Take A Stand for Sustainability
By Denise Koek
You may regard sustainability as merely a science, but it’s evolved into a way of life—and it’s not just for crunchy-granola-eaters anymore! Today’s dedicated foodies are sharing more than restaurant tips; they’re sharing in society’s responsibility to preserve the food chain as we know it. A small investment of effort—for instance time spent researching the best methods of recycling cooking oil—can net a tremendous benefit. (The oil we collect can be transformed into livestock feed or bio-diesel, a cleaner-burning alternative fuel for diesel vehicles.)
Ordinary consumers are also lobbying effectively for products packaged in an ecologic- ally responsible way. Alfalfa’s Market in Boulder, Colorado responded to customers’ demands for limited packaging by selling pies in Pyrex dishes, instead of aluminum pans. Customers who returned their Pyrex dishes were given credit toward their next purchase. This arrangement proved to be both eco-friendly and wallet-friendly. Many chefs are doing their part by using produce only from local farmers markets. Because most regions of the country lack access to farmers markets in winter, dedicated conservationists must seek out local greenhouses during those months. Chefs who craft recipes and menus around seasonal produce can create meals that taste better, generate less waste and require less labor. This sustainable agriculture enhances the quality of our soil for future generations, and superior soil yields exceptional-tasting fruit and vegetables. More and more
Americans are jumping on the “Locavore” bandwagon—supporting local farmers by buying food that is produced within a 150 mile radius. For decades, the organics movement promoted this concept. In recent years, the notion of organics has ironically been co-opted by massive food manufacturers as a marketing tool. (Accepting this turn of events is much like entrusting a bull to manage your china shop.) As a result, many proponents of the farm-to-table movement are stressing the concept of sustainability above organics, to emphasize the significance of the family farm.In keeping with the “everything old is new again” trend, green cleaning products (those which are biodegradable and non-toxic) have gone mainstream.
These “modern” cleaning products often consist of ingredients like vinegar and baking soda, mixed with a little warm water—identical to the cleaning agents our great-grandparents used. Beyond their green credentials, these home-made products are cheap, readily available and able to clean almost anything. Similarly, composting—which in simple terms is the purposeful biodegradation of organic matter, including yard and food waste—creates high-quality,free fertilizer. Deposit all of your yard waste and kitchen scraps into a compost-friendly pile, let it interact with air, moisture, warmth, organic matter and microorganisms, and—in as little as 10 days—the process is complete.
Forward-thinking entrepreneurs are responding to consumers’ awareness of sustainability with countless new innovations. There is even a company called “Bully Stick Direct” which aims to fill the demand for “organic and all natural dog treats.” In fact, many progressive organizations are making it easier to study and facilitate this lifestyle with tools like those offered by “The Environmental Defense Fund,” whose website offers a “Seafood Selector” and labels choices as “Eco-Best,” “Eco-OK” and “Eco-Worst.” Similarly, the Environmental Protection Agency provides a “Sustainability” page on its website and a segment titled “How Can I Help?” which imparts a wide range of “tips on how you can contribute to sustainability in your role as a consumer and citizen—and as a steward of the environment.
We, as a society, chefs and home-cooks alike, hold the key to preserving our global food supply. Gourmands are used to making tough choices. Beyond simple red-or-white-wine preferences, there is always an ethical component to how and what we eat. Ecologically friendly decisions will in no small part dictate our future quality of life. Incorporating sustainability into our everyday lives is more than just a constructive activity—it can be creative and even fun. And our grandkids will thank us!
Denise Koek is a happily married actress, writer and mom, who’s written for stage and video and contributed to Ladies Home Journal, The Signal, Jewlarious.com, local magazines and anthologies.