Monday, August 22, 2016

Eating Omily: Trash Talk–The Power of Composting

Welcome to Part 3 of my expansion on the Lexicon of Sustainability short video series! These incredible little videos have so much to offer in terms of getting you up to speed on the Food Justice movement in easily digestible little bites! In fact, this 4 minute, 19 second video is one of the longer ones in the series! I'm super excited for you to give it a watch, and then read my additions and comments below, but before you do, I have a few quick notes for you:

This video shares and support my own ethic on meat-eating: that it can be done humanely, and respectfully. If you disagree, there are a few images in this video you probably won't enjoy seeing (raw meat, and a pig's head). Toward the end, the video also addresses the issues of food waste that happens on the plate, and suggests the ethic of, 'take what you want, but eat what you take'. If you have a history of an unhealthy relationship with food, or disordered eating, this portion could be triggering for you. Remember that eating what you don't want, even if you took it, is just as wasteful as throwing it away. Let it inform how much you choose to take next time. Don't be ashamed of a simple mistaken estimate of your appetite...and of course feel free to skip through these portions of the video if you aren't comfortable with them. That said, here's the link!

I love that this is the next topic in the Lexicon of Sustainability because I just had a conversation about it with the husband last night! Why do we compost? Is it really worth the extra effort, and freezer space? (ALL real estate is precious in NYC!) This video explains a lot of the great reasons to do so nicely, but it left out one: when our food waste rots in a landfill, it creates methane, a very powerful greenhouse gas, and in some cases even nitrous oxide (yes, the stuff your dentist gives you; don't go sniffing landfills, it's not worth it), which is 300 times as bad for our atmosphere as CO2! When our food waste rots in a properly-tended compost pile or bin, it DOESN'T release these harmful compounds. Composting DOES produce some carbon dioxide...there's just no getting around it. There's carbon in those food scraps, and as they are broken down by microbes, that carbon combines with oxygen and escapes as gas, but this short-term carbon cycle is a normal part of how the planet functions, and the compost produced helps plants to grow bigger and healthier, allowing them to sequester more carbon dioxide during their lifespan, so it all comes out in the wash. Worth the freezer space and a little time and space on your part? You bet!! 

Now, it's important to note that proper composting is NOT just tossing food scraps in a pile and leaving them. That's essentially just a mini landfill. If you have the space to compost, it's important that you learn how to do it properly, and tend this incredible, living ecosystem you're creating in order to maximize its benefits for Mother Earth. There are lots of resources for learning how to compost out there. Here's one that I found! If you DON'T have the space to compost, don't despair! You may be able to contribute your scraps to a composting program, or even just a green-thumbed neighbor! Ask around, and do some googling! Remember to follow the rules of what can and can't go in the compost contributions. Those rules do differ depending on the specific program. Things that impact those rules include the scope of the composting project, how the composting process is managed, and what happens to the finished compost. Which might just bring us to why I keep mentioning freezer space! No, you cannot compost in your freezer...but if you're collecting scraps to give to a composting program, the freezer is the best place for them, because they won't start to rot and stink! I use a gallon zip-top bag. As soon as its full, I bring it to the Farmers' Market, and drop it off. Easy!

I love the way this video focuses on composting as a way of closing the loop. Nature works in cycles: the water cycle, the carbon cycle, the nitrogen cycle, the cycle of the seasons, the phases of the moon...on and on and on! Nature. Is. Cyclical. This simple fact is exactly why 'conventional' farming doesn't work: it's a linear system! Inputs in, crops out, over and over again: it's the definition of unsustainable! Composting is how we close the loop! It's a HUGE part of sustainable food production.

Are you able to participate in closing the loop and building a more sustainable future through composting? Think you'll give it a try?? Let me know in the comments!

Monday, August 15, 2016

Eating Omily: The Lexicon of Sustainability on Organic vs. Local

When you hear talk of sustainable food, or food that's healthier for the planet, what one word springs to mind? Organic? Probably! This can be a deal-breaker for some people. Organic food can feel like a racket: lots of less-than-totally-sustainable things are legally permitted in certified organic foods. Animal husbandry practices are the most egregious offenders. And, of course, there you stand in the grocery store. Organic tomatoes...or conventional ones. There are the price tags. You only have so much money. Who can afford to throw it away when there's a cheaper option RIGHT THERE??

Then there are the organic warriors: organic breakfast cereal, organic bottled water (it's probably a thing), organic fruit snacks, organic pajama pants (they have them at Wal-Mart!). Don't get me wrong: this approach is certainly doing some good for our world, but sustainability is more complicated than a piece of paper.

And this is the topic of the second Lexicon of Sustainability video: "Local vs. Organic". Again, it's only three minutes and sixteen seconds. Take a timeout and watch it!

Believe it or not, a lot of farmers are just like you, organic-avoiders! They aren't keen to pay extra for that certification sticker, and don't have access to the systems and resources that would make doing so make sense for them. So, they don't. And you don't have to either!

And, Organic Warrior? From the bottom of my heart, thank you for what you do!! When you step into a Farmers' Market though, try rephrasing your question! Instead of, "Is this organic?" Try, "do you spray your blueberries? How often, with what, and what for?" Or, "How do you handle pests and weeds on your farm?" Or, "What do your chickens eat?" You'll get a lot more information, and easily find some wonderful foods that meet your standards without the extra cost of maintaining certification thrown in!

Of course, when you're in your grocery store, you don't have the luxury of gaining this info. Which is one reason why Farmers markets are such a better choice when they're available! In which case, buying organic DOES guarantee a base level of earth, and health-protecting practices. Take some time to understand exactly what 'organic' does and doesn't mean, though. And keep in mind that "Certified organic" is not the same as "contains organic ingredients", or "made with organic (one ingredient in a product". And remember, "All Natural" does not have a legal definition. Anyone can slap that on anything. Don't pay extra for it, and don't assume it means anything at all. Read ingredient labels and nutrition information whenever you buy a prepared product, unless doing so triggers disordered thoughts or behaviors for you.

Got questions after watching the video? Let me know in the comments!

Monday, August 1, 2016

Birth of a Doula

Over the weekend, I had the honor of attending my first solo, professional birth as a doula. It was a tough birth for the birthing person, forcing them to confront their beliefs surrounding birth and the medical system, and their own self doubt. In those challenging moments, I was forced to confront those things, too. Was I helping? Was I doing any good at all? Could I really handle this?

Ultimately, nothing prepares you for your first birth, whether you're the birthing person, or a birth worker. You have to trust your instincts, and think on your feet. Inevitably those first few births teach you A LOT. Some of the things I learn include:

Eat whenever you get the chance.

A BIG part of your job will be doula-ing the birthing person's family members. Your extensive knowledge of birth will enable you to ensure them that all is well, even when it seems like things are not. Get all the phone numbers, do all the texting, and enjoy having someone genuinely interested in all you learned in doula training!

Don't. Make. Assumptions. You will pass them along to your client, and your client will think something is wrong if you are mistaken.

Don't let your client see your doubt. They need your calm, confident presence, no matter what.

You will astound yourself with your stamina...but you are a human. Don't wait till you're breaking down to ask for help. There's no shame in calling in your back-up. This is not about you. You need to make sure the person attending your client is alert enough to do the job.

A lot of routine medical interventions are not necessary for most births, and they have side effects, so they should not be used if they are not called for...but they are an absolute God-send when they are called for. Not needing or wanting them does not make your client a better person, or their birth a better birth.

Sometimes the thing your client will need from you is for you to disappear. You may very much want to be involved at this moment, you may feel useless, and want to start pacing, or fidgeting. Again, this is not about you. Sit the feck down and relax. Your client may want you in their line of sight, or they may not. You'll figure it out.

Don't stand in the light the doctor's using to see how things are going during second stage.

The medical care provider(s) may ask you for help: roll that table over here, hold the birthing person's leg, go get more ice chips...make yourself useful! But remember who hired you, and who you are there to serve. Their opinion of you means absolutely nothing as long as you know that what you are doing (perhaps being invisible, which looks pretty useless from the outside) is what your client needs.

You will be overwhelmingly touched by the moment when that brand new person enters the room, and the family through a rather unusual door. You will want to be aaaaalllll up in there! One more time: this is not about you. The client may want to show off baby to you, or express their gratitude, or they may have questions about the immediate newborn procedures, or if they should put the baby on their nipple right away. If they aren't asking for you, stay in the room, take pictures only if they've asked you to, and get out of the way.

You will experience the weirdest blowback after you leave the birth: after hours of attending single-mindedly to the needs of another person, the slightest concern for your needs will move you to tears. Just roll with it. Yay, excessive gratitude!!!

There's more, of course. Every time I reread my notes I consider what I might do differently if I could. But my client, her partner, her father, the midwife...they were all blown away at the level of support I was offering, and the difference my presence was making in their experience of this birth. So, I'm off to a good start. ;-)

 Live Omily,