Transitioning away from Oil Dependency – Part 2

8 06 2010

Today we’re going to look at action! YAY!

This is my favourite part.  We’ve decided we want to do something and now we actually get to do it.  How exciting!

In his book, Plan C: Community Survival Strategies for Peak Oil and Climate Change, Pat Murphy outlines three specific areas that we, as individuals, can focus on to drastically reduce our carbon footprint (80-90% reduction from current usage, which is inline with global targets of 350 ppm CO2 concentration in the atmosphere).

The three areas are: food, transportation and housing.

Today, I will focus on food.  First, because I LOVE food and secondly, because food is something that every one of us can start changing NOW.  This is more focused on consumer choices, rather than lifestyle choices like gardening.

Here is the run down of things you can do, in case you are the kind of person who doesn’t want to read a 1000 word post today…:

1. Choose local foods and eat in season

2. Stop eating factory farmed meats.

3. Buy organic

4. Cook from scratch

5. Eat at home

One of the major ways to reduce our oil consumption is to choose local foods and eat in season.  This isn’t to say that you can never eat chocolate again, or that mango smoothies will never again grace your lips.  Eating locally and in season means spending the majority of your food dollars within a 100 mile, or less, radius.

Localizing our foods and eating in season is useful for many reasons.  First, it reduces the need for highly oil dependent transportation of goods, like transports and airplanes.  In Canada, the average fruit or vegetable travels 3800 kms to our door step!  OUCH! This is a Hellman’s advertisement, that outlines the current situation in Canada:

It may seem cold in Canada, but we do have the ability to grow a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, herbs, grains, legumes and berries here.  Besides tropical fruits, we can grow most things here.  If we have the proper greenhouse we can even convince oranges, lemons and avocados to grow here!  So, climate is really not a barrier.

The best place to find locally grown food is at your farmer’s market.  There are hundreds of farmer’s markets across this country (and in America, for that matter) that offer farm-fresh, seasonal produce.  One word of caution: a lot of vendors at markets, posing as farmers, just come and resell imported produce.  Ask if it is imported and where the farm is, if you can visit and if the answer is yes, it usually means that all the produce was grown locally.  Failing that, you can ask your local grocery store to stock local foods.  More and more grocery stores are seeing the local food demand increase and, as a result, are finding ways to supply that demand.

Eating with the season keeps us in a really wonderful alignment with the natural cycles of the Earth and increases the nutritional value of our foods, as it is coming as fresh as can be to our tables.  We get to experience the incredible juiceness of fresh strawberries and eat them in abundance and not again (unless frozen or canned) until next year.  It gives us a real appreciation for the foods when they come.

The next thing we can do in our food choices is to stop eating factory farmed meats. Again, this is not to say that you can’t enjoy the nutritional benefits of eating healthy meat.  Just not factory farmed meat.

Pat Murphy estimates that the sole movement of eating local, organically raised, pastured meats can cut our carbon emissions (and hence oil consumption), in the area of food, by 50%!  WOAH!  you don’t even have to go vegetarian for that. 🙂

The reason being that the majority of carbon emissions and oil consumption in regards to our meat does not come from the animals themselves, or even transporting them.  It comes from the masses and masses of corn and soy that is grown to feed these animals.  The majority of farm land in North America is devoted to growing feed for animals!  This adds up to a lot of petroleum through the use of pesticides, fertilizers, heavy farm machinery, processing energy and then transportation to the farms where it is fed to animals who were not created to eat these high protein foods.

Local, pastured meat can be a little harder to find and a little more expensive.  If you want to continue eating meat (which I truly recommend, at least in small quantities), then look at going in with other people to buy a large quantity of meat.  This saves money and allows farmer’s to have a more stable source of income.

Another thing you can do, is buy organic.  Organic practices do not have large petroleum inputs of fertilizer and pesticides.  Buying from small-scale operations, you will generally avoid the use of large machinery as well, further saving fossil fuels.

Once you have purchased all of this beautiful, local, seasonal organic food, the next thing you can do is cook from scratch.  Removing processed foods from our diet is not only cheaper, healthier and tastier, it reduces the consumption of oil.  If you think about the amount of energy that goes into making a processed cookie: shipping the grain/sugar to the factory, grinding it, refining etc then shipping it to another processing plant where it is combined into cookie form, then wrapping it into a package that must be disposed of, THEN shipping it to a grocery store where you drive to and buy it, bring it home and consume it.  It’s a massive amount of energy, compared to buying the raw ingredients yourself and making it in your home.  It also reduces the amount of plastics that are in your life, another petroleum product.

Cooking from scratch may take more time, but it saves on money, so think of the time you’re using as money you’re saving.  🙂

There are many more ways that you can reduce your energy consumption through your food choices.  But, as I’m nearing 1000 words on this post, I’ll limit it to the major choices above.

Remember to start with what you can manage, and continue to move in that direction.  Though I’ve been working consciously to go completely organic and local for years now, I am not yet totally there.

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