By Heather Sperling, Planet Green
The country’s food consciousness is picking up speed at an exhilarating rate. As consumers, we are more powerful than ever–largely because we are more aware and active than ever. With the green food movement making strides at the grassroots level, and great hope for the impact of the new administration, 2010 is sure to be a big year for food. Here are some of the big ideas (and big issues) that you can expect to keep making headlines and, hopefully, making a difference.
1. Extreme Localism
The Oxford American Dictionary dubbed “locavore” the 2007 Word of the Year–and, since then, the concept has spread at a rapid pace. The most recent step in the philosophy’s evolution takes the idea of local food to the next level: growing your own food, in small batches, at home. The idea itself is far from new, but the fervor with which it’s been approached is exciting–especially with the White House getting on board. While relying on backyard gardens and window boxes for sustenance isn’t the solution to our country’s food issues, the rise in home gardening has value beyond the actual yield–it shows an ever-growing connection with our food, and where it comes from.
2. Beyond Organic
The national organic standards set by the USDA have failed to live up to many farmers’, chefs’, activists’, and consumers’ standards; to quote pioneering organic farmer Eliot Coleman, “‘Organic’ is now dead as a meaningful synonym for the highest quality food.” One verbal solution is “beyond organic,” a phrase that refers to an approach that encompasses more than the USDA organic standards by embracing sustainable and locavore philosophies as well. How does it manifest itself in the real world? Some farmers are implementing methods that go above and beyond the official requirements. Others seek alternate certification from organizations like Oregon Tilth, widely considered to have the country’s most stringent certification standards. Ask your local farmer where they stand on the issue–it’s the local guys that are pushing this movement forward.
3. Conscious Consumerism and the Consumer Burden
From food, plastics, and cleaning products to clothing and kids toys, what you buy can have an immediate impact on your health and the health of the world around you. Being a conscious consumer means having the knowledge necessary to avoid everyday items that contain toxic chemicals, or to buy sustainably raised seafood instead of species that are over-fished or high in mercury. Knowing where it comes from, how it’s produced, and making responsible choices based on this knowledge with the goal of lightening your social and environmental footprint–this is the modern consumer’s burden. While being a smart consumer can be a chore, luckily, resources for being better informed are increasingly easier to find.