Many Hands Make Light Work
The toughest thing about sustainability is that it takes more thought and planning, and often takes more work in initial implementation. The benefits include a reduction in waste, a successful project for a longer life span, respect for health, better user support, and quite probably an increase in connections within the project community and within the team.
This investment is not easy by any means, but it can make a huge difference to the future that Mr. Kettering, and I, are interested in. By building interdependence in our social systems we create greater resiliency and foster strengths that we have been missing for some time. In the disasters created by Hurricane Katrina and Superstorm Sandy we came to realize that the first line of response, the first safety net, was knowing your neighbor. That social network was vastly important. Such a simple thing, but paramount in the survival of many.
I recently stumbled across a not-for-profit effort going on in Columbia County. It is Long Table Harvest and, to me, it epitomizes the goals of TBL, sustainability and resiliency. Take a look at the video. Long Table Harvest – community food (and people) rescue
The campaign seeks funds for a delivery van, yet the work itself is highly dependent on community volunteers, and collaborations between farmers and charity food providers. The results include reduced food waste, connections of local farms to local needs, teamwork, people gaining access to healthful foods, and a strengthening of the fabric of food systems. Yeah, that last one sounded preachy, but that doesn’t make it untrue. We forget what it takes to get a bean or carrot to our table, and engaging in the process, or revealing the process to more people, will create better care for that network. Local food supply chains are of incredible importance in the resilient future I see. It is also important that when we appreciate the food systems, and the work needed to grow that bean or carrot, then we additionally begin to use that food better. Per National Geographic’s March 2016 issue, only 47% of the food produced in the USA is actually consumed. We waste the rest in picking and sorting, storage and shipping, disposal at wholesalers and groceries, and in discarding at homes. Most of this waste is due to aesthetic reasons.
I have already begin changing my food use. Granted, I still buy too many processed items. But I also buy from Field-Goods to increase my support of local farmers and food businesses, and I’ve started to use my cut-ends of veggies for stock. About once each two months I cook the cut ends down to make homemade stock, which is good for use in rice, soups, etc. I now am starting to re-assess some “bruised” fruits and veggies for use in smoothies. I freeze them and then puree them when I need some veggie kick in my day. My fave right now is blueberry/kale, with a touch of banana for smoothness.
My point for all of this is that we have spent the last 60-80 years looking for convenience and a life made easy. It’s the American Way! However, we often cherish the convenience only because we don’t recognize what benefits we’ve accidentally set aside. One overly simple example: We drive to a gym to walk on a treadmill, and we pay for the privilege. We purchase snow throwers and leaf blowers and lament how noisy the world is. Yes, it would take more time to shovel or rake, but could we then skip travelling to and paying for the gym?
So back to sustainability taking more thought up-front, and more effort, for a vastly greater return. How do we make this palatable to many? How do we help people understand the long-term effects of their actions. I don’t mean long-term on a planet scale, but long-term in their own lifespan. Wiser food management will help them be healthier and to save money over time on healthcare and on food itself, especially by reducing waste. We need to engage our brains a bit more often.
“Inventing is a combination of brains and materials. The more brains you use, the less material you need.”
In respect to food systems and food waste, it’s a mix of making the point in many different ways, highlighting and supporting the efforts to make local produce available, and working with people to help them appreciate slow foods and the taste of variety. It’s time for innovation and invention. The answer is that creating the market and traction for more sustainable and resilient approaches in life and in green building design, construction and operations also takes effort, planning and outreach.
Spread the word, and be greener,