the first step to making clean food choices. Point blank. 1 in 2 people are chronically ill, and the biggest way to prevent this statistic from getting worse is by making educated food choices every time we pick up our forks.

Living a lifestyle that consists of a clean diet is expensive. It is a huge privilege, and that is unfair. Personally I spend around $120 per week on food/groceries just for myself. I typically spend around $30-$40 at the farmers market, around $60 at Whole Foods or New Seasons on specialty items, and $20-$30 on eating out. This budget fluctuates. Some weeks I spend more on replenishing expensive products like nut butter, collagen, and matcha. Some weeks I don’t have any specialty items I need to buy and don’t eat out at all, so I spend quite a bit less. My budget is a bit steep for one person and I am fully aware of that. However, I don’t spend money on alcohol because I don’t drink, I rarely eat out at restaurants, I don’t buy new clothes very often, and I choose to do at-home workouts and yoga flows vs. paying $30 per class at a fitness studio. As I battle Lyme disease, high quality food is my number one priority.

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As far as diet goes, I personally don’t like to subscribe to any specific diet label. I currently am on a regimented Keto diet as part of my Lyme and parasite healing protocol, but I still prefer to consume mostly plant-based foods. Cutting out meat completely seems to take a toll on my hormones. I notice that when I am eating vegetarian my cycles are a bit more brutal and my hair doesn’t grow as much. I consume meat a few times a week, and do my absolute best to make sure it is from a local farm. From a sustainability standpoint, I think as long as you consume locally raised meat products then there should be no guilt. Especially if it’s what is best for your body. We can only do the best we can do. Do I struggle with the concept of animal cruelty? Yes. 100%. But again buying local means supporting a more humane way to raise livestock. The act of eating meat is not going to go away. So let’s eat meat responsibly, yes?

Shopping at farmers markets and supporting local farms is a great place to start. It’s easier to shop plastic-free at farmers markets too because nothing is prepackaged. The emissions used in the process to get the food from the farm to you are much less when you shop local, also helping you to lower your carbon footprint. Starting my Saturday off at the farmers market is always a wholesome, enlightening experience for me. Yes, the grocery story two blocks away from my apartment is more convenient. But it is far less rewarding.

I hear a lot of talk about how climate change is becoming exponentially more problematic and about how people think there needs to be a big change. WE are the change. It is up to us to make mindful decisions. Every time we sit down for dinner, grab a snack, go grocery shopping, go to brunch, etc. we have the opportunity to vote for the wellbeing of our planet.

composting makes the world go round

Okay, so maybe composting doesn’t actually make the world go round. But, it does help to support the cycle of life, inhibit the production of greenhouse gas emissions, reduce food waste, and so much more. Many people believe that throwing food scraps and paper products into a landfill is harmless because they are biodegradable. However, when these materials break down in a landfill they become powerful contributors to greenhouse gas emissions by enhancing the production of methane. Composting also enriches soil and reduces the need for chemical fertilizer. I started composting regularly in May of this year. I’m lucky because the apartment building I live in in Portland has a composting bin along with a trash bin, recycling bin, and glass bottle bin. One of my favorite aspects of Portland is how proactive and environmentally conscious everyone here is.

Composting is not sexy and glamorous, but it’s a conversation that should be had. If it is accessible to you, it is a very simple way to incorporate another sustainability practice into your life. It took me a couple weeks to get into the habit of throwing food into my compost bin. If it is something that, like myself, you did not grow up doing then you will have to recondition yourself a bit. Before you know it you won’t think twice about it though! A big part of adopting more environmentally friendly habits into our lives is being willing to create new habits. Change is not easy for most of us, but the well-being of our planet deserves the extra effort. Now, let’s get into the nitty gritty of home composting…

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Your first step will be choosing your compost bin. I have this one from World Market. It sits on my kitchen countertop in between my stove and sink because that is where I do most of my chopping and cooking. Putting your compost bin in a convenient and obvious place will be crucial in helping you get into the habit of composting. This is what works for me. Play around with it and figure out what works for YOU. I find that I usually need to take my compost out about two times per week, and I throw it in the dish washer once per week. I also have several charcoal filters on hand to replace them every so often. If you live in a house with a yard you have the luxury of keeping a larger compost bin outside, or if you’re into the whole DIY thing you can even create your own!

WHAT NOT TO COMPOST:

  • black walnut tree leaves & twigs

  • coal & charcoal

  • insect-ridden plants

  • dairy products

  • meat & fish

  • oils & grease

  • yard trimmings of plants treated with chemical pesticides

  • pet waste


WHAT TO COMPOST:

  • fruits & vegetables

  • crushed egg shells

  • tea bags & coffee grounds

  • nut shells

  • shredded newspaper

  • cardboard, paper

  • yard trimmings, grass clippings & leaves

  • house plants

  • saw dust & wood chips

  • 100% cotton or wool rags

  • hair & fur

  • fire place ash

If, like myself, you live in an urban area and don’t have a yard then you will need to find a place to dump your compost. Like I mentioned my building has a compost dump in our trash room. I know that in many cities this option won’t be nearly as common. If you aren’t sure where to dump your compost you can try using a curbside compost service! You can also give your compost to a gardening neighbor, add it to your potted plants, donate it to a community garden, or see if a local farm can use it. There are plenty of options, so I urge you not to rule out composting just because you don’t know where to take it.

On the contrary, if you are using your compost for your own soil at home than you have a few more considerations to think about. You will need to build a decent foundation. Try some shredded newspaper or leaves! Your base should take up about 1/8 to 1/4 of your bin. Then, layer dirt and/or hay on top of your base so your bin is about 1/2 full. Now it’s time to add in your food waste and scraps. If your compost bin is outside, consider keeping an airtight container in your kitchen to collect scraps. A mason jar would do the trick. A good rule of thumb is to add equal parts brown (leaves, dirt, etc.) to equal parts green (grass, coffee grounds, food scraps, etc.). The brown materials provide carbon for your compost, while the green materials provide nitrogen. Water provides moisture to help break down these organic materials.

For some, composting might be common practice. I wasn’t introduced to composting until I worked on a few farms in Europe after graduating college. We all have different values and truths in this life. I respect that, and I know composting might not be accessible to everyone at this point in time. If I had known about composting sooner I probably would’ve incorporated into my routine sooner. I am just here to create awareness. To raise curiosity. To inspire you to question if there is ANYTHING else you can do to help protect our suffering earth. Composting isn’t convenient. Throwing out your food scraps is definitely the more convenient option. But, unfortunately that isn’t sustainable. We are in a precarious position in regards to the well-being of our planet. Convenience needs to be thrown out the window. Let’s be bigger than ourselves. Let’s make the extra effort to embrace new habits. Let’s do lots of little things everyday to lead to big change.

7 ways to live more sustainably

 
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Living an environmentally sustainable life is something I wish held more value in our society. There are mindful practices that so easily could be instilled in us at a young age, but instead we have been taught to lean on the convenience of wasteful, environmentally harmful practices. I want to share a few lifestyle changes & pro tips about transitions I've been making over the past year or so to promote awareness about how EASY it is to make a difference on our planet...

# 1 : Jars + Bulk Foods: instead of buying nuts, legumes, and various superfoods in packages, an easy alternative is bringing a bag full of jars with you to the store and loading up on all your favorite goods at the bulk food section. You pay by weight, and it usually turns out to be more cost efficient than buying prepackaged items. (PROTIP: at Whole Foods they aren't allowed to charge you for the weight of the jar you use, so even if you weigh the items in the jar you will be asked what size your jar is at checkout to adjust the price accordingly. I didn't know this until about a week ago, so I used to use a small lightweight container to weigh everything and then I would transfer it to a jar. Don't be like me.) Bringing jars with you is definitely something you have to think about in order to make it habitual, and it does add a few extra minutes at the grocery store. BUT, think about all the plastic bags you save!!!

# 2 : Reusable H20 Bottles + Coffee/Tea To-Go Thermoses: I think a lot of people already do this with water bottles because it's an accessory to carry around with you. But, I don't think enough people take advantage of this with to-go coffee/tea mugs when they're not making their beverage at home. Even if you aren't making your own brew, tea, or latte at home, you can still bring your own mug (B.Y.O.M.) to your local coffee shop and ask them to use that for your beverage of choice. Most places shouldn't have a problem with it, they will just ask you to hold your lid while they're filling up your mug. I use this Hydroflask mug for my coffee, this Swell bottle for my matcha, this diffuser mug for my loose leafs, and this bottle for water. I love them all.

# 3: Menstrual Cup: I found out about the menstrual cup over the summer from a few girls I was traveling with and immediately became intrigued because 1, you only have to change it every 12 hours and 2, you never have to buy tampons ever again!!! I'm not going to lie, the first time I used mine was weird, but after my second cycle with it I was in love. It is SO much more convenient, economical, and body friendly than tampons. I use this one by Lunette and I am a big fan. I would do your own research on the different brands because it's not really a one size fits all kind of thing. But seriously, get one if you don't have one already. It's a game changer. 

# 4 : Reusable Grocery Bags, Mesh Produce Bags, & “Plastic” Bags: I bought my reusable produce bags a few months ago mainly to bring to the farmers market, but I started bringing them to grocery stores too to avoid using their plastic produce bags as well. I always have my reusable grocery bags and mesh produce bags in my car in case I make a spontaneous TJ's or Whole Foods trip. So easy and so much less plastic! These are the produce bags I use and I love them. I also recently got reusable silicon ziploc bags from Stasher Bags. I held off for so long because they are a bit pricey in my opinion, but I decided that I use plastic bags frequently enough for it to be a sound investment. Bonus: they are dishwasher friendly!

# 5 : Product Detox !!!: And I mean all products. Cleaning supplies, beauty products, shampoos and body washes..... I very tediously cleaned out all of my products, and no longer buy anything with harsh ingredients or chemicals. For my face and body I use Dr. Bronner's, I like the lavender and mint scents. Pretty much all of my make up products are from Glossier, & my mascara is by W3LL PEOPLE (this one) from Credo Beauty. Hands down the best mascara I have ever owned. I make my own deodorant by mixing coconut oil, arrowroot powder, baking soda, and tea tree oil. I don't really even measure, I just eyeball at first and then keep adding whatever I want to get to the consistency I like. So easy.  I am still in the process of doing research and buying replacements for household cleaning supplies, but right now I use Simple Green's all purpose cleaner and I make my own ACV cleaner for my yoga mat/quick countertop cleanups! Definitely research your specific yoga mat to see which kind of cleaners are friendly for it so you don't break down the traction.

# 6 : Fuel Efficient Vehicles / Carpool / Public Transport / Ride bike / Walk: Obviously it's not feasible to just go out and buy a new fuel efficient car. That's not where I am going with this. But I think if you are thinking about getting a new car, taking into consideration the environmental footprint of your new vehicle should be a priority. I also think it is important to make an effort to walk places that are near by or hop on a bike. Not only will you be taking a more environmentally friendly route but you will also get your daily dose of Vitamin D! Win win ;)

#7 : Reuse + Recycle + Repurpose ALWAYS: Get creative with this one. And I mean really creative! I ALWAYS save jars... marinara sauce jars, pickle jars, jam jars, you name it! Jars are great for storing products from bulk food sections, making your own candles in, toothbrush holders, etc etc etc. Yes, mason jars are hip and stuff BUT collecting an eclectic bunch of jars is much more charming in my opinion. Shopping vintage is another awesome way to incorporate more upcycling into your life, and you can find some really awesome stuff. 

I hope these tips inspire you to at the very least think about some of the ways you could potentially reduce your carbon footprint. Let's take care of this crazy stunning earth of ours, yeah?