Choices for a Brighter Tomorrow

a017f-z112660992So now that I have established that I am going to blog, I should talk about what I will probably spend a lot of time blogging about.   A few of you might remember the homepage I had built on Earthlink that talked about environmental issues in Iowa.    That sort of thing is going to hugely influence things I post on the blog.    A lot of it is going to be about food, because with four kids,  we cook a lot.  A lot of it is going to be about herbs, because I do the herb thing.   Some of it will be about our family and our traditions, many of which have to do with food.

Food is one item that must be purchased on a regular basis however there are still environmental and socials factors to consider when purchasing all  consumables.  There are a few questions that you can ask yourself when shopping  which will help  guide your choices.

One of the first questions to ask yourself is, “Can I make it myself?”

We tend to buy staple items in bulk and make most of our own food from scratch. This eliminates a good deal of packaging, waste and expense. Periodically I will add some of our favorite “make your own” recipes to this blog for food and homecare items.

Another component of making your own food is gardening. There are families that grow all of the food they need in a year on rooftops of apartment buildings or in container gardens on patios. Read more here.  As we just moved in to this house in June, the garden is obviously going to be one of the areas where we devote a lot of time as we strive to develop a more sustainable lifestyle.

This fall we planted herbs, grape vines, raspberries and two dwarf apple trees. We also started a compost pile. Composting, which is a huge component of organic gardening, significantly reduces the amount of waste a family sends to the landfill.

Another question to consider when you buy food is the issue of whether or not the food is locally grown?

Environmentally speaking, the transportation of food items creates staggering amounts of energy consumption.  Ideally, locally grown organic food, from your Farmer’s  Market or a local CSA farm, is the smartest purchase for the environment.

The final, and perhaps most important question to as yourself is “What segment of the population is profiting from my purchase?”

91 cents of each dollar spent at traditional food markets goes to suppliers, processors, middlemen, and marketers; only 9 cents of each dollar actually goes to the farmer. Supporting small family farms reduces your environmental impact and helps a real family to earn a living wage. This question is vital when applied to those items that cannot be obtained locally such as coffee, sugar, and chocolate. Large corporations often profit because of child labor and slave labor. It is vitally important to make sure that that these goods are fairly traded, ensuring that farmers all over the world are able to feed their families and work in reasonable conditions.

These are some specific measures we take and you can take to live a more natural lifestyle.

Cut down or eliminate the number of disposable products in your home:

  • Use cloth; napkins, cleaning rags, baby wipes, and diapers
  • Buy reusable items such as shopping bags, coffee filters, gladware and lunch boxes instead of their disposable counterparts.

Use your appliances efficiently:

  • Turn down your thermostat and water heater.    You can heat individual spaces with space heaters, rather than keeping your whole house at 75 degrees.
  • If you use a dishwasher let the dishes air dry.
  • Keep the lint trap on your dryer clean or better yet use drying racks or clotheslines. I use my dryer about once every two weeks.

Conserve Non-renewable Resources:

  • Use compact fluorescent bulbs.
  • Turn off lights when you leave a room.
  • Turn off your computer when not in use.
  • Take public transportation or walk whenever possible.
  • When driving use ethanol blended fuel, drive fuel-efficient or hybrid vehicles or carpool
  • Reduce the number of petroleum based products you buy. In other words, avoid places that sell cheap, plastic crap. 😉
  • Buy used items whenever possible.

Recycle everything you can:

  • Support the bottle/can nickel deposit law.
  • Buy products made from 100% post consumer waste when possible.
  • REUSE items. Make gift bags and shopping bags out of old clothes.

Eliminate pesticide and chemical use:

  • Use Earth friendly cleaning products
  • Use unbleached paper items if you must purchase them. My cloth diapers and wipes are made of unbleached cotton.
  • Buy locally-grown, organic food.
  • Raise organic produce.
  • Compost!
  • Let the dandelions live! The greens are really good for you anyway. You would be amazed how many weeds I use in herbal preparations.

Conserve Water:

  • Use your water saving settings on your dishwasher.
  • Keep cold pitchers of water in your refrigerator.
  • Install low flow toilets or put a brick in the tank.
  • Install efficient shower heads.

Feminism

I read The Bookseller of Kabul by Asne Seierstad today. It is required reading for one of the classes I am taking during the fall semester. I thought I would get a head start on it and ended up reading the whole thing in one day. The book examines the life of family in Afghanistan and gives readers a fascinating glimpse of what life is like in Muslim countries. It also portrays the oppressions inflicted on Afghans by the Taliban.

It seems like tradition is almost an impossible thing for these countries to overcome. The author is a woman who lived with this family for some time. I don’t know how she could have tolerated the sexism that is described in the story. It would have been maddening to me. I understand that these women don’t see life the way that we westerners do. In much the same way that men from the Middle East do not seem to understand our absolute horror at the brutal methods employed by their dictators, these women in the story do not seem to comprehend our indignation at their subjugation.

I wonder if it was the same for our grandmothers and their mothers when women in this country first started to step outside their prescribed roles as mothers and wives? Was the shortening hemline viewed with the same disgust and trepidation as the casting off of the burka is by many modern Muslim women?

I cannot help but recall the stories I heard of my great-grandmother’s iron willed edict that no daughter of hers was going to be running around in bloomers. She was absolutely appalled by the attire my grandmother donned when she played basketball for her high school in the 1910′s. She almost had a heart attack when a few years later my grandmother saved her teacher’s wages to buy a car of her own.  I know that one of the reasons for my grandparent’s elopement was the fact that my grandmother taught at a school where women were expected to “retire” when they married. Consequently she and my grandfather kept their marriage secret for quite some time because they needed the money that my grandmother earned.

Sometimes I wonder if she would be disappointed with my decision to stay-at-home with my children?  I have suffered almost as much discrimination in my life by second wave feminists as I have men.   In some ways , probably because I had a stay-at-home dad, I may have been more supported by the men in my life.

Some feminists seem to think that those of us who are mothers and wives have “sold out” the memory of the women who fought for equality in this country and that to be powerful, we need to be like men. I like to think that they were fighting more for the right to choose their own destiny rather than have it prescribed to them by society. I certainly appreciate the choices that are available to my daughters due to feminist efforts, but I also encourage them to explore their feminine and masculine sides.

I love the Dar Williams song  “When I Was a Boy”    I watch the way the prescribed gender roles we have in society damage both boys and girls.   I am fiercely protective of Trapolin for this reason.   I have a lot of hope for real change to occur in my daughters’ generation.  They are pretty cool kids.

I hope that someday the author of this book goes back to check in on the younger generations of this family. I enjoyed the book and I am glad I read it. It will be interesting to see what other people thought of it, once class gets started. Until then it gave me things to think about. I think I am going to watch the Olympics. There are women in the group of athletes representing Afghanistan for the first time ever.

Night all,