Grow your own food

If you think about all the energy consumed by shipping food, artificial fertilizers, freezing food, and processing food, it can quickly add up to a lot of pollution. So why not skip all of that and grow your own? It can be as simple as growing tomatoes in a planter or as extensive as producing all your food needs for the growing season and beyond. If you haven’t gardened before, there are a number of resources on the web to help you start off simple. As you get more experience, you can expand what you grow. Remember to have fun with it and enjoy your journey to go green.

How to Grow Your Own Food

If you don’t have any gardening experience, don’t be intimidated by the sounds of growing your own food. It can be easy if you follow a few guidelines.

Space to Grow Food

If you have the space, start with a large area (about 6 feet by 10 feet) so you’ll have room to try a variety of food to grow. Make sure the space gets sun all day long. If you don’t have room to grow a large garden, you can either plant the food in containers or work them in between plants in an existing garden.

Consistent Watering

Water is the key. Not too much, not too little. Once vegetables start to produce food, consistent watering is important. To check the soil by picking up a handful and squeezing it. If it holds together, it is fine. If it crumbles, it needs water.

An easy way to manage this is to run a soaker hose through the garden and connect it to a water timer. This way, it will take care of itself.

Food to Start With

Some plants are easier to grow than others. If you are growing food for the first time, start with these plants as they’re easy to grow:

  • Cucumbers (they take a lot of space though)
  • Beets
  • Onions
  • Lettuce (plant seeds every few weeks for a steady supply of food)
  • Radishes
  • Peas
  • Tomatoes

Have fun with it. Growing your own food can be very rewarding. It has more taste and you can’t get it fresher than from your own garden. Enjoy!

Buy Local Food

The average Canadian meal travels 2,500 km from the field to our plates. Have you ever noticed how far some of the food travels from to reach your grocery store? You can purchase snow peas from China and apples from New Zealand, yet these are produce items we can grow here in Canada. Think for a moment about the trip that food must take to reach your grocery store.

According to the Canadian Government, a 40-tonne transport truck releases about five tonnes of GHGs for one typical shipment of food, which close to the average carbon footprint of one person per year! Those long trips are contributing to global warming and climate change.

A Low Carbon Diet is all about reducing the impact on the environment. Buying local food can greatly reduce your carbon footprint and help you to go green. It not only improves the environment, it also helps the local economy and provides you with fresher food that often has more nutrients.

Where Do I Buy Local Food?

There are a number of ways to go about shopping local. The easy way to work on your low carbon diet is to read the labels in your local supermarket. You will often see food from within your own province/state next to imported food. To have more of an impact on your low carbon diet, purchase your food from one of the following sources.

Farmer’s Market

Most communities have a farmer’s market at least once per week where local producers will sell their fruit, vegetables, baked goods, and sweets. This is also a great way to support your local economy!

Beware though of the “distributors” who attend these events as they sell food from a food terminal which may be from imported food. The best defence against this is to ask the vendor who they are and where they produce their food.

Vegetable or Fruit Market

You may find a local vegetable and/or fruit market in your area. They often sell much more local produce than the national supermarket chains. Make sure you read the labels though, as there may be imported produce as well.

Food Co-op

Some communities have local food co-op programs where you can pay a fee to obtain a weekly portion of the vegetable crop. Some programs will deliver the food to your door, while others will require you to pick-up the produce at a central location.

Purchasing whole milk (unpasteurized) is illegal at stores in most provinces/states due to a general health risk. If you are looking for the benefits of whole milk, you can purchase a share in a milking cow, which will allow you to pick-up a weekly allotment of whole milk.

Directly from Farmers

Many farmers are willing to sell their produce directly from their farm. The challenge can be finding them. Check with your local farmer’s association to begin your search. The reward is often worth the fresh taste and the knowledge that you’re supporting a local farmer. More and more people are starting to build relationships with their local food producers.

Organic Food

Organic food is the fastest growing segment of the grocery industry, and for good reason. More and more people understand that there are many benefits to purchasing organic food versus food grown with chemical fertilizers, herbicides, insecticides, fungicides, growth hormones, or antibiotics.

Benefits of Organic Food

Farming organic food uses much less energy than conventional agriculture, mostly because it doesn’t use nitrogen fertilizer, which is made from fossil fuels. The Rodale Institute has reported that organic farming systems use 30% less fossil fuels than other farming systems. They have also found that organic farming tends to hold more carbon in the soil, reducing carbon dioxide emissions. In Hayer Hillman’s book, The Suicidal Plant, a similar contrast is drawn between modern farming and organic farming:

“The differences can be considerable: Organic arable production uses one-third less energy and organic dairy three-quarters less than their conventionally farmed equivalents.” The Scuicidal Planet by Hayer Hillman, 2007

The key reason organic food is preferred by many chefs in their recipes is the taste. There is an improvement in taste as a result of organic farming techniques, similar to how grapes taste different based on the soil they are grown in.

Organic food is often more healthy food as well. There have been several studies that show there are more beneficial minerals, essential amino acids and vitamins in organic food due to the natural soil conditions. There’s also no denying that avoiding foods that use pesticides is important as well. Pesticides are poisons made to kill living creatures and can also be harmful to people.

Most organic food is grown on farms are independently owned and operated as family farms. This means you’re more likely to find them in your area so you are purchasing locally grown food that is not transported great distances. You’re also supporting your local economy as well.

As you can see, purchasing organic food is not only healthier for your body, it is also better for the environment. Since coffee can’t be grown in most of Canada, check out this Affordable Organic Coffee and Fair Trade Coffee.

Organic Labels

Organic products should have symbol on the packaging that says “Certified Organic.” The name of the certification body should appear on the label of organic food. If there’s no certifying body, it is not certified organic. At a farmer’s market or a farm, certified organic farmers should have a certificate on display from their certifying body.

By June 30 2009, you can start looking for the new Canadian organic label and be assured the product is certified to Canadian standards. No organic food can carry that label without first being inspected. The product has to meet a comprehensive set of rules overseen by the Canadian General Standards Board.

To find where you can purchase organic food, see the Canadian Organic Food Growers website.