|“Autumn,” by Giuseppe Arcimboldo|
When I moved to Philadelphia, I was psyched about shopping at Trader Joe’s. I’d heard about the place for years, especially from some friends in L.A. It sounded like some kind of crunchy paradise, where food was both organic and cheap. The nearest Trader Joe’s was quite a ways across the city, but my boyfriend and I would zoom over on his motorcycle and then make our way back, with groceries strapped to the bike and my back, him steering and me balancing a full chicobag in each hand.
It was great, until I read the label on a can of beans or something (something not at all exotic) and saw that they were from New Zealand.
I eat organic because it’s healthy – but also because it’s better for the environment (which ends up being healthier as well). So I felt like the organic-ness of the food was canceled out by the fuel that was expended getting it from New Zealand to Philly. It was a bummer.
Now that I’m back in Vermont, I try to make organic eating affordable by getting things in their basic form (veggies instead of soup, flour instead of scones), by taking part in a CSA, and by shopping at an awesome local store that sells “discounted gourmet foods.” This generally means that they’re selling, say, a dented can of coconut water for 75 cents or a case of near-expiration Liberte Greek yogurt for under $5. (Believe me, I can eat Liberte yogurt fast enough to beat that expiration date!) I don’t know if you have a store like this near you, but I’m really glad I do. I also feel good about shopping there because a lot of their food (even though it’s perfectly yummy and healthy) would go into the dumpster if they didn’t exist.
I got to thinking of all this because I heard an interview on Here and Now about all the food that does go into the dumpster. In that interview, Jeremy Seifert of the documentary Dive! (about dumpster diving) mentioned that 96 billion pounds of food go into dumpsters in the US every year. That’s 96 billion pounds of food wasted, not to mention the labor of the people who grew and processed that food, the land that food was grown on, any pesticides and fertilizer that went into those crops, and all the fuel and packaging involved in getting that food to the store shelf. That’s heartbreaking.
Times are hard, but in a land of such abundance, I think the primary solution may be simple: not to waste what we have.