Every once in a while, I get a certain kind of email that I find particularly infuriating. A forward that has made the rounds for God knows how many years, calling me to action. One of those things that, if everyone in the world took part, something incredible would happen. I open the email, skim through quickly, entertain for a half-second how cool it would be if it did actually work, curse the person who sent it to me for wasting my time yet again, promptly hit the delete button, and get on with my day.
But when it comes to the issue of the environment, the 'I am but one man' argument no longer holds water. Books like Jared Diamond's Collapse, and Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma (yes, this is very much a book about ecology) are national bestsellers. Super-high-profile celebrities like Julia Roberts, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Jeffrey Katzenberg are foregoing fancy sportscars to make a very different statement scooting around in Priuses (plus, in the case of Katzenberg, I can tell you firsthand that he takes great strides to make to make the corporation he runs clean and green). An Inconvenient Truth, Al Gore's impassioned film about the urgency of the issue of global warming, is the fourth-most popular documentary in history at the box office. What I"m saying is, everyone is doing it.
For one, my mom is an environmentalist and doesn't even know it. With zero fanfare, I was raised in a home that, quietly and with little self-awareness, was doing its part. The more I read, the more I come to realize that the idea is to shrink our footprint -- the simpler we keep things, the lower our impact is, the better off we are. When it comes to food, Violet (my mom and I are on a first name basis), stays close to the source. A bowl of fresh fruit is always on the table, processed foods are kept to a minimum, and dinners are constructed -- quite artfully -- from real fruits, vegetables, meats, and rice. She often makes her own preserves and dries her own herbs.
In Violet's kitchen, nothing is ever wasted. Those dried herbs might reside in a jar that once held pickles, old boxes gain new life holding bags of spices, and leftovers sit in yogurt containers that have been washed and reused dozens of times. After a trip to the grocery store, all the plastic bags are folded and stashed for future reuse. You don't run the dishwasher unless it's full to the brim, and same goes for the washing machine and dryer.
I have a few simple ones of my own. I walk to as many errands as possible. I've started taking canvas bags to the grocery store -- I always got frustrated when, even at Whole Foods, they would pack a couple small in items in doubled up thick plastic bags. Now I get an extra smile from the checkout person, not to mention compliments on my rad Los Angeles maptote. The Hollywood Farmer's Market is my new favorite place, and the benefits come back to me in the form of interesting produce I'd never see at the supermarket, and good, good times.
The point is, this is no longer a small niche of wacky hippies flailing about in vain. It's a significant movement, and simple changes can make a difference. Everyone's doing it. catch up! I encourage every one of you to educate yourself, see what simple changes you can make, and if you haven't already, check out your local farmer's market. It's a fun way to spend an afternoon outside, see people, walk around a bit, and get acquainted with your food.