By Elena Zevallos
With Thanksgiving approaching, we are likely planning our family meal. Vast amounts of food. A turkey, or some other kind of meat. What if this year we strive to make Thanksgiving more sustainably-minded, like avoiding leftovers that sit in the fridge and spoil? Or opting for a vegetarian meal? And minimizing our meal size to one that can satisfy - not stuff - our stomachs with leftovers for tomorrow’s lunch? What if, instead of buying our meal items from the supermarket, we support our local farmers by shopping at the Santa Barbara weekly farmer’s markets? Just think how much packaging you’ll be saving and the extra boost they’ll be getting. It’s a win-win scenario for us all.
One-third of food goes uneaten in the US every year. This food rots in the landfill, emitting CO2 emissions into the atmosphere that’s equivalent to the billions of tons of carbon released from cars yearly. The good news is, limiting food waste is simple once you get the hang of it. Starting a compost pile, reducing food shopping to only what’s needed for the next couple meals, dating opened items or leftovers and moving them to the front of the fridge, are all ways to ease your impact. As it turns out, there are other alternatives to healing our planet further, such as the simple act of giving back to the Earth’s soil.
Soil regeneration has been growing in popularity after recent discoveries show the profound positive effects of soil, and the opportunities it provides for our ecosystem’s growth and healing. Decades of conventional farming have demolished healthy soil. The uprooting of the earth releases CO2 gases that’s naturally held within the soil into the atmosphere, making it a huge contributor to climate change. And over farming has completely stripped agricultural lands of their soil’s nutrients, which is what our bodies require to function healthily. Thus, the plants and vegetables that grow from these lands aren’t as densely packed with vitamins and minerals as they normally should be. Along with this, chemical fertilizers and livestock manure produced during conventional farming leach into nearby waterways and eventually into the ocean, creating “dead zones”, where oxygen and life become nonexistent.
Kiss the Ground, a recent groundbreaking documentary about sustainability, shows the adverse effects of modern-day farming and how our nations can shift towards regenerative agriculture. The documentary also reveals the most efficient and cost-effective way to reduce carbon from the atmosphere: through creating healthier soil. (Side note: I highly recommend you watch this thought-provoking film!) Carbon sequestration is a technique where plants suck carbon out of the air and store it back into the soil. This gives life to healthy microbes, fungi and bacteria, and fertilizes the ground for the regeneration of new plants that repeat this process. Carbon sequestration is the most viable strategy that can be used to combat climate change, and is currently being implemented by climate scientists and farmers around the world.
Our soil is important; it supports a healthy ecosystem. And you don’t have to be a farmer to regenerate our soil - we all have this capability, too. By simply planting a tree or two, starting a garden wherever you live, or composting, you’d be making a difference that contributes to our planet’s healing.
So this month, let’s become conscious of our relationship with food and where it comes from. Our Food Citizenship campaign highlights various ways we can do this. Visit the page and extract handy tips, information, and ideas! Check it out here.