44) Earth day and choices

Today is Earth Day, a fact that has been almost totally unpublicised over here in the UK.  Normally, thing-days make me a little itchy, somewhat uncomfortable.  If something is 'good' for one day of the year, then one day per year probably isn't enough.  If there's one thing that attempting to lose weight (or gain strength, or start a business, or build fitness) has taught me, it's that One Big Push is almost never the way to go.  Little and often is far more effective.

I try to live with a light touch on the earth; I try to give back.  I'm by no means an 'eco-freak', – I fly, but it makes me feel guilty – but I think about what I do and how I do it. I probably think too much.  But it's not easy: so often the would-be conscious consumer is beset by decisions which have to be made if we're ever going to get to the checkout, or to the dinner plate.  So this post is about choices – and choosing between choices – and what we can do best.  It's also been brewing for some time, so I hope it's coherent in the reading.

Organic or fair-trade?
Wow.  This is a *biggie*.  Sometimes, of course, you can do both – coffee is a good example, and chocolate, too.  Both is great, but today I found I could buy either organic sugar or fair-trade sugar (both in plastic packages).  How do you choose between a fair wage for workers and destroying the planet?  Come to that, what does organic really mean?  We like to think that an 'organic' coffee farm is a lovely, homely, small, family-run business that practises shade-growing and promotes biodiversity yadda yadda – but is it?  Until recently, I have tried to only eat organic meat, because I felt it was one way, every day, that I could vote with my money for improved animal welfare standards.  Then I read this very intelligent blog post, and am slowly switching to buying meat at the local farm shop.

Local or imported?
This looks like a 'duh' moment, right?  I think that 'food miles' were featured in the Archers sometime in the early nineties.  But did you know that tomatoes grown locally, out of season in glasshouses, have a similar 'carbon footprint' to tomatoes flown in from Spain?  Check it out.  Turns out it's better to have them grown in Spain or Italy, and transported to England by road.

Grow your own, or veg box?
Speaking of Riverford Organics, what happens if you grow your own veg?  I love my local Riverford distributor, and I love supporting them, but the minimum order is £12.50.  If I grow my own potatoes, carrots, onions and broccoli, it becomes increasingly hard for me to scrape together an order that large.  So I end up 'topping up' my veg at Tesco, or Morrison's.  Would it be better not to grow my own veg but to support the small businesses working in my space?

Loose or packaged?
should be another no-brainer, right?  But in just about any supermarket near
me, the would-be purchaser of any but the middle-of-the-road product
has to accept that their food will come wrapped in at least one layer
of plastic.  I understand why.  The multiple varieties of each veg need
labelling, andthe store believes that if the labels are too
transferrable, the sneaky good-for-nothings that are lining up to hand
over their money will take the label off an organic cabbage and slap a
value label on in its place.  But since plastic recycling facilities
near me are limited, and biodegradable plastic seems only to have made
it to the carrier bags and not to the produce packaging, I am left to
decide whether I wantto contribute a significant amount of plastic to a landfill in order to prevent pesticides being added to the land.

I don't have the answers.  I don't know if there are any right answers, maybe just a choice between evils; hopefully lesser evils.  But maybe asking questions on Earth Day will spark some changes that last for longer than turning the telly off for an hour can manage.


  • St Ives Farmer’s market on the first and third Saturday mornings of the month – take your own bags and if push comes to shove take the bus and the hounds!

    22nd April 2009
  • The food thing bothers me too.
    Good post. I’m off to read your link on the organic meat.

    24th April 2009
  • Love your Ugly Duckling shawl Alison. Any chance of a full size pic to see the effect of the pattern en masse? I’ve just (literally) started my very first attempt at lace knitting so am in awe of anyone who can finish a whole shawl!!

    26th November 2009

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