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Our Consuming Natures – We Can Live More Sustainably

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How much do you consume? If you could measure and keep track of it, do you think it would make a difference in your regular consumption levels? In our culture of mass consumption, we are so accustomed to buying products and having products around for our “convenience”, we seldom stop to think just how much we are consuming and how much waste we are producing as a result of that over-consumption.

Stop and think: do you really need to consume everything that you do? Challenge yourself to consume less of everything for one week. Keep a journal of the things you are doing without and ask yourself if you can do without those things permanently. At the end of the week, compare your reductions in consumption with your previous levels of consumption.

Here are some ideas for reducing levels of consumption:

  • Ride your bike or walk to work, the store, or to a friend’s house. I’ve even heard stories of people riding their horses – don’t laugh…do it, if you can!
  • When you do have to drive somewhere, combine trips to various locations that are in nearby locations. Instead of driving every day of the week, cut back your driving to 3 or 4 days a week.
  • Carpool whenever possible.
  • Use items over and over. Whenever you have containers, devices, or utilitarian items that can be used more than once, store them for later use to use again and again. This includes glass, paper, canvas, wood, metal, tin foil, boxes, plastic containers, clothing, and anything else you can think of. Find ways to reuse and re-purpose everything.
  • Replace plastic with paper, wood, canvas, cotton, glass, metal, ceramic, tin foil, or wax paper.
  • Stop buying dryer sheets. Hang your clothes in the backyard to dry on a clothes line. If you do use a clothes dryer, dry them without anything at all. I have been doing this for years with no adverse effects to my clothes. I don’t have static cling, and I am saving my family the hazards of toxic chemicals in dryer sheets (as well as a lot of $$).
  • Wash your clothes all in cold water. I have been doing this for over 10 years and my clothes always come clean. If they need a stain removed, I soak them in a non-toxic detergent or soap, and add a non-toxic stain remover to them before washing.
  • Use bar soaps for everything in your house including the shower and all the sinks. Good bar soaps are those made from natural ingredients – olive oil-based soaps are great for your body. If you do buy liquid soap, consider Dr. Bronner’s (buy in bulk) or make your own with purified or distilled water, herbs, and, essential oils. Here are some great recipes for homemade soaps using ordinary bar soap. Stop buying commercial liquid pump soaps. They are bad for you and the environment.
  • Make your own shampoo and wash your hair less. When you wash your hair less, you find the need to condition your hair less frequently or not at all, thus saving your health and your pocketbook.

Make a basic castille shampoo with 4 ounces castille soap flakes and one quart water. Bring the water to a boil. Turn off the heat and pour water over the soap flakes. Stir until the soap flakes dissolve. Once the mixture has cooled, store it in a reusable bottle such as plastic (with no BPA), glass or ceramic, or stainless steel.

Add essential oils to the mixture for natural scents. Lavender is calming while oils like peppermint and citrus are more lively and promote blood circulation in the scalp. Try different oils to find those you prefer. To use essential oils in your recipe, mix 4 to 8 drops of the oil in to the soap mixture just after all the soap has dissolved.

You can also create an herbal shampoo using herbs. Instead of plain water, make an herbal infusion. For each quart of water, use approximately one-half ounce of dried herbs. Let the herbs steep for 20 minutes or more. Reheat the infusion if necessary, pour the hot infusion over flaked bar-soap or castille soap, and stir well. For dark hair, use rosemary and for lighter colored-hair, use  chamomile. For dry or oily hair, create an herbal infusion of comfrey and rosemary leaves, burdock root, and nettles. This will help return your hair’s natural balance to normal.

  • Turn off your television or computer (to save electricity and $$) and read a book, do an art or craft project, invite a friend over for tea or a snack, engage in a cleaning project you’ve been putting off, or take a walk or do some gardening and get some Vitamin D. Most of us are short on Vitamin D and need it for good health and to keep away illness and disease.
  • Consider alternative energywind, geothermal, solar, hydro, and other emerging technologies in alternative energy efforts. Incentives provided by the government can help offset the cost, and pay-back models for various alternative energy solutions are becoming more appealing and feasible as time goes on.
  • Make your own cleaners from items in your home. Vinegar, lemon juice, hydrogen peroxide, baking soda, and olive oil work well for many different uses, are non-toxic, and economical. Buy spray bottles, use filtered or distilled water, and add your ingredients to make great cleaners that will do the job without harsh chemicals and odors.
  • Stop using personal care products such as lotions, moisturizers, hand creams, and other similar items. Remember, most products on the market are designed to create a need in the consumer’s mind and make money. Most companies spend more money on their marketing and advertising budgets than on the quality of the product itself.
  • Pay more attention to eating natural foods with whole, natural fats in them to supplement your health and support healthy skin, hair, and nails. Consume more Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs) such as raw butter, raw cheese, raw milk, sprouted nuts, grass-fed meats, and fresh fish, cod liver oil, and other seafood from safe sources. If you must moisturize your skin from the outside (topically), use fresh, real oils like coconut, olive oil, apricot kernel, and sweet almond oil, or shea butter. To support healthy skin, hair, and nails, you need healthy oils and fats in your diet. Drinking more water does not hydrate your skin because the water in our skin is generated from the consumption of fats.
  • Buy as many whole foods as possible, and less packaged and processed foods. You will save $$, your health, and the environment.

Want more information on reusing, re-purposing, saving money, and living sustainably?

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Activism Green Living Healthy Living Kids & Family Real Food

Is Cheap Food Really Cheap? The Hidden Costs of Industrial Food

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Do you go to the grocery store and purchase whatever is on the shelf, or do you think about what’s in the food you eat and how it is produced?

Where your food comes from is just as important as making something at home from scratch. The ingredients and how they are produced say a lot about just how healthy that food really is.

When you go to the grocery store or out to eat at a restaurant, consider the following about the majority of food sold and served:

  • Most grocery store and restaurant meat comes from factory farm environments where the animals are confined and live in less than optimal. Shoved together in small and sometimes filthy, unnatural spaces,  surrounded by waste lagoons, are administered hormones, steroids, and antibiotics. Animals are fed  cheap and unnatural feed including genetically-modified corn, grain, and soy, and renderings of bio-waste products. The waste generated by factory farm facilities contaminates our air, soil, and ground water, which places nearby residents at risk for exposure to pathogenic bacteria like E.coli and others.
  • Factory farms can be small or large in scale, but are highly specialized, and function like a factory (hence the term “factory farm”). These facilities use fossil fuel, pesticides, herbicides, and other chemicals, and synthetic fertilizers derived from oil. Small-scale, organic farming operations have been shown to use 60 percent less fossil fuel per unit of food than conventional industrial farms (Norberg-Hodge, Helena , Todd Merrifield, and Steven Gorelick. Bringing The Food Economy Home: Local Alternatives to Global Agribusiness, 2002.)
  • Conventional produce is grown with pesticides and herbicides, and increasingly more from genetically-modified and engineered seeds, and with modern farming methods which are as harmful to the landscape. This type of farming, called mono-cropping, is damaging and strips the soil of its nutrients – substances which are vital to the nutritional density and flavor of the foods you eat. The over-use of chemicals like insecticides and pesticides has caused rapidly-developing resistance in pests which has rendered these chemicals increasingly ineffective. The production of herbicide tolerant (HT) biotech crops, particularly Monsanto’s RR crops, has resulted in the development of superweed strains that are nearly impervious to even conventional methods. Biotech info discusses how cross-pollination techniques, a method employed by GM companies like Monsanto, lead to further and further resistance in these superweed strains.
  • Conventional produce contains higher amounts of water and less nutrition. From Sustainable Table: “A comparison of the nutritional content between organic and factory farmed, conventional vegetables showed that organic produce has higher nutritional value. Organic lettus had 29 percent more magnesium, organic spinach had 52 percent more Vitamin C, organic carrots had 69 percent more magnesium, and organic cabbage had 43 percent more Vitamin C, 41 percent more iron and 40 percent more magnesium.”
  • Processed foods contain chemically-laden “food-like substances” which contain carcinogenic ingredients, hydrogenated and highly processed oils, MSG and other excitotoxins, are synthetically fortified and contain little to no nutritional value. The result is less nutrition and more toxins.
  • Vegetarian and vegan diets don’t necessarily support sustainable agriculture. Many vegetarian and vegan products on the shelves including vegetables, fruits, grains including corn, soy, and legumes come from conventional sources and their growth, production, and sale damages the environment. The majority of soy and much of the grain produced in the world comes from genetically-modified sources.
  • These crops are responsible for damaging farmlands and are destructive to topsoil and biodiversity because of the methods employed in their farming. These farming efforts are known as monocropping – planting the same strains year-after-year, which destroys beneficial organisms and bacteria essential to health. They also use toxic chemical fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides. Monsanto has over 250 million GM acres worldwide. Sustainable farming doesn’t need harmful chemicals to control pests and weeds, but instead uses nature to manage its land and crops.
  • According to Sustainable Table, “Factory farms also threaten our health by incubating infectious diseases that can spread to the human population. Sometimes diseases are transferred directly from animals to humans. In cases of direct transmission, a worker who comes in contact with a diseased animal or its manure can contract the disease and pass it on to their family and community.”
  • Industrial food has the appearance of a “cheaper” price tag on the shelf, but the hidden costs are almost endless. Conventional food is subsidized by the government to “keep prices down”.  Who pays for those subsidies? Every tax payer in the U.S. You’ll spend more time in the doctor’s office and hospital, paying for drugs, surgery, and other procedures to “cure” your ailments. The sick joke is that these will never cure your health problems, only keep you coming back time and time again for more appointments and medications.

Supporting industrial farming keeps corporations going.  The result is damage to health and environment, and your dollars aren’t supporting smaller, family-owned farms whose goal is to bring you healthy food that preserves our health and the environment.

Benefits of small-scale, sustainable farming and food

When you buy sustainable food from small-scale producers, you are supporting local communities and healthy farming practices. The amount of fossil fuels used to transport these products is reduced, and the overall CO2 emissions into the atmosphere are lowered as well.

Although conventional medical recommendations tell us to stay away from saturated fats and red meat, grass-fed beef, eggs, and dairy do not clog our arteries. Unlike their factory counterparts, pastured animal foods contain CLA (conjugated linoleic acid, an important antioxidant), Omega 3s, minerals, Vitamins A, D, E, and K2. Read an interview with Dr. James Carlson, M.D., a board-certified family physician, osteopath, and clinical biochemist from the Weston A. Price Foundation site.

The process of grazing a herd of cattle on open land and moving them around from pasture to pasture on a day-to-day basis allows regeneration of the land as well as replenishment of nutrients in the soil and grasses. This type of farming actually encourages the health of top soil – one of the most critical areas of the environment which has a profound effect on health. When farmers work with the land to encourage natural biodiversity and development of microrganisms, the result is a win-win situation for all involved, the land, humans, and animals. Organic Grass Fed Beef Info thoroughly explains the vast differences between how  grass-fed animals and grain-fed animals are raised.

Scientific research shows that sustainable, pasture-raised, and organic foods provide significant health benefits for consumers. In addition to being raised without synthetic hormones, antibiotics, pesticides and chemical fertilizers, sustainable meat is more nutritious than meat produced by industrial agriculture for the reasons discussed above.

A recent report by the French Agency for Food Safety (AFSSA) revealed that organic foods are higher in both mineral and antioxidant content than their conventional counterparts. Another study from The Journal of Applied Nutrition found that the overall mineral content of organic foods sampled was higher than conventional – apples, potatoes, pears, wheat, and sweet corn. Mercury levels in the organic foods were found to be 27 percent lower than conventional.

From a joint study conducted by CDC scientists, the University of Washington, and Emory University, results reveal that pesticide levels in test subjects dropped to undetectable levels upon switching to an organic diet. When the subjects switched back to a non-organic diet, pesticide residues almost immediately became detectable. (Schafer S., Kristin, et al. “Chemical Trespass: Pesticides in Our Bodies and Corporate Accountability.” Pesticide Action Network of North America, May 2004)

Many health problems have been attributed to the consumption of these so-called foods, and yet the distinction is seldom made. Toxins and chemicals in our food supply are responsible for the appearance of earlier degenerative diseases than in the historical past.  Body Ecology provides a description of toxins in the products we eat and drink and those both in and outside of our bodies.

What are the hidden costs of cheap food?

Here is a comparative analysis of several processed foods versus a real, whole food free from chemicals and other toxins typically found in industrial food from Windy Ridge Poultry, in Alfred, NY:

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Switching to natural, organic, and grass-fed foods seems expensive on the surface, but when you consider health problems that can occur as a result of consuming processed foods, not to mention costs incurred on health care, environmental, and tax systems we pay for directly out of our own pockets, doesn’t it seem worth it to spend more now and save later?

Industrial food may have a cheaper price tag at the store, but the long-term repercussions of eating this way for an extended period of time will amount to a higher price tag in the future in more ways than one: you’ll pay with your pocketbook and your quality of life.

To learn more about factory farms, visit The Food & Water Watch web site. And here’s the factory farm list for every facility in the country by state.

Join up with the Millions Against Monsanto Campaign to help preserve the environment and health.

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