After failing to keep New Year's Resolutions for more than a few months and then giving up on them altogether for a few years, I've decided I need a new approach to life. We make New Year's resolutions because there are always things in our lives that we feel we could do better, or differently. But trying to keep a resolution for a year is impossible. The time frame is too long and we get bored, or forget, or can't remember why we thought the resolution was important in the first place. So I've decided to start smaller. I am setting goals that I want to achieve in 30 days. At the end of the 30 days I can keep going or I can stop, it doesn't matter. What matters is sticking to something for just a month - a small, manageable period of time.
Which leads me to question of what my first goals should be. After reading Jonathan Safran Foer's "Eating Animals" (a post on that coming soon!) and working on sustainability within a large company, I have been asking myself a lot of questions about my own activities. How can I work to make a company more sustainable when some of my own activities are not sustainable? How can I continue to eat meat when I know it contributes to climate change, hunger, global pandemics, and human rights abuses? There is always a need to balance what you should do with what you feasibly can do, but if I'm brutally honest with myself, I haven't even been doing a lot of what I could do relatively easily. The arguments about not having enough time or money to make those changes are just arguments - they're not reality. And the arguments that one person can't make a difference is also ridiculous. Ten years ago, asking for a vegetarian meal at a restaurant gave me funny looks. Today, I can open a menu and go straight to the specially-designated "vegetarian entrees". That was because millions of individuals made the decision to become a vegetarian and the markets responded. Now there is a need for consumers to say they want really sustainable products, not just greenwashed marketing, and I intend to be one (of the millions) who makes that demand.
So, my November goals are about changing the way I consume food.
Month 1, Goals 1-3
1. Go back to being a complete vegetarian (no fish, no poultry, no meat)
2. Buy in-season produce, locally where possible
3. Buy groceries that have at least one of the legitimate "bio" labels
Germany and the European Union together actually have 10+ bio labels, but not all of them have an actual positive impact on environmental or social issues. I did some research and identified six that were not simply exercises in greenwashing and am basing my purchases on them. [For those of you living in the U.S., the "organic", "natural", "cage-free", and "free-range" labels have virtually no meaning whatsoever thanks to the USDA's conflicting mandate to protect consumers AND producers....If you're trying to make more conscious decisions, you'll need to find local third-party verifiers in your individual states. http://www.eco-farm.org/ is a good place to start looking.]
I also found an awesome calendar of seasonal fruits, nuts, and vegetables in Europe that not only identifies what's in season, but labels what is likely to be grown within Europe and what is likely to be imported. I also located two specific farmer's markets in Frankfurt that only include farmers/cheese producers from the state of Hessen. In reality, many of these farmers also purchase goods from other distributors and sell those products, too (for example, there is no way the current abundance of persimmons came from Germany...). I try to counteract that risk by checking the produce I'm interested in against my seasonal, European calendar.
The outcome after two weeks? A whole new repertoire of recipes, a healthier diet, and the knowledge that what I'm eating is sustainable for future generations.The goal timeline is for only 30 days, but it's already become apparent that this change is cheap and easy, so I'll probably stick to it in the long-run, too.
I found the recipe below while looking for something to do with my seasonal and locally-grown watercress. The picture and the recipe come from Food Republic, a treasure trove of recipes from a "Canadimerican" couple living in California (http://foodrepublik.com/).
I also added pumpkin seeds and radishes (also in season!), which complemented the rest of the salad quite well.
By the way, I *love* honey mustard but spend tons of cash testing out
sub-par honey mustard dressing at the supermarket. This recipe is
amazing and ridiculously simple to make, ending my search for the