It’s about more than just food

A passion of mine for the past couple of years has been learning as much as I can about the food industry, and seeking out local, organic, interesting foods. I’ll read any book about industrial agriculture, local foods, whole foods, organic foods, and nutrition. This isn’t news. But lately, I have realized that, although I have been focusing on the problems with industrial food production, I am starting to broaden my view and thinking more about the bigger picture.

All of the problems we are facing, from sweat shops to global warming to….it is just to overwhelming to think about. That’s the thing: it is too overwhelming, but by focusing on the food industry in particular, I have been able to learn a lot about it without being too overwhelmed, make tangible changes in my life as a result (like drinking raw organic local milk), and I can now apply what I have learned to the larger problems of industrialization and globalization.

I just finished watching the documentary The Corporation (rented from video store) and recently I have read books like Not Buying It (from the library), which have made me think more about capitalism and consumerism. Plus there has been a major increase in the general awareness of environmental issues. So as a result, I have found myself wanting to do even more.

Being in San Francisco more I am sure has also had an effect. I am (finally) reading The Tipping Point, and so I am a bit more aware of how influenced I am by my surroundings (see the chapters on context). My lifestyle has changed a lot since I started working up here, both good and bad.

But it really comes down to this: I want to learn as much as I can about the world I live in so I can make good decisions about my life. It is like the the whole thing about giving people nutritional information so that they can make informed decisions about the food that they eat (although you have to question that information as well!).

Here are some things that I have done in the past year or so as a result of just being more thoughtful about my actions. All of these things are relatively small things that I have changed over time:

  • Walking and taking public transportation almost exclusively. It really is a mindset change, and now that I have made the switch, I never want to drive. I’d rather take the train or walk, even if it takes longer. As a result, I get a lot more reading done.
  • Buying fewer clothes. I have bought very few clothes this year aside from a few t-shirts, and although partly it is because I have gained some weight and clothes shopping isn’t as much fun, it is mostly because I don’t need as many clothes as I have, and reducing the the amount of clothing I buy reduces the demand for environmentally damaging cotton production and sweat shop labor.
  • Reading most of my books from the library. It helps that the library is across the street from my office, and I have gotten back into my habit of reading stacks of books from the library. I have bought books only when I’ve been at the airport. Also, I am getting more into passing books around with my friends.
  • Eating more local foods. When choosing between two organic milks at the store, I’ll look to see which one came from a local dairy, which is something I didn’t do a year ago. I also won’t by fruits or vegetables that are from Chile or New Zealand.
  • Drinking a lot of tap water. I know that people have concerns about tap water, but municipal water is regulated more than bottled water. Plus, with every bottle of water I buy and drink, I am paying for the production of that bottle and fuel to get that water to me (and that’s one more container to try to recycle after a single use). I don’t even bother with filters. When I am tempted to reach for the Perrier at work, I usually stop myself and instead get a glass out of the cupboard and drink the tap water.
  • Looking at the “Made In” labels more. I don’t think it has made a huge difference in my buying habits yet, but just like I didn’t think about which country my food came from until recently, I haven’t been thinking about where other stuff I buy is made. When buying my nephew’s birthday present recently, I for the first time, looked at the toy packaging, and noticed how they were all made in China. I think I am going to be a lot more aware of where my things I buy are made, and like with with the milk, at least choose the local option if I can.
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