You’ve probably heard this one:
Q: How do you eat an elephant?
A: One bite at a time.
Climate change: now there’s an elephant if there ever was one. A big problem, with no single answer. But every one of us can do our part. Two years ago I read Barbara Kingsolver’s memoir, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. I was struck by this excerpt, written by her husband Stephen Hopp:
But getting the crop from seed to harvest takes only one fifth of the total oil used for our food. The lion’s share is consumed during the trip from the farm to your plate. Each food item in a typical U.S. meal has traveled an average of 1500 miles. In addition to direct transport, other fuel-thirsty steps include processing (drying, milling, cutting, sorting, baking), packaging, warehousing and refrigeration. Energy calories consumed by production, packaging and shipping far outweigh the energy calories we receive from the food. … If every U.S. citizen ate just one meal a week (any meal) composed of locally and organically raised meats and produce, we would reduce our country’s oil consumption by over 1.1 million barrels of oil every week. That’s not gallons, but barrels. Small changes in buying habits can make big differences.
This book inspired me to make a few changes in my buying habits. I have a vegetable garden that meets some of our food needs, and I buy locally produced milk and eggs. My buying isn’t 100% local, but it’s a start. One bite at a time …
So what can you do? Here are a few ideas:
- Educate yourself. Animal, Vegetable, Miracle is a great place to start.
- Learn what’s available locally in your area. Resources abound; here are two that I recommend:
- Seasonal Food Guides for US states and Canadian provinces, in PDF format
- UK Seasonal Food Calendar: this is an interactive tool, and very easy to use. It gets my vote for “infographic of the week”!
- Grow or make some of your own food. It might be a simple herb garden, or you may have the time and space to do more. Just do what you can.
- Shop at farm markets. In the US, Local Harvest can help you find markets near you. You may have to look around a bit, and you may have to make an extra trip as part of your regular shopping. But the quality is far superior, and the net environmental impact, less.
- Buy direct from the farm. The Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) model is a way for consumers to buy “shares” of farm produce, receiving a weekly box of fresh produce throughout the growing season. In my area there is also a large Amish community, and many families sell goods produced on their farm.
It doesn’t matter just what you do, as long as you do something.
Q: How can I fight climate change?
A: Eat more seasonal, locally produced food. One bite at a time.