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How to eat green when it's white outside

Most envrionmentalists agree that it's a good idea to buy local whenever you can.
Buying local accomplishes several things:
* It creates local jobs
* It helps you stay in touch with the folks who bring you your nourishment
* It generates fewer "food miles" (the distance traveled by food from field to plate)
* It helps prevent dependence on other nations for something we'd all agree is an essential

Of course, if we in Canada only ate local, there would be no olive oil, no bananas, no clementines and definitely no pineapples. And what of the argument that one must eat not just for one's environment, but with a nod to one's genetics? Someone like me, whose ancestors ate mostly fresh veg all year round... could my body really adapt to a primarily meat and root veggies diet in a mere 5 years?
So how can you eat green when it's white outside? i.e. How to shop for food in a way that's healthy for body and planet even though nothing really grows here in the winter...
I got author and food activist Holly Dressel to take me shopping at the Jean Talon Market with budget and planet firmly in focus.

So here's the deal:
1. In the summer, shop local: Check that, WHENEVER YOU CAN, shop local. This is true for food and for just about everything else you consume. If you can afford it, try and support someone from your community rather than some multi-national conglomerate that may be exploiting workers in the developing world. Also, grow as much as you can in your garden if you have one and can, freeze or dry stuff for use in the winter.
2. Consider a root cellar or freezer box: If you have the room, consider installing a root cellar. It doesn't have to cost much and the amount of money you'll save will easily make it pay for itself in the short term. Ditto a good-sized freezer. It can live in the garage if you have one, or on the balcony if your layout allows it.

2. In the winter, focus on fair trade and organic: One's focus should always be on fair trade and organic as well as local. But come winter, when local is no longer possible, it becomes that much more important to buy organic (where harmful chemicals are eliminated or kept to a minimum and crop cycling is encouraged to keep the soil healthy) and fair trade (where workers and their families make decent wages and a portion of the proceeds often go towards hopitals, schools and child care).

3. Carnivores, this one's for you: Being vegetarian isn't necessary in order to eat green, it turns out. Much of the grass and soil in our region has evolved with the animals that graze on it. So to take the animals out of the picture would destroy an age-old ecosystem. But...this argument only works if the meat you buy comes from animals that are raised outdoors, in the sun, cruelty-free. Buying organic, cruelty-free meat is the BIGGEST thing you can do for the environment and your health (cut out all those hormones that are messing with our endocrine systems; and antibiotics that are leading to superbugs).

4. If you can't do anything else: Buy CERTIFIED fair trade coffee, sugar, tea and cocoa. By doing this, you'll be doing your part to abolish slavery and indentured servitude in poor countries. Just remember to CHECK FOR THE CERTIFICATION. Very important. Never take a company's word for it.

About price....
I know what you're thinking. It's all very well to say "buy organic and fairtrade". Who can afford it?
Actually, you probably can. I'll be the first to admit that far too many merchants and middlemen take advantage of bleeding hearts and inflate prices. So to keep the green while you shop green (sorry, couldn't resist), here's what you can do:

1. Join a co-op: Farmer's co-ops or places like Co-op La Maison Verte can get good discounts that will keep prices down for members.

2. Get a panier: Check at your local farmers' market and subscribe to a local, organic food basket. I have tons of colleagues that do this (I live right by a market, so I don't need to). Once a week, they collect their local, fresh, organic veg. And it's actually CHEAPER than buying non-organic, non-fair trade stuff at the grocery store. So if you don't have a lot of money, this is actually a better way to do things. On the down side, you sometimes end up with fruit or veggies you have no idea how to cook (but most of my friends agree that their paniers have forced them to be more adventurous in their cooking habits).

3. Buy in bulk After shopping around, when you DO find food that's organic and affordable, stock up and freeze what you can't use immediately.

And finally, the most important point:
Do the best you can:
If you're a single mother of three, just do the best you can. Don't let guilt ruin your day. At the same time, know that buying local and organic is as much a health decision as it is one for the environment. And if we can't put our health and that of our kids on the top of our priorities... well, it just puts things in perspective, doesn't it?

Meanwhile, a correction:

If you were listening to Home Run this afternoon, I have to fess up to a boo-boo. I quoted food activist Holly Dressel citing a shocking statistic. She said that the average north american household spends around 1% of their income on food. There's a reason that stat is so shocking. It's wrong.
Turns out Holly misspoke: She meant that only 1% of what we spend on food ends up in the farmer's hands. So if we encourage fair trade, the premium we pay will help nourish the folks who feed us.
Listener Andre Nickell wrote in to set the record straight. Thanks Andre.
For what we SHOULD be spending money on, check out this article.

Now it's your turn: Do you know a place close to you where you can buy affordable fair trade and organic food? Write in or call the talkback line: (514) 597-5626

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