It was during my sophomore year of college that I began to see food differently. While researching high fructose corn syrup, the sugar’s impact on our diet was put to me in a way I’ll never forget. I was speaking to a nutritionist, and he said simply: Our diet, the Western diet whose nastiest components are now trickling into other cultures, is the first in the world’s history to have obesity & malnutrition exist simultaneously. And I don’t mean in the same setting.
I mean in the same person.
Since that semester of evaluating sugar’s impacts on the body, my mind has spiraled out to the edges of agriculture. I’ve begun to see not only natural ingredients as essential to human health, but natural agriculture as essential to community health.
My husband & I are constantly challenging ourselves to lower the impact of our diet, from growing more of our own food to buying all organic produce (on a strict budget) to keep more food from the trash. We’ve even played with being more vegan. We’re having fun with it, getting to know wonderful farmers & finally feeling our hands dig into the earth–something that feels to trace straight to the marrow of our bones. (We’re both from farming families & hadn’t grown a thing until this year.)
Then recently, I found two things. (1) Americans toss out as much as 40 percent of their food. Thing of the landfill space, the methane*, the money & the potential hungry bellies filled–all of it. Wasted. (2) A woman feeds her family of four on One Hundred Dollars A Month with almost negative amounts of waste*. (She saves pounds of food from the trash each week.) Talk about motivation.
For this project, I’ve decided to take our food consumption to the ultimate level: I want a Zero-Waste Diet. No more plastic bags for produce & bulk goods. No more delicious frozen pizzas in their sinful plastic wrapper. More glass storage. More pickling. More compost.
This brings up a lot of concerns already. We love eating out. Where does that put us? Sure, we choose places that buy local ingredients. And we’re not taking home left overs. And we’re not throwing anything away…
And butter? How can I live without baking? And how can I bake without my butter?
And what waste is okay? If we can recycle everything it comes in, how bad off are we? What’s the trade-off between canned beans & the water/energy used to prepare dehydrated beans?
How sustainable can a diet be? And how can I fit in preparing simple, fast foods that create no waste while still getting my homework done?
I have no idea. But we’re going to find out.
The Real Question
I’ve decided to end each post with a question, which will become more philosophical as we move along. For now, let’s start with the fun stuff. A three-parter. What’s your favorite thing in the bulk food aisle? How do you store it when you bring it home? What meals does it go into?