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Sustainability of Whole30


wendelina

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I apologize in advance if this is in the wrong topic.  I admit that I could come up with no "good" place for it, so moderators, feel free to move it to a better home.

 

I want to be a good global citizen.  I try to do things to minimize the impact of my time on the earth: recycling, walking or taking mass transit more than driving, etc.  One of the big areas where one can look at making changes is in food.

 

I started supporting CSA's and local farmers for that reason: factory farming scares the daylights out of me, AND I'm convinced that it's awful for the environment.  Sustainable farming just makes sense on so many levels. But then I see articles like http://vox.com/e/5629150, where it says that the highest carbon footprint of any diet is meat eaters.

 

I also look at the sheer quantity of food that I eat now - piles of vegetables, meat or eggs at every meal, etc. - which is more food by volume than I've ever eaten at any time of my life.

 

And I have to wonder: is doing what's right for my body bad for the planet?  Am I eating more than "my fair share" of the bounty of the earth?

 

(Yes, I know, I am sure the aforementioned article is mostly using factory farmed meat and the like, but the numbers are pretty drastic and it makes me wonder ... )

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My farmer works less than 2 acres and raises sheep, chickens, and rabbits for meat and grows enough vegetables to feed 10 people year-round. He does this while holding a full-time job that requires him to travel 4 days per week. He told me about an organic farm in Canada whose CSA includes 200 people and grosses $135,000.00 per year on 1.5 acres of land. That is the kind of intensive farming he aspires to do when he "retires" from his current job.

 

The problem in our world is that the factory farm/monoculture systems that spit out corn, soybeans, and wheat are so much less productive than well-run organic farms. If you care about the earth, eat food produced by good organic farmers. There is nothing more efficient or kinder to the earth.

 

To learn more about this, read books by Joel Salatin of Polyface Farms. 

 

And here is a good intro to the issue by Salatin: http://grist.org/sustainable-farming/farmer-responds-to-the-new-york-times-re-sustainable-meat/

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This is how generations of my ancestors ate long before there was commercial farming or fast food joints.   I think we left behind a relatively small carbon footprint.   The footprint is so small now, it's almost been wiped off the face of the planet.

 

Were you a vegetarian or vegan before you started this...and are you talking yourself out of it?   Don't feel guilty because you might feel better than you've ever felt before.   

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my farmer lives 1 mile from me.  She raises just two cows (plus pigs and chickens), and that is enough beef for her customers for a year.  Perhaps you could find a local source of meat.  Have you considered a garden to supplement your vegetables?

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I don't waste a scrap of food. Veggie endings go into compost, food scraps to my backyard chickens. I use little to no packaging since I barely eat out. There are some staggering stats on food wastage in this country.  

 

Eat the whole animal horn to hoof and you will be eating more sustainably than most. Buy a locally raised whole animals and make broth with their bones, pate with the liver, sandwich slices from the tongue, etc.

 

I think eating locally has way more of an impact than anything. I live on an island in Alaska where we can't grow grains but there is fish and seaweed galore, so that's what I eat. Kale grows well so I eat that, too.  A SAD diet requires every meal and ingredient to be barged or flown in burning massive amounts of fuel.  So I have a freezer full of free range local beef, salmon, cod. I think a vegetarian diet and a SAD diet are much less sustainable than a local paleo diet when you factor in the packaging, waste, fuel and chemicals for processing, and fuel for transportation.

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MeadowLily - no, I have never been vegetarian.  I just read a lot of things, and I think a lot.

 

Tom - I've heard of Mr. Salatin from reading The Omnivore's Dilemma, but I've never read his books.  I'll have to work on that, though I do find his farming methods super-fascinating and very logical.

 

Surfista - I live in a city with one fridge with a "tiny" freezer.  Buying a whole animal and storing it is NOT an option for me, sadly.

 

I don't doubt one bit that eating Whole30-style is the best thing _for me_.  But, a few things have also come along for the ride:

1. I eat a _lot_ more food than I used to, by volume.  Lots of vegetables, a bit more meat than I'd normally do, and a LOT more eggs.  A lot.

2. I'm lucky that I can eat locally, sustainably farmed food, but I am aware that not everyone (and not even everyone on these forums) can do that (either because of cost, or lack of available options), so they are eating industrially farmed and/or monocropped food.

 

I think my original point (probably badly stated by me) was missed.  There's Whole30-style eating (lots of meat and veg), and then there's the Whole30-recommended of eating organic / local / sustainable, whenever possible.  But, is meat-eating (even sustainable meat-eating) inherently more impactful to the earth than eating vegetarian (local/organic/sustainable)?  Is it worth it?  Does that equation change if we can't eat local/organic/sustainable (e.g. ... Boston in winter, all I can get that's local is root veg, nothing green.  Or if my budget suddenly dropped in half. or or or...)

 

My gut tells me that much of traditional farming's carbon footprint is from transport (duh), creation and transport of chemical fertilizers (many of which are produced from petrochemicals).  But if we even those things out - comparing local/sustainable vegetarian vs local/sustainable Whole30 - where do we stand?  Is this responsible to the earth, as the population blooms higher than its ever been?

 

Not sure there is a 100% correct answer, but it does make me wonder.

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  • 7 months later...

All good points. Vegan would be the most ecologically sustainable. But the SAD diet is the worst with all the packaging, factory beef, etc. Paleo is somewhere in between. As for your personal situation, (which is all you really need to worry about....you aren't going to save humanity by eating vegan),  I say buy yourself a small chest freezer. I use mine as countertop in my kitchen, and you can put a table cloth over it and use it as furniture when you aren't cooking. Look into buying dehydrator, and learn how to do home canning. You can buy in season then store tons of produce and meat dried (jerky) in small spaces. Ferment veggies in crocks like the Koreans (some of the healthiest people on earth). I "can" whole chickens in big mason jars. Instant meal! You can also home "can" compliant soups in jars. There are some great books out on preserving food. That way you take a trip to the country, buy a whole pig, go to farmers markets and buy all of their surplus....then preserve it all!

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wendelina, another thing to check out as far as sustainability and colder climates is your local permaculture peeps. There is tons of things people are doing in colder climates and uban climates to make food available and sustainable. Permaculture is amazing. People like Geoff Lawton, Bill Mollison and Sepp Holzer in Austria are the foundation of the Permaculture movement. Others like Toby Hemenway (Gaia's Garden), Eric Toensmeier and Jonathan Bates (Paradise Lot: Two Plant Geeks, One Tenth of an Acre, and the Making of an Edible Garden Oasis in the City) have helped carry and grow it. Paradise Lot is in Holyoke, Massachusetts.

http://http://www.perennialsolutions.org/upcoming-events-perennial-organic-gardening-food-crops-eric-toensmeier-edible-landscape-permaculture.html

 

There are several websites of info on sustainability that is going on in the colder climates. Here's just a few.

http://pricoldclimate.org/

http://alaskapermaculture.com/

http://midwestpermaculture.com/

 

It can be done and am thankful for those who are leading the way. I won't mention Joel Salatin as he has already been mentioned.  Oh, I can't forget crazy Paul Wheaton in Montana @ http://www.permies.com/

 

There are so many ways we can do our part. I have a long way to go, but I am further along than I used to be. All my meat, eggs and milk are purchased locally and have been for several years now. Veg, some is some not, growing more and more of my own as I work on making my little town lot a paradise lot. The availability of locally sustainably raised meat has grown exponentially around me in the last couple of years. People are waking up to the possibilities. I took Geoff Lawton's 2013 online PDC course. One of the few online courses then. It was worth every penny for me. People like Joel Salatin and the others I have mentioned and many I didn't mention are showing the world that food can be grown locally and we can feed the world sustainably. That we can live sustainably. So, keep caring, learning and sharing, That is how one person can affect change.

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