Updated: Oct 27
As we approach the holidays, let’s plan proactively for a sustainable celebration of the season, our families, customs, and the conclusion of another year by thinking about our grocery list. Food will inevitably be a part of our festivities and a good place to consider ways to lighten our impact on the rest of the species with whom we share our world.
Project Drawdown, an organization dedicated to finding effective solutions to the climate change crisis, has rated “Reduced Food Waste” as the highest impact solution to keep global temperature rise to 2ᵒF or less by 2100.
Granted, a lot of the waste that happens in the food system is beyond our control. The Natural Resources Defense Council reports, “About one-third of the world’s food goes uneaten, and when food is wasted, we squander land, water, and energy, and release carbon pollution in the process.” Produce that is deemed unsellable due to deformities – ugly carrots, small apples, and such – gets thrown out before it even reaches the grocery store. Fortunately businesses, such as Imperfect Foods, are cropping up and are saving that food from the landfill. This online grocery store has diverted 172.5 million pounds of food from the landfill to be delivered directly to your door.
But let’s face it, in most households the vegetables play a supporting role at the holiday table. The Grinch didn’t crow about passing the peas – he was proud to have the honor of being the one to carve the roast beast! So let’s talk about meat. Here in Colorado where half of our state is covered in shortgrass prairie, The Nature Conservancy reminds environmentalists that, “Through photosynthesis, prairie plants remove carbon from the atmosphere, replacing it with oxygen and storing that carbon in their root systems, some of which extend nearly 15 feet into the rich soil.” When we plow these lands, we lose that carbon absorption. On the other hand, raising cattle and bison on shortgrass prairies mimics the natural ecosystem. Cattle turn something we cannot eat – grass – into something we can eat – beef. So let’s pay the premium for local, grass-fed beef and support Colorado ranchers who are doing their part to protect the shortgrass prairie.
Whole animal butchers play an integral role in revitalizing America’s meat processing industry, and in establishing a lower-waste, more sustainable food system. Butchers work primarily with local farms, and purchase animals approximately six to nine months in advance. The ethos of a whole animal butcher is not low-waste, but no-waste. These specialty butchers are passionate about their craft and the environment. Although the cost may be more than in your local chain grocery store, the quality will be worth it.
So let’s celebrate the season sustainably by paying the true cost of our meat, inviting some ugly vegetables to the table, saving the leftovers, and giving thanks for a wonderful world that includes an astonishing array of wildlife all looking to share this beautiful planet with us. Bon Appetit!