Steps Toward Sustainable Living

Arctic temperatures have descended upon Oregon these past several days, blanketing the garden in frost. Mornings have been in the low 20's, with wind chill figured in that translates to, in my son's words, “freakishly cold”. When I arrived on campus astride my bike this past Friday, even folks who frequently cycle to school where amazed, one friend commenting “your more hard-core than I am!”
I had to go to school Friday, but once home I took Arctic conditions as an opportunity to curl up inside and work on plans for the Spring garden

Our first step toward a more sustainable life was making the switch to bikes, although the value of carbon-free transportation can not be over stated, it is not enough in and of itself. Another important issue is the matter of our food: where it comes from, how it is grown, and how it is packaged. It is estimated that the average American meal travels about 1500 miles to get from farm to plate. Those “food miles” add substantially to the carbon dioxide emissions that are causing global climate change - which is why food miles matter.

I have heard it argued that food ought to be considered a bike commuting related expense, since it functions as fuel for the cyclist, one article I read recently even suggested that bikes are fossil-fueled because much of the food we eat is trucked in to our stores, sometimes from thousands of miles away.

However, even those who never get off the Barkalounger have to eat and, my own experience has been that there is a correlation between driving and eating non-local food. Certainly there is nothing about driving that prevents one from eating local food --or from gardening-- nor anything about cycling that prevents one from eating imported foods. However, living an ecologically conscience, sustainable life requires getting beyond the obviousmatter of organics and looking at where and how food is grown and packaged

Farmers Markets and CSAs offer fresh local organic produce from family farms, in most cases this food travels less than 50 miles and is not packaged. This is a simple, easy, “no-brainer” way to approach the issues of sustainable agriculture and reducing your food miles. But, being me, I wanted to go further. So my son and I are putting in what I consider to be a massive garden, 200 sq feet, in which we hope to grow most of our fresh veggies. Taking our food millage to zero. This is not our first run at gardening, though most of what we have now are perennials: apple and asian pear trees, raspberry and blueberry bushes, an herb garden.

I started tomatoes and sweet peppers (50 starts each!) this weekend, which we plan to use to make awsome pasta sauce with. There was a time when I used peat pots to start seeds, but have come up with a more sustainable alternative: My son and I cut toilet paper tubes in in half, forming little short stubby tubes, and fill them with organic potting soil, they work just like peat pots, without the environmental degridation.

We'll keep you posted on our progress


wisteria said...

I hadn't thought of the toilet paper tubes. That is an awesome idea. I use soil blocks, but sometimes wish for a pot.

griffin said...

Thanks! The tubes are great, and can be put directly into the garden, just like peat pots --no transplant shock. We have gotten so hooked on them that we have started asking friends to saves their tubes for us.

I checked out your web site: very cool. I am homeschooling my son as well, and plan to post info about how the cycling, gardening, and sustainable living is woven into the lessons

zilla said...

Holy smokes, this is getting good. When is your frost date? Have you been able to set out your starts yet? We have frost as late as May 10, so our tomatoes are still on the kitchen counter.

If you'd like to maximize your 200 sq ft, there's an excellent book on raised bed gardening I could recommend for next year. The idea is, the raised beds allow you to micromanage your soil (yes! organiccally!) so more plants can be grown. But maybe you're already doing that!