5/6/2013 12:23:19 PM

Living in a Green House

Guest Post: Kathryn Foat

Living sustainably was easier when I was a kid growing up on a farm in Nebraska. We raised chickens for meat and eggs, had one milk cow, and cattle for meat. We planted a large vegetable garden of peas, sweet corn, green beans, beets, and so on, and had a small fruit orchard. We spent all summer canning and freezing the excess—and the bounty literally sustained us through the fall, winter, and spring, until the next harvest.

It was a big job, so big that it was my Mom's job along with raising us kids and working the land. Just about everything we ate (except flour, coffee, and sugar) came from our 80-acre homestead. We packaged everything for a family of five (no individual servings) and food miles didn't apply to us.

So, how do I achieve that same sustainable living standard now that I am a suburban dweller outside of Washington, DC? Let's just say, it's very hard!

Our Size Up Your Pantry and Green House Grocery List challenges are an effort to help non-farm dwellers find a pathway to living sustainably off the farm. When you combine the conservation action of reducing our reliance on a carbon-based economy coupled with managing transportation options and greening your groceries, you have the full challenge trilogy - they should make it an athletic endeavor worthy of the title Iron Woman, Iron Man, or Iron Family!

Here is my plan for the summer as I keep working my way down the list to a sustainable life:

I plan to begin by learning where my food comes from. This includes:

  • Reading the labels, not just for my family's health, but also for the planet's health, taking into account how far the food traveled and the amount of processing involved.
  • Identifying and supporting companies that are working on their climate actions 

Next, I've set a goal to eat less meat and more grains and vegetables. This includes:

  • Changing from my classic midwestern meat and potatoes diet to a Mediterranean vegetarian diet
  • Making choices like reconstituting beans from dried rather than buying them in cans

And, finally, I plan to source my food locally whenever I can by:

  • Planting a larger vegetable garden
  • Planning ahead to freeze or can more local fruits and vegetables
  • Supporting local farmer's markets for those things I can't grow myself

Can you find fault with my effort? Sure, but it's a good start and really not that difficult. And the reality is that we have to get on the pathway to sustainability and demand policy changes to make green eating habits even easier.

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