Food Citizenship and Food Sovereignty

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Food Citizenship and Food Sovereignty (Week #6)

The Why and What:

The term Food Citizenship is defined as “engaging in food related behaviors that support, rather than threaten, the development of a democratic, socially and economically just, and environmentally sustainable food system”. Food sovereignty “asserts that the people who produce, distribute, and consume food should control the mechanisms and policies of food production and distribution, rather than the corporations and market institutions they believe have come to dominate the global food system”.

Everyone is probably familiar with the $200 cost of the fast food $1 burger. Raising livestock depletes natural resources, including fossil fuels and topsoil. Much of rainforest land is being cut down to farm and raise livestock, which is then exported to the U.S. and ends up in fast-food hamburgers. According to the Rainforest Action Network, 55 square feet of tropical rainforest are destroyed to make every fast-food hamburger made from rainforest cattle.

Animal waste not only changes the pH of our water, it contaminates our water and our air. The ammonia, hydrogen sulfide and methane gases emitted from their waste stream cause 14.5% of all global GHG emissions causing global warming.

Moving from food consumer to food citizenship is “an agricultural act” that preserves American farming and rural life. This means we have a right to safe unadulterated food. It also means we can choose not to be passive, dependent, manipulated consumers by becoming more socially, environmentally, and economically responsible.

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(Via Shrink That Footprint)

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We need to go beyond “Meatless Monday” and flexitarianism. In terms of immediacy of action and feasibility of bringing about reductions in the shortest period of time, our practice for this entire week is to go vegan. If you cannot cut both meat and dairy, go vegetarian.

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And not just because it may cut climate costs; but also because we are very concerned about the mistreatment of animals, the loss of the rainforests, the increasing threat of global warming, and with having clean water to drink and clean air to breathe for future generations.

The How:

The Vegan Society tells you how herehere, or here. Or try the Boston Vegetarian Society’s suggestions.

I know that Valentine’s Day falls into this week, perhaps you could take that night off or if you are really motivated, you could make a rose petal salad.

In other words, get Vegucated! (A documentary produced by friend, Demetrius Bagley- who will be in a vegan residency in Cali this month- check him out on FB)

The Deep Dive:

How to become a Food Citizen here. The “What’s Organic about Organic?” Film trailer here. You can rent it for $2.99 at that link as well.

The problem of the $200 burger, a 4 minute video.

And here, from the Vegetarian Times is more of the WHY.

The PETA Vegetarian/Vegan Starter Kit.

Is my lunch causing global warming? Try the low-carbon diet calculator here.

How our food choices can help save the environment here.

And for those adults who like comedy, try this Colbert segment on the $200 hamburger with author, Raj Patel here.

The Waste-stream Audit

Screen Shot 2015-01-08 at 5.51.39 AMThe Waste Stream Audit (Week #1)

The What:

Who likes an audit? No one, but I promise, this one will be fun and revealing. We will start 2015 with a benchmarking and waste management awareness exercise. This week, we’ll concentrate on two of the “6 R’s”, Reduce and Recycle. If you already do it, take it to the next level! Since we did this year long challenge in 2012, there is so much more we can recycle! After twenty years of this myself, I have learned I can always do better!

After this waste-stream audit, keep your data. You can gauge where you are now and see your progress throughout the year as you change your personal economy, reduce your GHG emissions and your carbon footprint and gain social/cultural/environmental responsibility with your personal strategies. My suggestion? Get a Moleskine and record your sustainable journey, you will want to look back on it!!


Did you know that according to the EPA, Americans generated about 251 million tons of trash and recycled and composted almost 87 million tons of this material, equivalent to a 34.5 percent recycling rate. On average, we recycled and composted 1.51 pounds of our individual waste generation of 4.38 pounds per person per day.

That still leaves 64 million tons of trash or 30.66 lbs. a week per person that ends up in a landfill. Although we are all at different places in our consumptive habits, we can reduce that by 75% if you follow our sustainable lifestyle challenge throughout 2015.

First we can reduce, reduce, reduce. Think every time you consume, Do you I really need this? And if I do, what is the life of this resource? Can I reuse, repurpose, compost or repair it easily?  When I am done with this resource, can it be given to another to use/enjoy? For those who really want to go down the ethical consumption rabbit hole, check out the ASMC (Acquisition Sourcing Moral Compass), I developed in 2012.

Are there ways you could be reducing or recycling your waste-stream by using your own shopping containers, or buying local at a CSA, purchasing only the food and goods that you need that are (or their packaging is) more earth friendly?

Could you lessen your contribution to the local landfill by composting for your garden or initiating a composting program as we have here in many North Shore communities? At our home we have two different ways of composting materials which has reduced our waste-stream by 8 lbs. or 6 kg a week for a family of two. (We will have an entire post on composting soon).

Can you leverage your influence with your local grocery store to carry organic products from local/regional manufacturers whose packaging is biodegradable? Can you initiate more sustainable practices at your workplace?

Secondly, we can recycle, recycle, recycle. Most communities throughout the US now have one container for all recyclables except batteries, electronics and styrofoam, which usually are collected on specific annual or monthly days or can be dropped off at your recycling center.

Soon, cities and rural areas will begin charging us by the pound for our waste, so let’s make sure we have the recycling basics down!

Here are the helpful EPA links below: BatteriesCFL’s (common Fluorescent lightbulbs), Food WasteGlassHazardous WastePaperPlastic (this includes the SPI resin identification coding), TiresUsed OilUsed electronic devicesOther common recyclable materials


Now that you have recycled all that holiday trash and you’ve returned to your typical lifestyle, we want you to collect all your trash in your home and from your car.

Yes, that’s right, let’s take a good long look at all your trash! If you have children, they love to get involved in this exercise which can be a wonderful teaching moment!

First, weigh and measure the whole amount to gain awareness of how much waste you bring into your life with the choices you make every day.

Second, some of you may need a pair of disposable vinyl gloves for this project, go through it and separate it into 3 categories: recyclable material, compostable material and the rest (which you may have to specialty recycle or it ends up in a landfill).

Third, weigh and measure each category pile you’ve made. This time next year, we will compare this data. In the meantime, now that you are aware, you can begin to learn how to reduce your waste by making smarter consumption choices and employing a few new sustainable practices and tips that you will gain from this blog challenge throughout the year. In the weeks to come we will have the opportunity to learn, laugh, become more sustainable, meet new people, get out into nature and connect with a global population at some exciting related events.

Consider this 52 week challenge as a constructive way of designing a more enriching, more connected, healthier sustainable lifestyle in a world of quickly diminishing resources dealing with the effects of climate change.

We encourage you to tell your friends so they can follow us and the challenge too!

Please let us know how you are doing and share your thoughts in the comment area. (See that little dialog bubble up on the right?)

The Deep Dive:

The original official 20 minute video version of the Story of Stuff

A delightful brand new 18 page treatise on “stuff” by designer, Chris Thomas, the adult version of the “Story of Stuff”, You Have Too Much Shit

TED talks about recycling here. (10 minutes)

Educational recycling video (4.5 minutes) for kids here.

Misconceptions about plastic recycling here.

Plastic bag recycling here.

Outsmart your waste here.

Find out about Massachusetts composting workshops and programs here.

Learn more about your State’s composting regulations here.

Learn more about composting from the EPA here.

Art pictured above by Nick Demarco

If this is your first time here, learn more about the 52 week, 2015 TerraBluTeam challenge and exercise structure here.

2014 Holiday Gift Guide


Reblogged from Emily DuBois, an Energy Efficiency Specialist on Opower’s Behavioral Marketing and Design team.

With Black Friday and Cyber Monday behind us, the holiday shopping season is in full swing. Searching for the perfect presents for your nearest and dearest can be stressful — so this winter, let us lend a hand with the Opower holiday gift guide.

All of these products are designed to help your loved ones save energy and be happy. There’s a little something for everyone. And best of all, these are the gifts that keep on giving — with lower energy bills all year round.

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Many appliances and electronics pull power out of an electrical socket when they’re “idle” or turned off. This small amount of wasted energy is called phantom load, and over time, it can really add up.

Getting someone a new gadget this winter? Pair it with a powerstrip. These handy plugs allow you to switch off multiple electronics at once so you can easily minimize phantom load — without having to unplug electronics individually. The best powerstrips also have advanced features, including timers, motion detectors, and remote switches, which make saving electricity even easier.

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It turns out that conventional cooking appliances aren’t the most energy-efficient way to prepare a hot meal. Ovens require a lot of energy to warm up, and stovetops waste more than half the heat they produce.

Enter the pressure cooker, which uses 70 percent less energy than either of these methods. How?  By using steam to cook ingredients at a higher pressure and in less time. High-end pressure cookers have convenient features such as multiple temperature settings, timers, programmable start times, and “keep warm” settings that make saving energy deliciously simple. Your foodie will thank you.

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By letting warm air escape, a poorly sealed window or door can dramatically increase the cost of heating your home. And pet doors can, too — letting chilly drafts slip inside all winter long.

Energy-efficient pet doors provide an air- and weather-tight seal while still allowing furry friends to come and go as they please. Look for models with multiple flaps, a magnetic seal, and an insulating foam barrier to help your loved one reduce their heat waste.

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‘Tis the season for short days, cold nights, and plodding through your Netflix queue. If you know someone who’s already planning a yuletide movie binge, give them a quality wool blanket so they can stay warm and save energy all winter long.

For the perfect cozy movie night, turn the thermostat down to 68°F, and snuggle up to someone close. You can save 1-2% on heating costs for every degree you turn down the thermostat.

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Dark winter nights can’t keep diehard readers from tackling their holiday reading lists.

An LED light bulb will help the bibliophile in your life to stay up late with a great read — without driving up the electricity bill. Consider pairing a stylish tabletop lamp with an LED bulb, which uses 75 percent less energy than an incandescent bulb and lasts up to 25 years. Book light clips are another great option, which attach directly to the book cover, provide bright white directional light and have lifetimes of up to 100,000 hours — over 11 years of continuous reading!

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Every family has an energy stickler — you know the one. The person who turns off lights in empty rooms. Who cranks down the heat. Who chides everybody else about the power bill.

Give your efficiency guru the gift of knowledge with a plug power meter. These devices tell you how much power your appliances use — so you can take control of your usage. Some models even show you visualizations of your energy use, cost conversions, or have Bluetooth capabilities so you can analyze your usage through a smartphone app. Power meters also make a great hands-on, educational gift for kids.