Monday, June 7, 2010

Baby steps

I can’t write today without mentioning that it was the Manly Food & Wine festival at the weekend. Of course it's one of my annual highlights, but happily this year sustainability was integrated into the event, so folks were encouraged to cycle there, and biodegradable cutlery was provided along with numerous organic, eco and  sustainability stands (the chickens were another highlight!). But I’m feeling guilty today. Guilty about the amount of wine I drank on Saturday. Guilty because I always talk about making changes and for some reason I can’t seem to bloody well do it.

If I'm honest with myself, I’m really not as green as I could be. For instance, I fly a lot (family in England and a sumo-sized appetite for holidaying); I love my electric heater, which I probably leave on for too long – though never whilst out of the house. And whilst I am careful to recycle as much as possible, I find myself forgetting to bring my reusable shopping bags to Coles (does buying yet another pink reusable one count, or is it better to go the evil plastic one?). And yes, I shop in Coles, rather than local farmers’ markets or organic fruit and veg markets, however I try to buy organic, fair trade and sustainable products where possible, but that’s just it – where possible. I walk places – particular to Coles - though my commitment to walking in the warmer months involves arriving a lot less groomed so I have to shower more frequently (water consumption, hairdryer blasting etc…) Man it’s not easy. I'm a C-, I'm a 'could do better'. But I honestly get confused. There’s a plethora of information on the issue, yet I kind of feel it’s all or nothing, and when faced with the ocean-sized task of offsetting the environmental damage done, I just don’t think I can do it.

Then take the issue of meat eating. I decided when I was in India I’d eat a vegetarian diet. No meat-loving husband around, in a country where 42% of the population are vegetarian, and the choice extensive (lady finger jalfrezi anyone… Mmmm!!) it was the perfect time to go meat free. I loved seeing signs for ‘non-veg’ restaurants, it always took me a moment (I can be quite dim) to work out what that meant, living in meat-lovers paradise, Australia as I do (I was at a huge Australian media event last Christmas where the vegetarian option was salmon). But I loved the veggie diet over there and I honestly didn’t miss meat, one bit, not a chop.  So when I got back to Sydney I decided I’d keep the veggie thing going.

Day two and hubby only had to waft the word churrasco at me, and we were down Brazuca in a flash eating their spicy chorizo and succulent picanha. In yoga terms, meat eating is completely at odds with the idea of ahimsa. Jargon aside, I know it is wrong.  Inhumane. Unhealthy. Environmentally speaking, meat eating is a disaster; in fact the UN recently released a report which urged that on a global level we need to move towards a vegetarian/vegan diet to save the world from hunger and the worst impact of climate change.

"Animal products cause more damage than [producing] construction minerals such as sand or cement, plastics or metals. Biomass and crops for animals are as damaging as [burning] fossil fuels."

I stumbled upon a nice little 5 minute TED video today during one of my cyber potters, which raises an interesting point. 

Graham Hill points out the all or nothing issue with vegetarianism. Like me, he’s struggled to give up meat entirely, but outlines the serious impact meat eating has on the environment. He proposes another solution - for the past year, from Monday to Friday he’s a vegetarian. At the weekend he eats, whatever. As you’d expect there are lots of the comments on there are from vegetarians who believe it’s pathetic and he needs to commit to the cause. But it's gotta help right?

Same with plastic water bottles. After seeing the plastic bottle problem in India, I resolved to always carry a reusable bottle (they feel sexy too!).  

There are plastic bottle piles like this everywhere in Goa

I don’t buy bottled water now, I refill. See, for me starting to think about reducing my footprint, it’s got to be baby steps. Happily in Manly a company called Culligan provide filtered water available through the water fountains, which is a fantastic baby step, I reckon.

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