Wednesday, August 29, 2007

How Green Can You Be?

It all depends on how far you want to go.

I eat healthy. I try to go to the Eastern Market for my produce as often as possible. Most of it’s locally grown by small farmers. Much of it’s organic. I’ve tried to grow my own produce, but I don’t have the skills to do it with any efficiency.

I couldn’t do the 100-mile diet (for those of you too new to remember Z writing about it, it simply means not eating anything produced more than 100 miles away - more info is here). I mean I could - I just don’t want to. I don’t want to give up coffee. Or oysters. Or olives. Or French or Italian wines, or California wines for that matter. There are too many things that I’m simply not willing to give up.

I’m not a vegetarian. I probably could be a vegetarian, I eat vegetarian quite often, and I can cook vegetarian food, I just don’t want to be a vegetarian. I like the occasional bloody rare steak. I like pulled pork, sausage and bacon. I like to occasionally splurge on duck. It wouldn’t take much to become a vegetarian; I just don’t really want to do it.

Also, being strict about being vegetarian would be a royal PITA. Vegetarians have to worry about stuff like, “Is there fish oil in this salad dressing? Is there lard in these beans? Is there beef gelatin in this glass of wine?” (Yep, even that last one is true.) Look, unless it’s going to kill me immediately, I don’t want to have to stress about what I’m eating. And I don’t want to face a day where the fact that beer and wine are made with animal products will force me to give them up.

Sorry, If I’ve opened up a horrible revelation to any vegetarians reading this, but yes, many beers and wines are made with various animal products in them.

Local Produce, Imported Cheese
Originally uploaded by alpharat
On this token, I could also really never become vegan. Even if most vegetarians are not overly concerned with minute traces of animal byproducts in their beer, vegans are. Vegans also don’t eat cheese, which I think is against the Bible. I know there was a thou shalt or something about how fresh mozzarella is really good and how Jesus wanted us to have it with tomatoes, basil and balsamic.

So, when it comes to eating, I guess I’m a moderate. I like to eat healthy. I go out of my way to get local produce and to eat organically. I eat more fish than I do red meat, and have no problem going a few days without any meat. I’m OK with this. I could probably leave a smaller footprint on the Earth, and while I do think of that occasionally, right now I’m comfortable with myself.

And I think that’s the important part. But, I will probably frown at everyone who is less committed to healthy and environmentally sound eating habits than I, and pity those who are stricter. It’s the old “anyone driving slower than me is an idiot – and everyone driving faster is a maniac” phenomena. Something in our psychological being forces us to look at everything relative to ourselves. Einstein said something about relativity, but it was only kind of the same thing.

Now that we’ve set the stage, I would like to introduce you to another dietary/lifestyle group – the freegans. In their own words, ”Freegans are people who employ alternative strategies for living based on limited participation in the conventional economy and minimal consumption of resources.”

What does that mean? Freegans adopt a vegan lifestyle, but only eat things they don’t have to pay for. I’m not talking about homegrown self-sufficiency either. They dumpster dive for food.

These are the same people who are ”are outraged that people literally freeze to death on the streets while landlords and cities keep buildings boarded up and vacant because they can’t turn a profit on making them available as housing.” OK, we all may be outraged at this, but they take a logic leap and decide that this belief means that they should be squatting rent free in these abandoned buildings.

Am I wrong in thinking that this is simply a way to adopt a political lifestyle to cover up the fact that they’re gross and just a bit underemployed?

I guess I never realized what a capitalist pig I was until now. I like owning property that won’t be taken away (as long as I’m working and paying bills anyway). In fact, I don’t mind working when it allows me to splurge on things like a decent bottle of wine or a plate of raw oysters now and then. And while I guess that may be selfish, I’m not ready to start eating garbage in order to feel better about my impact on the world.

If you want to learn more about Freeganism and becoming a gross person Freegan, they have a Web site. They must use the computer at the library, because, last I checked, most vacant buildings don’t have access to the Interwebs.


Jennifer said...


And believe it or not, I've been gonna post on greenness this week, but I decided that a little public venting about extended family dysfunction would feel oh so goooood.

Mr Z has been reading "The World is Flat" by Thomas L. Friedman, and he's been sharing bits and pieces with me. I can tell you right now that the world is a better place because you are a selfish hedonist bastard who eats oysters and drinks foreign wine, and, pretty much, near as I can tell, we smokers make the world go 'round.

Do not quit.

Isn't this fabulous news?

Problem is, you need to take it a step further. You NEED to do at least a little of your shopping at Wall*Mart. I know it hurts. I've been there recently. But we gotta do what we gotta do.

Please allow me to suggest Wall*Mart as an excellent source for ... shit, what did I buy there? Oh, yeah, a carpet cleaning machine, contact lens solution, a microwave egg-poacher, tampons, and the world's cheapest animal crackers.

And yes, animal crackers contain animal products. I like to dunk them in Lite Beer, from Miller.

Anonymous said...

I'm going to have to tell my friends who live in the Market that they've started a trend (with a clever name). As you know, vendors in Eastern Market toss what they don't sell since it won't keep and they only sell to the public once a week. So there's a pretty amazing selection of produce to be found at around 5:00 on Saturday afternoon.

Not sure how these so-called freegans can do it in other types of environments, but more power to them I suppose.

fineartist said...

Freegans freak me out too. There are ways to be self sufficient without having to jump head first in a dumpster...and my mom was a dumpster diver from way back, not for food mind you, but still, it gives me horror flash backs just thinking about some of the times she's put me through.

I have always been appalled by the amount of food that is thrown away on a daily basis in our society. I think all of the day old doughnuts and bread and what ever the hell else is left over, where ever should be loaded up and hauled to shelters and what's left over could go to people who raise pigs...but people don't generally ask me what I think. Damn them.

Rain said...

I wasn't responding to this post, but I am glad you stopped by.

I always fear sharp objects in the dumpster, so I don't think I'd make a good freegan.

Sometimes my husband throws things away and I fish the item back out of the garbage and give it to goodwill. He throws away pants that don't fit him. Who does that? He could get mauled by an angry mob of freegans if he isn't careful,

Angeline Rose Larimer said...

Laughed throughout, so Tom asked me to read aloud (while he made homemade apple pie).

Nice concept, Freegans, except if EVERYONE was a Freegan, how fucked up would we all be? Who would bother about growing food, producing food, selling it to places where dumpsters sit out back...Who'd want to bother about dumpsters?
Who'd want to build an apartment building?
Living off those you despise is kinda...stupid & selfish in itself.
And gross. The dumpster thing? Gross. Squatting? Eh. I kinda liked the era when people could ride in box cars and eat at campfires along the rails, but if some asshole tried to pitch a tent in our backyard and waited for me to toss the trash out, we'd have some problems. I'd feel sorry for him, of course, and present to him a plate of food on a regular basis.

I do agree food is wasted. This is why I went vegetarian for a year. I was working the dishroom at the college cafeteria and I got bent out of shape one day when I watched twenty uneaten hamburgers come through. No way in bloody hell I'd have eaten one, but instead resolved to never take more than I needed and always feel badly for wasting. It seems like that would be a better message, but Freegan is such a clever name.

I'm starving for a hamburger. Catcha later.