In case you are lagging on New Year’s resolutions, Earth Day is available to renew your commitment to the future of the planet and think about ways to allocate and preserve resources for future generations.
Visibility for this holiday is increasing after 42 years albeit in odd ways. Emails now promote bamboo towel sales as a means to celebrate. Somehow concerns for cleaner air and water have morphed into an opportunity for discount linens.
If supposedly sustainable shopping fails to appeal, consider modifying your diet as part of a greener lifestyle. Eating local and consuming less meat is healthier and uses fewer resources. One of several campaigns can be found at www.MeatlessMondays.com. When health and Earth aren’t enough, motivation, there’s a call to action based upon historical precedents with Presidents Truman, Wilson and Roosevelt asking citizens to voluntarily forego meat. Not only is Meatless Monday a proactive step toward reducing risks related to heart disease, cancer, and diabetes, but producing one pound of meat requires 1,800 to 2,500 gallons of water.
My family historians have shared that meatless meals were not always unusual. There was actually a time in the U.S. (between the Pilgrims bleak winter and the Great Depression) when people ate whatever was available. Choices were limited. Families were dependent on what could be caught, shot or found in the smoke house. Refrigeration changed food storage, while technology altered how it moved from field to table with modern canning and transportation.
As populations shifted to urban living, the convenience canned foods became the norm—the uniform color, longer shelf life, year-round availability and time-saving were benefits for working families and allowed for fruits and vegetables at any season. Produce can be taken from the field and canned or frozen for when fresh is not available. Sodium levels are another topic.
Growing up my exposure to branded tins of vegetables outside school cafeterias was limited. Pantry shelves lined with canned goods from watermelon rind pickles to pickled pears and tomatoes were a staple at my relatives. Freezers were filled with a varietal array of blanched peas, beans, and butterbeans. My background contributes to being somewhat puzzled by the passion for farm to table as alternatives were rare. I am genetically programmed to brake for produce stands and pick-your-own signs, despite whining through my teens when anything needed harvesting.
Today, at a minimum my frozen staples include local peaches, blueberries, strawberries, shelled lady finger peas and pecans. Living in the city with multiple grocery stores in walking distance, deep chest freezers are not common. Deciding which purchases should be organic affects menu considerations along with the level of commitment to seasonal selections.
While mulling meatless Mondays, travel to parts of the world with unreliable or no electricity is a reminder of the tremendous imbalance of resources. Among the 20-25%, and higher in rural areas of the developing world, without access to electricity, reducing carbon footprints is less critical than finding food to support subsistence living. Even in the U.S. with all the bounty and waste, one in five children go to bed hungry.
Many organizations are working to end childhood hunger in America. How to address the imbalance of resources and distribution chaos that leaves 925 million worldwide without enough to eat is a greater challenge. Ponder and take action.