Tag Archives: sustainable

The billion dollar growth of local food at the 2012 Seedstock Sustainable Agriculture Conference

Local food is an $8 billion industry and growing rapidly every year. But all that success has brought a series of problems, mostly because the food industry is not set-up for sustainable agriculture. Which means focusing as much on the land as on the food, with such ideas as organic, seasonal, free range, grass-fed, non-GMO, and more.

The 2012 Seedstock Conference discussed those problems and successes with a diverse crowd including venture capitalists and tomato farmers, and talks covering an interesting range of topics:

  • Scaling sustainable agriculture
  • Urban farming
  • Buyers perspective
  • Digital technology
  • Investment in sustainable agriculture
  • Agripreneur Fast Pitch Competition

Each talk contained the right assortment of experts and business owners. I was particularly impressed with the buyers perspective panel where representatives from Whole Foods and Fresh Point discussed getting local foods into stores and hospitals and hotels. It was a lot more about logistics, getting food into boxes and keeping things refrigerated, than I thought it would be. They said this is mostly due to the informal nature at farmers markets - cash and plastic bags – where these farmers operate.

And often the best part of these sustainable conferences is the food. Jason Reed, the founder of Seedstock, filled the breakfast, lunch, and networking receptions with superb fare. The coffee was from local favorite Groundworks and the lunch from Chef Erik Oberholtzer, cofounder of Tender Greens, was amazing. I don’t usually eat exotic grains like quinoa, but combined with local and seasonal vegetables and with a mint lemonade drink – I enjoyed it.

It was a premier conference with sophisticated people and I look forward to the next event from Seedstock.

 

America throws away 40% of its food – under the supermarket model

One of my big ideas is to get away from the supermarket model in America. Not only has it made two-thirds of the country overweight or obese, but it also wastes an incredible amount of…well, everything.

From an NRDC report (pdf):

Getting food from the farm to our fork eats up 10 percent of the total U.S. energy budget, uses 50 percent of U.S. land, and swallows 80 percent of all freshwater consumed in the United States. Yet, 40 percent of food in the United States today goes uneaten….That is more than 20 pounds of food per person every month. Not only does this mean that Americans are throwing out the equivalent of $165 billion each year, but also 25 percent of all freshwater and huge amounts of unnecessary chemicals, energy, and land. Moreover, almost all that uneaten food ends up rotting in landfills where it accounts for almost 25 percent of U.S. methane emissions. Nutrition is also lost in the mix—food saved by reducing losses by just 15 percent could feed more than 25 million Americans every year at a time when one in six Americans lack a secure supply of food to their tables.

 

I’m convinced the supermarket model isn’t working and suggest we replace it with a more sustainable model. I’m writing a book to explain my solution, but here it is in three parts. A food system made up of farmers markets, non-profit food cooperatives, and for-profit markets.

I’ve traveled across the country and seen this model in effect and successful in large and small communities. It favors both the rich and poor, is sustainable and, best of all, creates quality jobs.

Continue reading

Three tips for visiting the farmers market this weekend (and a story)

It’s the weekend and I hope you’re heading to a farmers market. The best ones are always on the weekends. Lots of farmers and variety, as well as crowds, but if you arrive early you can avoid them and get the best selection. Here are a few tips for shopping at the farmers market this weekend.

Hold your cash in one hand and the food in the other. I use this trick all the time. As a regular at the market I know exactly what I want and I usually know the farmer. But that doesn’t give me any special privileges. I have to wait in line with everybody else and sometimes that can take forever. A new person asking lots of questions or ten people in line. But if you walk up to the front and show your cash and food – you can skip the line. I know it’s cutting in line and a cheat, but with exact change you can complete the transaction in second. And with the growing crowds of people at the market it can be needed to get in and out quickly.

Save everything you get from the market, from little ties and rubber bands, to fruit and egg boxes. You can return all of them for a smile and nod of appreciation. Look closely at every market and you will see this happening. Someone returning a collection of thirty rubber bands or another with 5 empty egg cartons. It’s the sustainable side to the market. And the farmers love it because it saves them a few dollars on supplies.

Look for the special item at every table. I’ve learned a secret about farmers that I can share with you. Each one has several products that are their specialty. They grow lots of them and have great variety – their staple crops. But they also like to experiment, grow something new, or cook something different. Usually just a small amount to see if it sells or for their own family. Which means they quickly sell out, but if you can find one, take a look. It’s usually exotic or rare and you probably won’t know what to do with it, but it’s always a treat.

Finally, a quick story about one of my experiences. A few years back, I found a farmer with a single walnut tree in his yard. His father had planted it 40 years ago so his family could have walnuts, but now it was so big they couldn’t eat all the fallen walnuts. So he began selling a few of them at the market for dirt cheap prices, but he always placed them in the corner and sometimes didn’t even put them out. I learned all this as I began buying from him, and they were delicious. The best walnuts I ever had.

Soon my girlfriend was eating them and I was buying double. Some weeks I would walk up with a huge bag and buy every single walnut he had. At this point he realized walnuts could sell and gave them more table space with a big sign. To my chagrin, they did sell and I was now fighting other market shoppers for walnuts. Some weeks I would get some and others not. The price went up a little, but every time he saw me I would get a discount and a smile.

 

Do you have a tip or story, please share in the comments? 

Continue reading

Tortilla chips and cheap food

You could like chips and dip more than me, but it’s not likely. I can eat them everyday for months with an endless variety of dips. I love them…but I have a problem. All chips are made from cheap food – I can eat an entire bag, have an exploding stomach, and still be hungry.

It’s the sign of cheap food – eating and still being hungry. The equivalent of the worst blind date. You give up a whole evening, pay for dinner, and head home completely unfulfilled. Most people don’t think about bad dates when buying food, they only see price tags. The cheaper the item the better it is. But cheap food usually means low quality food. Something so empty of nutrients and vitamins, that we can eat – and eat – and still be hungry.

Unfortunately, the same is true for the expensive chips. I’ve tried them all, from natural food stores to Whole Foods, and even the farmers market – with the same result, overeating and still hungry. I was so upset and about to give up on chips and dip, when it occurred to me I could make my own.

Now, this is a serious commitment. Spending an hour of my time, sweating with a roller, to make something I can buy at the store for two dollars. But, being Sustainable Steve I had to try it, and so I bought a bag of whole wheat, and went through the process – kneading, rolling, and baking. My first taste was…amazing.

These are real tortilla chips with taste and flavor. No salt or chemical flavoring added. And I can only eat a few – no more than seven or eight at a time. Which completely changes my chip and dip routine – I’m eating less chips and therefore less dip. Feeling full and losing weight.

A great example of how cheap food has penetrated every corner of our lives. It seems like a simple thought – homemade tortilla chips – but I was so conditioned to think that’s impossible. With thousands of commercials ringing in my head – like Lays potato chips, “you can’t eat just one.”

I was convinced overeating chips was natural. But here I am, noshing on whole wheat delights, and wondering how I ever did it differently. Beware cheap food and commercials, they can trick you into believing anything.

 

Continue reading

Alternative map of the American West – as sustainable water regions

From Mapping the Nation:

A beautiful–and extremely controversial–map made by John Wesley Powell…best known for his insistence the west must be understood as an arid region, one that demanded irrigation and management rather than a reliance on rainfall. In the late 1880s, Powell undertook a large-scale survey of the far west to demonstrate that the region was made up of interdependent watersheds, or what he termed irrigation districts.

And he brought this knowledge before Congress in 1890 asking them to use this map as the foundation for establishing Western states. At the time they were distributing large parcels of land – in no particular order – through the Homestead Act.

They didn’t listen and the dream of a sustainable West – without water problems – was lost.

 

Continue reading

Residential water trends for the United States

Here is a report that studied water trends from the past 50 years (pdf) and found both good/bad news.

The good:

A household in the 2008 billing year used 11,678 gallons less water annually than an identical household did in 1978.

To investigate the causes of this decline, a local study of statistically representative households of the LWC was conducted in Louisville. Adjusting for weather, water use per LWC customer fell from 208 to 187 gpd between 1990 and 2007, a decline of 21 gallons.

 

The bad: declines are leveling off.

Most homes have installed low-flow appliances and that accounted for the biggest drop. There was a drop in family size, from 3.38 to 2.59, and that’s not going any lower.

There were no recommendations for next steps. Future declines may be up to us.

Continue reading

How Farmers Markets can give you a superior workout

Ok, you’re probably starting to think I’m crazy. First, I suggest you buy all your food at farmers markets. Then, I tell you it will improve your health and start talking about getting to know your baker and making winter stores. Now, I’m going to make the argument that it will give you a superior edge in your workouts.

The explanation is pretty simple. Most of us workout once-a-day (if that) while we eat three times-a-day. This means food has a greater impact on our bodies than any individual workout does. Or, put another way, a workout breaks down the muscles in the body and recovery requires high-quality food to rebuild.

Right now, the popular advice is to eat protein bars and protein shakes, hearty meals of protein and vegetables, and energy drinks with electrolytes and vitamins. None of which is based on a solid foundation of science or nutrition. It’s all marketing.

Let me repeat that, none of the health claims coming from these food manufacturers are true. Hard to believe, I know, but the following explanation, from the Harvard School of Public Health, will help out.

On protein:

Surprisingly little is known about protein and health. The Institute of Medicine recommends that adults get a minimum of…about 8 grams of protein for every 20 pounds of body weight. Beyond that, there’s relatively little solid information on the ideal amount of protein in the diet, a healthy target for calories contributed by protein, or the best kinds of protein.

Harvard, a trusted name in medicine, is basically saying they have no idea. So how do food companies know the right amount? Aren’t we buying these products because of their health claims?

If you read the rest of the Harvard article it actually lays out the answers for you. Protein is a general term referring to the 20+ amino acids that our bodies need. These “building blocks” are found in all foods, with some containing more than others. Meats tend to contain all of them, a “complete package”, while beans, fruits, and vegetables contain varying amounts.

It goes on to recommend that we eat a diverse diet of high quality foods, while making sure to not over-indulge on meat. In this way, you guarantee yourself a diverse source for the 20 amino acids, as well as other nutrients and vitamins.

Which brings us back to that superior edge you can get in your workouts. If you can find high quality food and eat that three times-a-day then you will maximize the growth, health, and weight loss your body can attain from working out.

What is high quality food? It’s grass-fed beef, sustainable seafood, free-range chicken and pork. Vegetables and fruits that are ripe and in peak season form. Bread made from heirloom grains. Cheese and milk from grass-fed cows.

All things you will find at a farmers market. No need to read labels or learn about the differences among organic/local/grass-fed. Just visit your local market, build a relationship with the farmers there, and start making your post-workout meals from the food you buy.

I promise you will notice a marked increase in energy, weight loss, muscle gain, stamina, and more. You will be eating the finest food money can buy and sometimes you may even see restaurant chefs buying at the market too. They will be from those high-end restaurants searching out the highest quality food with you. There is a reason they are shopping there and when you start eating the food you will soon see why.

 

Continue reading

*Enjoy Handplanes turns bodysurfing into art

*Enjoy handplanes set themselves apart in the bodysurfing industry by turning their creations into one-of-a-kind art. It is amazing, the creativity and beauty they put into these little planes, with everything from DIY craft to pure artist illustrations, simple coloring and classic lines.

Of course, one has to mention that all of these handplanes are made from recycled and reused material. They use old, trashed surfboards and environmentally responsible resin for glassing. Definitely a part of the Zero Waste mantra.

Take a look and you might just be tempted to buy one. You can also join the *Enjoy community by visiting their vibrant Facebook group.

 

**All these photos, and more, can be found on the *Enjoy Facebook Photos page

 

 

Continue reading

The rise of wooden surfboards – alaia’s

Have you seen a wooden surfboard in the water yet? If not, you will soon as these earth-friendly boards grow in popularity.

The famous shaper, Tom Wegener, gave a talk about his designs for the ancient Hawaiian board, the Alaia (pronounced: ah-LIE-ah):

According to Wegener, this historical Hawaiian surfcraft – which appears to be little more than a flat piece of wood in the shape of an ironing board – may not only be the most enviro friendly surfboard available today, it might be part of one of surfing’s next big leaps in modern board design.

It is also a much-needed design, since the foam boards of today are nearly as toxic as you can make something. The recent movie, ‘Manufacturing Stoke’, discusses this strange development, as well as a detailed post I wrote on Green Surfboards.

The next step is finding the right type of wood that can match the ultra-high performance of the industrial-era poly/resin/chemical boards used by professional surfers today.

Phil Joske introduced him (Tom) to a sustainable board building material called Paulownia wood. With a much greater strength-to-weight ratio than balsa, an easy-to-work-with nature, and an imperviousness to saltwater, Tom used this unique wood and his innovative longboard designs to help revolutionize the genre of hollow wood surfboards.

Many in the industry are taking note of these designs, there is a certain beauty to a glossy wooden board. Especially, knowing that it is handcrafted and great for the environment.

Learn more at Patagonia’s – Wood is Good series (featuring videos, interviews, and lots of links to surf films and designers).

 

Continue reading

London Olympics may be the greenest, most sustainable ever

With the opening ceremony of the London Olympics only days away, organizers prepare to celebrate what may be the one of the greenest Olympic Games to date.

For Olympic organizers, sustainability has been a major focus in planning the Games’ venues. Forbes notes that existing or temporary venues are utilized whenever possible. For permanent structures, “Each new venue was required to achieve a minimum 15 percent improvement against Building Regulations.”

The site of London’s Olympic Park has also been noted for its radical transformation. Once an industrial area along the River Lea, the site was previously contaminated by “heavy metals, hydrocarbons, arsenic and cyanide,” according to BBC News.

At the largest urban park built in Britain in over the century, officials planted 2,000 native trees and 300,00 wetland plants and restored five miles of the River Lea. 110 acres of land were also turned into “reed beds, wet woodlands, grassland and ponds” to encourage the return of wildlife, reported the Press Association.

While British officials originally planned to draw 20 percent of the London Olympics’ power from renewable sources, they fell short of that goal. The BioRegional and WWF-UK report explains that only nine percent of on-site energy will be renewable.

 

Source: Huffington Post Green - London Olympics: Green Games A Goal For Organizers

 

 

Continue reading