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Reflections on 2008

Today is the eve of the new year. Where does the time go? I can’t believe I’ve been writing here for a whole year now. I haven’t been as faithful as I would have liked, nor have I turned this blog into what I had planned it to be: a resource for eating local. The past year has been a difficult one and it’s been a challenge to maintain my energy and enthusiasm, let alone find extra energy to be creative and write.

I really hope all of this improves in 2009. I am doing my best to get myself into a different mindset so that I am able to stay balanced in my life. Not having a proposal approved after over 12 months of work has been a tremendous blow to my self-confidence. I am very frustrated and angry about the entire process, which is not helping me deal constructively with the situation. I fortunately was granted a small scholarship which will allow me to continue for one more semester so we’ll see what I’m able to accomplish in the next four months.

I have been waffling back and forth between trying to turn this blog into something more formal, or keeping it a personal diary. I have decided to start a new blog to discuss the personal, and keep this one centered around food for my research purposes (although I’ll likely still post a few photos of the dogs…). At the same time, I am going to expand this focus to include sustainable living in general, not just sustainable eating. This is because I will expanding this focus in my life, and research, as well. Eating sustainably has been a tremendous challenge this past 18 or so months, but I feel it is not enough. I need to increase the sustainability of other aspects of my life as well.

I am not 100% sure how I am going to do this, but a few commitments for the new year are going to include:

1) Minimizing stuff, especially new stuff. I have been tremendously inspired by the Unstuffed blog, as I have previously mentioned. I’m not sure if I’m quite ready to commit to buying nothing for a whole year, however. That said, being on a very tight budget, I buy very little to begin with. I have already started shopping at second hand stores, and will continue to do so for most things that I need. “Need” will have to be carefully evaluated as I really don’t need much. But some of my clothes are very worn and tattered and should be replaced, for example. I also plan on trying to build a cold frame in my garden, which will require purchasing some construction materials. So basically, I will endeavour to buy as little as possible, and when I do need something, buy it second hand. Only if I really need it and can’t obtain it otherwise will I buy it new.

2) Minimizing plastic and packaging: One of the things that has startled me since becoming a locavore is my shocking awareness of packaging. I rarely enter grocery stores anymore, and now when I do I look up and down the aisles and am horrified by the realization that all this unnecessary packaging is going to end up in landfills and waterways. I am no longer going to buy food that comes in any packaging, except brown paper wrapping for meat. This will mean no more emergency trips to the grocery store for meat as it all comes on styrofoam wrap. And I won’t buy any other products that are packaged in plastic. Exceptions I can think of right now: shampoo.

3) Start carrying a “zero-waste to go kit“. This includes carrying my own plate, napkin, mug (of course), cutlery, hand towel and container for left-overs. Follow the above link (which I came across on Unstuffed) for more details. I have mentioned before that I thought it would be a good idea to carry your own eating utensils for fast food, and as I find it impossible to avoid eating out 100% of the time, I am going to start doing so myself.

I was amazed (and delighted) to learn that in Ithaca, this is very common practice and restaurants even give 10% discounts to those who bring their own plates. I’m not taking fancy restaurants, but places that use disposable plates etc.

4) Reduce my water footprint: I am going to install a low-flow shower. I already buy local, organic produce and meat as the majority of my food, but will endeavour to make it as close to 100% as I can. I will also minimize how much paper I use – I had no idea that each sheet of 8×11 takes 10 liters of water to create! So no more printing out of articles when I can read them on-line, and so on. Buying second-hand clothes and other items also helps in this respect.

I think that is it for now. These four areas of concentration will hopefully build on what I have been doing already and reduce my overall foot-print on our tiny planet. I find it interesting that I have already been doing much of the above, but for financial reasons. When we have to watch our pennies, we use and buy less stuff, and simultaneously become greener earthlings!

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2 Responses

  1. Good luck with the “unstuffing” process. I admire people who are able to do it. Regarding the blog, though, do you really feel you need two? I like the fact that you are blogging about life in an integral way: your life is your research. The changes you have made and some of the struggles you’ve encountered have really brought home for me a lot of the larger issues and conflicts that organic living entail which otherwise would remain slightly abstract (when all is said and done, it’s actually pretty hard to grasp the “global” or the interconnectedness of all actions). Anyway, bravo for keeping up the blog as well as you have done – it’s been both interesting and inspiring!

  2. Well so far the ‘unstuffing’ isn’t going very well! I’ll post my rather shameful start to the new year shortly. But my goal is to change my habits for the long term and I’ve learned not to beat myself up too much about falling off the wagon from time to time!

    Thanks for continuing to read this and for your thoughtful comments throughout the year. Regarding having two blogs, you make a good point. I often feel the need to separate the personal and the political, but that’s really not possible with this line of research. You’re right that my research is my life, and my life is my research. After all, eating is the most political act any of us do on a daily basis…

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