Tuesday, November 20, 2012

all consuming...

I was reading Cherice's blog post on ecojustice today and it prompted me to get around to writing this which I've been mulling over for a week or so. As she says it is the little steps that make the difference...

I usually reflect on a regular basis about my consumption of food, goods etc and try to be honest about what I need vs want and how I can improve my ethical and ecological footprint on the world. This is something I've done for so many years now that I couldn't say exactly when it started.

Over time different 'causes' have taken priority for different products; organic or not, country of origin, foodmiles, packaging, sweatshop/child labour, recycled products, fair trade, charity goods, sustainability of production... the list goes on. I soon figured out it was easiest to change one thing at a time, wait until that became 'normal' and then add in something else, plus things do change and boycotts come and go. Given on top of this I've already spent my life checking ingredients lists to ensure products are vegetarian and later dairy and (even later) wheat free, there is only so much time and energy that can sensibly be devoted to shopping! Switching from one side of the globe to the other required a wholesale rethink as foodmile rules of thumb got turned on their heads and there were a whole bunch of different products on the shelves than I was used to, so this slowed things down in the supermarket etc for a while I can tell you!

Sustainability has become the big watchword in recent years and I've been around discussions at various Quaker events about the impact we have on the world with our global and domestic travel. Given that I am someone who does travel around the world (literally) due to having emigrated but still wanting to visit where I came from, plus representing Friends at overseas events, I've been using this as my main focus for re-evaluating where I am at. For a while I tried not to fly domestically - but got scuppered on that front once I was working again rather than studying as it became impossible to get to YM etc and back without taking so much unpaid leave it wasn't practical. I still try to travel by land though when time permits.

Packaging, foodmiles and where possible organic produce have roughly been the order of priority for me regarding food of late. I try to avoid non-recyleable or excess packaging - discovering that the local wholesalers sells 1kg resealable bags of many items was a huge boon, especially as they aren't that far from home (unlike the local supermarket on the far edge of town - remember I don't drive!). I try to buy goods that are preferably grown/made in Aotearoa NZ, and the closer to home the better. But even packaged here is better than overseas as it mean less packaging has been shipped. Organic is a decision mostly made on price - I don't mind paying a couple of dollars extra but baulk at what can be up to four times the non-organic price.

The last rethink had been about milk/margarine. Marion's talk at Summer Gathering had led me to try using ghee (even better than butter according to her research and leagues better than marg) as I can digest that - I just don't like the butter taste particularly. The stronger taste did mean I used less though and my marg consumption has dropped considerably (one day I'll get her to write up her talk, I can't even attempt to explain it here!). But I still hadn't cracked the milk issue in terms of the type of fats and added sugars. Further ponderings co-incided with a stay at F/friends who were getting raw cows milk via a co-operative arrangement - they were experimenting making their own yoghurt, cheese and butter. I've long held the theory that my dairy intollerance is due to pasteurisation as I didn't have any problem with dairy when I had farm bottled milk as I grew up. The few occassions I've had it since have borne my theory out but I hadn't had the chance to make the jump easily as technically it can't be sold here for consumption. There are loopholes though and I got the opportunity to split a 2ltr bottle each week with someone.

So now with the aid of a kefir starter I'm making yoghurt (even easier for me to digest) one week and paneer the next - I then use the whey left over from the paneer process on my porridge and when I make my bread. Pretty much anything else I would normally use milk for I use water, whey, yoghurt or coconut milk (which at least comes in a recycleable tin!). I had monitored my soy/rice milk consumption for a while and figured I used on average 1 litre per week, hardly a high user, but in some ways all the more reason to move away from non-recycleable (up here) tetrapacks of a product grown, made and packaged in Australia at the absolute closest! Plus I got through about 3 blocks of feta cheese a month, ish... hence the paneer which is really quick and easy to make and can be made to be more like non-stretchy mozzerella than cottage cheese just by pressing it overnight.

So I collect locally 1 litre of milk from an organic farm (just over an hour drive away) in a glass jar that gets washed out and returned to be refilled - this so far has provided me with all my milk and cheese needs for the week and I am slowly building up small quantity supplies of 'spare' milk in the freezer for those occassions when I do need a little bit more for baking etc. Plus my cheese now doesn't come in plastic and only contains milk and lemon juice! Ok so I'm also still eeking out my lump of sheeps peccorino I got in Wellington but that always lasts me for ages.

Yes I know there are endless arguments against dairy cows but for now I'm giving it a go, another case of seeing it as a choice or compromise I guess. Trying this at a time when my hayfever was at its annual low point (when the privet flowers) in some ways didn't seem too clever yet even so I haven't ended up any more mucusy than usual and there don't appear (yet?) to be any obvious signs of the milk disagreeing with me. It feels good to be making my own yoghurt and cheese and the kefir culture sachets are far better than easy-yo packets etc in terms of content and of course packaging, especially as you can keep some back of each batch and start the next one with it for about 4 or 5 times before starting afresh. What is more it works out way cheaper and the kefir ends up with a cream cheese-like layer on the top from the cream of the milk too, I hadn't had cream cheese in years! Well that is my milk sourced more locally along with my veg - now I just need to crack the flour/grains conundrum!

At a workshop on Sunday we heard a reading describing how things might be in 2035, where locally sourced food and products was all there was left available - we aren't at that point yet, but deliberately moving towards it as much as possible in a planned way makes sense to me rather than finding it imposed on us with no alternatives in place. I hope we don't ever get to the point where we can't bring things in from elsewhere, I'd miss various spices for a start and many of the grains I use are imported. But if I think in terms of how much stuff gets shipped around the world for my daily benefit I'd rather keep my optimal 'shipping quota' for things I can't get locally than things that I can. I much prefer to make positive choices now that mean I have to make fewer compromises I don't want to later...

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