“We are looking ahead, as it is one of the first mandates given to us as chiefs, to make sure every decision we make relates to the welfare and well-being of the seventh generation to come. What about the seventh generation? Where are you taking them? What will they have?”
Oren Lyons, Chief of the Iroquois Onondaga Nation
Mother Earth doesn’t care. She loves all creatures. If the human race destroys its own habitat, she will provide a home for the animals, bacteria, fungi and plants that take over their space. Eating green is about more than paying attention to the environment. For me, eating green is about respect. Respect for the right of all to have access to fertile soil, pure water and clear air. For those living today and the seven generations to come.
Food has become a cheap commodity. Food production grows faster than the population, we now even put it into our cars. Meat and dairy have become cheaper than nuts and beans, wheat and corn are highly genetically modified and the cruelty of factory farming has reached an all-time high. Today, only a little over 200 years (seven generations) into industrialized agriculture, the tragical side-effects are clearly visible: soil erosion, poisoned ground waters, food-borne illnesses, loss of beauty, biodiversity and wildlife habitat, social inequity, toxic chemical intake, only to mention a few.
At the same time, sustainable and community-supported farming, permaculture, organic produce, plant-based diets, farmers markets, locally-grown products, grandmother’s preserving recipes, urban gardening, Monsanto-free zones, Slow Food, native seed banks, educational labeling, and court case wins are spreading at the speed of light. Awareness is growing, people are changing their habits, spreading the word and protesting. At Rio 20+, an agreement was made to reverse gears, stop investing in destructive “green revolutions” and support rural sustainable agriculture again. This new (old?) thinking does not only affect rural farming, it is especially valuable for providing cities with sustainable and nourishing food. Chiang Mai in North Thailand now has 15 organic farmer’s markets! How many does your city have?
Here are 10 ways to bring more love for the environment onto your plate:
1. Connect with your ancestors. Ask yourself the question: WHAT GROWS WHERE I LIVE? Reduce the ex-otic (= comes from somewhere else) foods you eat. Understand them as something special that has traveled a long distance. Fashion foods often bring the areas they come from out of balance. Think about what our sudden love for quinoa is doing to Peruvian farmers. They can not afford to eat their protein-rich and nourishing food themselves anymore. It has become a cash crop that is increasingly controlled by large export companies. Good wholegrain and organic wheat, spelt and rye have high levels of protein too. Eat local. Less apples in Bali, less papayas in Munich.
2. Read labels. Supermarkets want food to keep as long as possible. That (and high shareholder profits) is all they care about and so many ingredients are solely in “food” for that reason. Nestlé, Procter & Gamble, Unilever and Danone don’t care about your allergies, your children’s fidgeting and rashes or your omega-3 and mineral deficiencies. All things that usually disappear when you eat organic and natural food again. Read the small print on packets and choose products without ingredients you don’t know.
Watch Marie-Monique’s latest film: Our Daily Poison / Unser täglich Gift / Notre Poison Quotidien
3. Avoid plastic packaging. The more plastic, the further your food traveled. And if your supermarket only stocks products in plastic like Carrefour or Tesco, change your shopping habits – at least for the fresh produce. Buy fruit & veggies at your weekly market, health food store or get it delivered by an organic box scheme (google “organic box scheme” or “bio kiste” or “panier bio”).
4. Eat smaller amounts of meat, eggs and dairy. And when you do, then only from kindly raised, grass-fed animals. Chickens and cows aren’t meant to eat grain, they need grass. We only started to feed them soy, grain and even animal products (mad cow disease came from feeding cow bones to other cows) when the industry started turning them into milk and cheap meat machines. Meat, eggs and dairy from mass animal farming have high levels of hormones and antibiotics and no more omega 3. Giant slaughterhouses are environmental disasters but above all, they are cruel and cause pain, fear and horror. There are so many great vegan and vegetarian resources out there with delicious recipes and ideas – give them a try! I am working on a resource list with my favourite websites, books and films, stay tuned.
5. Learn about the importance of soil. A teacher of mine once said: “we can’t eat soil, that is why we need the plants”. The nutritional value of plant-based foods (and for meat-eaters, of the animals eating the plants) depends on the soil they grow in. Supermarket produce grows in green houses on little balls of styropor foam and gets its nutrients out of plastic cans. “Organic”-labeled fruit and veggies do too, they just get organic nutrients out of a can. Read a book about permaculture or visit an organic farm. Learn about the worms and the millions of micro-organisms in the soil. It is more than just biology, it is philosophy, the science of life. Industrialised agriculture is destroying the soil in so many areas, only organic and sustainable farming ensures the soil is respected and nurtured.
Read Earth Democracy by Vandana Shiva
6. Avoid GMO. Genetically engineered produce threatens the balance of our ecological systems, destroys diversity and makes farmers dependent on seed and pesticide companies such as Monsanto. In the EU, food containing genetically modified organisms (GMO) needs to be labelled. However eggs, milk and meat from animals who were fed GMO do not. In the US and many other countries, GMO in food does not (yet) need to be labelled at all. The only way to safely avoid GMO is to buy organic or safely labelled produce. Typical biotech crops in the US are soybean, maize, cotton, canola, squash, alfalfa and sugar beet.
7. Grow your own food. You don’t have a garden? Make space in your kitchen or anywhere in your home with a window. Nowadays you can get the cutest racks for pots, jars or simple cotton bags for herbs, sprouts, and edible flowers. Grow your own wheat grass and if you have a little space on your balcony your own greens. It will be enough for a green smoothie each morning, and your children will love it. Give them their own sprout jar with their name on it, they will run to the kitchen each morning to see the little shoots grow. Urban gardening projects are spreading in many European cities, join the fun and enjoy the magic of homegrown veggies again.
8. Drink green smoothies. Organic greens don’t travel very well, are full of healthy protein, omega 3 fats, fibre, calcium and other minerals. They are local, seasonal and grow on every balcony. 1/3 greens, 1/3 fruit and 1/3 water make a deliciously nourishing drink. No cooking, no chopping, no recipes. Simply put everything in a blender and press the button. Spinach, kale, dandelion greens (yes, the weeds with the yellow flowers!), rucola, carrot and beetroot greens, nettles (yes, the ones that sting), dark lettuces (romaine), parsley, celery greens, and herbs like mint or basil are all wonderful green smoothie ingredients, experiment and have fun!
9. Recycle leftovers. Don’t buy more just because it is “cheaper”. Learn to use the different zones in your fridge and stock food properly. Be creative with leftovers: blend overripe fruit into yoghurts and smoothies, and make dips and sauces from leftover salads and veggies. Eat grain leftovers for breakfast (quinoa with cranberries, cinnamon and coconut milk tastes divine!) or take the rest of your Sunday dinner to work and share with your co-workers, they will love you!
10. STOP DRINKING WATER OUT OF PLASTIC BOTTLES. The one thing that will never cease to shock me when I travel is the amount of plastic bottles that lands in the trash. In many countries, tap water is controlled and tested far more strictly than bottled water. In Munich and Vienna, tap water is of very high quality and yet so many people believe bottled water is safer, cleaner, purer. All over the world, clean water is made available through reverse-osmosis or filter systems and yet we only trust plastic bottles. These bottles all end up on landfills, in the countryside, in the ocean and in bird’s and fish’s tummies. Buy a cool re-usable bottle and trust tap water again if you are lucky enough to live somewhere where it is available.
Watch the movie Tapped (German: Abgefüllt)
Spread the word, read, become passionate, become an activist. Follow your local Greenpeace, Foodwatch, Slow Food or any other environmental organization on Twitter, Facebook, or Pinterest and share what you learn, simply out of love for yourself, your family, the friends who come for dinner… and the Peruvian farmer whose quinoa you just had for dinner.
“All great change begins at the dinner table.” Ronald Reagan