In Part One of my essay series “Can We Afford to Be ‘Granola’?, I touched upon the environment and how most of the public can pitch in with helping preserve our resources by each doing our part with trash reduction and combating litter in public places like our shorelines.
I’ve thought about it over the past few days and have decided that our food choices and clothing options should be covered in Part Two.
We Are What We Eat
In the past decade there has been a clear divide forming between two main types of grocery consumers in our nation. Those who must have mostly organic/locally produced products and those who cannot buy (literally) into this greener/sustainable streak and continue to purchase what they need at the lowest possible price regardless of content.
I’m one of the fence-sitters. I really do want to have the pesticide-free produce. I’d rather consume and give my family non-GMO wheat and soy products. I like my cows to eat free-range and vegetarian instead of ground-up chick (as in baby chickens) meal and cloistered in smelly, stuffy conditions. I do admit to buying “happy cow” milk like Horizon or Stonyfield Farm.
But practically speaking, it is very expensive to do this effectively-at least for my family’s checking account. So how can we approach this problem with a compromise solution?
I do believe it is possible in most places to acquaint ourselves with what is locally available in our immediate geographical area. For instance, I live in South Florida where I can actually pay less for much of my produce needs if I avoid going to the supermarket chain and instead visit the local produce stand off the side of the road or the green markets in local towns on the weekends. (check out www.localharvest.org)
For those of us unfamiliar, there are still programs like cheese (for Wisconsin residents example is: www.burnettdairy.com) and meat/poultry co-ops available whereby for a certain price you are able to receive a variety of products contingent on what’s seasonal.
Simple changes like using organic canned tomato sauce as a base for your pasta recipes instead of buying spaghetti sauce can be affordable and delicious. It is also cheaper at times to purchase frozen veggies/fruits and still enjoy the flavors as they are frozen at their peak.
As for wheat and soy products, I have found it to be more cost-effective to eat less of those products overall so that we can afford to purchase the non-GMO types that I prefer to feed my son and husband. That may be too far for you and of course that’s alright, these are the executive decisions we all must make for ourselves and our families based on what we believe is the best course of action.
I don’t know if there’s ever been a poll or survey taken, but I’m curious to know how our wardrobes rank in our pack-rat tendencies in America.
After living a semi-gypsy life this past year, I’m still astounded by the amount of clothing that I possess. I have tried to donate items and afterwards I spot something on sale or some item I must have and purchase more-ending up with the same amount. So you can imagine my downright disillusionment when I noticed clothing that was ‘organic’ or made from ‘sustainable’ sources like bamboo.
Honestly, I haven’t delved enough into the area of textiles and how our clothing is made specifically. Although I do sigh each time I notice that my clothing is made in China–I keep imagining sweatshops even though I don’t know how bad those places really are.
Funny enough, “granola” people seem to have this stereotypical image that they always dress in neutral colors like oatmeal, brown, beige and grays. But if there is a true granola way of dressing, what would it be?
My theory is still in drafting mode as I am struggling to reduce my amount of clothing, but I will share it with you: First step is what I’ve been saying, take a survey of your wardrobe and note what you haven’t worn in at least 6 months-one year’s time. Those items should be the first you pull out for possible donation/Ebay/yard sale. However, you may have an emotional attachment to some; write that down and read it back to yourself and ponder whether you’re truly that attached (if you are, no shame, I still own the dress my husband met me in 13 years ago!).
Next, evaluate your turnover status with your clothes on a daily basis. In other words, do you wear an outfit just once and then throw it in the hamper even if there are no stains/noxious smells? Consider wearing some clothing more than once if possible and professional. I found in the past that the dryer and the iron did wonders for my suits and other items that I wore often. Of course, this course of action excludes certain items like socks and intimates (although it has been recently surveyed that many women wear their bras more often than they should between washings-eek!)
Applying even just these two main actions-reducing wardrobe and laundry loads-can dramatically help cut down on the energy spent on cleaning and cost of clothing overall. Once again, this would truly make a “green footprint’ if everyone participated in such an overhaul in clothing habits. This of all my “granola” pointers has to be the most difficult for us. In the latter part of the 20th century and now early 21st century, we have no idea what it’s like for us to have-to make our own clothing-we can buy it so cheaply at Walmart or even a garage sale.
By delving into areas like our physical environment, our grocery consumption and our clothing I have come to the yeoman’s conclusion that we all can afford to be “granola”–except that the cost is still pretty steep for us as it takes discipline and personal accountability. These traits are tough to be consistent with when we are battered with our never-ending responsibilities and unforeseen stresses.
Perhaps if you’ve taken the extra few minutes to read this you’ll think about what you can do and apply it slowly to your daily habits until it takes root like a seed that’s sprouted slowly and thoroughly in the soil after constant care.