What is a Sustainivore?

As you read my blog you may be wondering to yourself: What is a Sustainivore?

It’s a complicated answer, just like solving the environmental crisis at hand is. The systems that work on our planet are dynamic–as are human beings–and multiple answers are the solution. One great way to define the eating habits of a sustainivore is SOLE food.

Of course, my food always has soul–but this term seems to work the best to describe my eating.

Sustainable

Sustainable is such an overused term now that green-washing has become a popular corporate trend. What I mean by the term is that the food is grown in a way that is able to be sustained by the environment. This means:

  • Harmful chemicals are not used to grow our food–no pesticides that kill beneficial insects, no herbicides that develop resistant “super-weeds,” and no petrochemical-based fertilizers that contribute to the dead zones around the world as well as our petroleum addiction.
  • Diversity is supported through seed saving and heirloom varieties
  • Meat is rarely eaten, and when so typically low on the food chain
  • Limited Petrochemical use through purchasing low-packaged food items (such as bulk foods) and from local sources

This also means that the food sustainivores choose to eat is nourishing to our bodies, and will sustain us, as well. With increases in Obesity, Type-II Diabetes, Heart Disease and other food-related illnesses, the way we eat has got to change if we expect to maintain our health.

Organic

Like the term “sustainable,” the USDA has also taken a slashing at the integrity of the term “organic.” Organic typically refers to food products that have not used synthetic additives in cultivation–like fertilizers and pesticides previously mentioned–but also that they do not contain Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs), which have proven to be invasive to neighboring fields (watch The Future of Food). In addition, the term organic means that the seed has not had contact with radiation, industrial solvents, or chemical additives. Organic, however, is not the end-all-be-all of food purchasing; many things labelled “organic” still use conventional practices, such as inefficient crop irrigation techniques.

Local

I could preach all day about why we should buy local food products and ingredients. If the amount of petrochemicals (gasoline, natural gas, etc.) isn’t enough of a reason to buy local, try this on: IT’S SUPPORTING YOUR COMMUNITY–YOUR FRIENDS, FAMILY, AND NEIGHBORS.

I don’t know about you, but I would much rather give my money to the hard-working mother and father on my block, or the at-risk teenager at the shop, then to a large corporation like Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s who turn around and pay my neighbors minimum wage salaries. And you should feel the same way, and feel good about giving your money to them. If you had a quality pizza restaurant you’d need the money more than say Domino’s or Papa John’s, so help out your friendly community instead. If you’re from the neighborhood, they’ll probably give you a discount, too!

Ethical

I feel this is one of the largest over-looked sections of the food industry, with the largest social justice impact you can make. Sure you may go to the Farmers’ Market, but do you know if they people growing and harvesting your food are receiving fair wages? Now at a larger, more commercial level: do you think the men and women in slaughterhouses are working in safe conditions and getting paid fair wages? Certification labels like “Fair Trade” can ensure you that the food product you are buying is supporting the people feeding you…and not just their CEOs.

Ethical can also be interpreted on an animal level, guaranteeing that the meat products you eat are treating the chickens, duck, pigs, cows, goats, etc. in a fair way with access to fresh air, clean water, and open land. I originally became a vegetarian when upon learning about the meat industry, but then it hit me: If I don’t support the big guys doing it wrong, then how come I’m not supporting the little guys doing it right? So that’s when I became a sustainivore and made my meat mantra: If you can name the farm it came from, then I’ll eat it. And no, Foster Farms does not count.

How/where do you eat like a Sustainivore?

Now that I’ve told you what I eat, you’re probably wondering where it all comes from.

Farms & Gardens
100% of my produce comes from the USF Community Garden I designed and implemented, Bobby’s rooftop garden, or the Farmers’ Market. If we’re growing it, I don’t buy it–which make a lot of things cheaper ($1.29/pack of seeds vs. $2/bunch of carrots), healthier, diverse, and local. Also, if you grow it yourself you’ll never have to question how it was grown or what was done to it because you did it all yourself!

Unfortunately, raising your own meat to slaughter is still a tricky subject in San Francisco, but hopefully Novella Carpenter’s breakthrough work with the city of Oakland will help carve new laws for urban farmers.

Co-op Grocery Stores
Cooperatives are businesses that are run by their employees. Rainbow Grocery and Other Avenues are two grocery stores in San Francisco that can help you re-invest your money into your community. These grocers also have a wonderful collection of bulk foods that are locally-sourced and organic.

Scrounge
On average, an American family wastes 14% of the food purchases they make, and on a whole, America trashes over 100 billion pounds of food each year! So let’s decrease from the waste stream. I go late-night dumpster diving at bakeries to get day-old bread, or buy the weird/smushy produce at the market for canned/prepared goodies like tomato sauce. If you’re not going to eat it fresh or whole you can cut off the weird part to save your dollars and the planet.

Family-Owned Grocery Stores
If it’s a smaller grocery store, chances are likely it’s family owned. Faletti’s has undergone 2 generations of familial ownership, and has reestablished Jim and Lou Faletti’s legacy. Haight St. Market is also a family owned establishment, and son Bobby begins a new generation to hopefully continue their legacy of wholesome food.

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