Tag Archives: sustainability

(Wasted) Food for Thought

This weekend I cleaned out my refrigerator.

It wasn’t a pretty sight.

Not quite this bad, but there have been times…

I’ll spare you the details (and the images) but let’s just say a lot of stuff went directly into the compost bin. So while it was no longer fit for consumption (or possibly so) at least it isn’t going into the landfill.

Yet it was food we purchased and didn’t use. So at the very least, it was a waste of money. And our experience is, as I found out, pretty typical. According to this article on the Sustainable Brands website, up to 40 percent of America’s food is lost on the way from farm to table and from there to trash.

That’s 400 pounds of food per person per year. More than the body weight of my wife and me combined. In effect, we throw ourselves away each and every year.

And it’s not just the food that’s wasted. It’s the water that went into growing the food, and the fertilizer, and the shipping cost, and the time and energy the farmer put into producing it. The effect is felt across the entire life cycle.

Taken from the Sustainable Brands website article.

What’s going on? Is it an ironic curse that we have so much food we don’t appreciate it? My grandmother raised a family during the Great Depression and into her nineties she saved ham bones to make soup. She understood the value of food and that you didn’t waste it.

(Please note: I’m aware there are many people in this country who are undernourished and go hungry. For this post I’m focusing on the average American who has instant access to as much food as he/she wants.)

And I’m not talking just about what we buy for ourselves at home. Every running event I’ve been involved with has had some amount of food that was either only partly eaten, or (worse) taken by someone and then thrown away uneaten. I’m talking about entire cookies, bagels, bananas, oranges, and even entire sandwiches.

Why? Just. . .why?

This sort of careless, indifferent waste of food baffles me. If after your race you grab a banana out of habit and then decide you don’t really want it, okay. Take it home and eat it later, or give it to one of your kids.

And if that doesn’t bother you, perhaps this will. When you throw food away, in effect you paid more for it. You don’t buy organic because it’s more expensive than the conventional kind? I’ll bet if you bought the organic in smaller quantities and used it all, you’d save money in the long run.

Sure, my wife and I refer to Whole Foods as “Whole Paycheck,” but we buy many meals from that store and others like it. Not that we hate to cook – in fact, we enjoy cooking – but we work long hours and the prepared food bars are very convenient. It’s all fresh and nutritious, and tastes good. And it doesn’t disappear in the back of the fridge, to be rediscovered one weekend when it’s no longer recognizable as what we once put in the cart thinking, “Yeah, that looks good.”

So it wasn’t surprising that after emptying the fridge and putting back only the items I know we’re going to eat, it looked pretty empty. Not only that, I found I hadn’t put all the shelves back. And I like it that way!

Why does this feel so personal? Like I’m opening my bathrobe?

The more open look makes the food in there much more visible, and given that we’re empty nesters, we shouldn’t be stuffing the fridge full anyway. We’ll see if this makes a difference in how much food we throw away from now on. I sure don’t want to repeat the experience!

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The Zen of Zero Waste: An Evening at Robin Hills Farm

NOTE: I don’t usually cross-post here what I write about Zero Waste, but I’m making an exception for my experience at Robin Hills Farm. (Plus I *did* run the 5K.) Enjoy!

Happy Planet Running

Organic, sustainable farming is growing in popularity. But how many places do you know who combine farming with education, family activities, and even athletic events? Well, there’s one just north of Chelsea, MI – right in my backyard – doing exactly that.

Robin Hills Farm was just scrubland in 2014 when the land was purchased, but it’s rapidly turning into a cutting-edge operation with diverse farming practices working together. Their focus is on zero – zero net energy, zero waste – using one product of the growing cycle to sustain another part.

When I happened across Robin Hills Farm on Facebook and saw it was hosting a “Zen Triathlon,” I had to find out more. So I emailed them, and not only did they invite me out to show me what they’re doing, they hired me to handle the zero waste activities for the event! So I packed…

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Vote for Me! Vote for a Fit America!

I’m not running for President, but I have an agenda. One that the leading two candidates haven’t said a peep about, to my knowledge. This is an outrage. Why aren’t people talking about the issues that really count for something?

Unfortunately, I’m not sure any President would have the ability to implement the platform I describe below, despite its undoubted value. I’m thinking there would have to be a Supreme Overlord or the like to get it done. I humbly submit myself to take on this daunting task. I promise to be firm, yet benevolent.

I’m calling my campaign: “Make America Fit Again.”

uncle-sam-with-kettlebell

Here’s how I get this country into shape, physically, economically, and emotionally.

1. More “honest” calorie counts and fat/sugar totals on snack food packages. Oh, the makers of the scrumptious-looking muffins below may be telling the truth on the labels, but look closely – one muffin is two servings. Who eats half a muffin?

muffins

single-muffin-nutrition-information

2.  Corporate CEOs who enable unethical behavior to boost profits and rake in huge bonuses would be prosecuted and serve their time as stockers at Wal-Mart. Tote that cart! Lift that box! We’ll sweat out that sense of entitlement!

3 . Wide paved shoulders required on all paved roads, or a paved bike/multipurpose path alongside them. The streets should be safe for walkers, cyclists, and anyone else who prefers self-powered means of transportation.

4.  Mandatory martial arts or yoga & meditation classes for all school-age children, starting at age five. Imagine an entire generation with self-discipline, introspection, respect for everyone, and physical fitness. Who’d be left to start the wars?

aikido-youth-class

5.  When a politician says something untrue during a debate, speech, or public appearance, a whistle goes off and they have to do 30 burpees before they can continue.

They'd be the two fittest people on the planet!

They’d be the two fittest people on the planet!

6 . “Diets” would be outlawed. As would “fat burning” supplements and all so-called weight loss miracles. Waste of money at best, dangerous at worst.

7.  Recycling and composting services throughout the country. And a nationwide 25-cent deposit law for all glass and aluminum containers. Stop throwing perfectly recyclable soda and beer cans in the trash – or, for Pete’s sake, on the ground.

beer-cans-in-river-mysanantonio-blog

From the “My San Antonio” blog.

8.  Minimum environmental sustainability taxes for individuals and corporations. Clean air, water, and land benefits everyone, and is worth the cost. What kind of planet do you want to leave your grandkids?

And just to round things off, two morality rules to piss off liberals and conservatives alike:

9.  When two people meet for the first time in the day, the first words out of their mouths must be something kind about the other person. After that, they can fight. If they still want to.

10.  When someone identifies a race, society, or religion and says, “they are the problem,” he or she has to live among “them” for a year.

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Do you agree with my platform? Would it result in a fitter America? Let me know your thoughts. I may be seeking absolute power over everyone and everything, but that doesn’t mean I’m not open-minded. We can agree to disagree!

The only thing I haven’t worked out quite yet is how to become Supreme Overlord. I am a big fan of our Constitution, after all. I just wish more of our current politicians were, too.

Zero Waste: Adding 3 More “Rs” to Running

Some of my faithful readers know that I have a strong interest in sustainable practices. For those of you who didn’t – well, I have this strong interest in sustainable practices.

Reduce Reuse RecycleThat means, basically, that I support and encourage the three “Rs” of managing waste. I’m also firmly in favor of renewable energy sources and organic farming. This was once considered fringe, “hippie” stuff, but it’s rapidly becoming mainstream, and hopefully will be standard practice before long.

So I’m thrilled to tell you that this year I’m helping bring sustainable practices to another activity that I love – the world of running.

I run, pace, and/or volunteer at over twenty events every year, and it bothers me how much waste they generate and send to landfills. That includes a lot of recyclable cans, bottles, and cardboard, and food waste (banana peels, half-eaten muffins, etc.)  that could be composted.

Trash from a small event last year. All of it went to the landfill.

Trash from a small event last year. All of it went to the landfill.

I figured there had to be a better way, and in my research I came across the Council for Responsible Sport and their certification program that recognizes waste reduction and redirection.

Gazelle Girl 2015 - 3,000 runners, and this is all that went to the landfill.

Gazelle Girl 2015 – 3,000 runners, and this is all that went to the landfill.

After volunteering at an annual women’s race in Grand Rapids that applies the CRS standards to achieve nearly zero waste (read my 2015 post about that here), I knew I wanted to bring what they did to the Ann Arbor area. So I approached my favorite running events company, showed them what was possible, and made my pitch to help them do the same.

To what may be their everlasting regret, they accepted. And so RF Events “Team ZW” was formed.

Saturday's ZW crew - ready to rock that trash! Yours truly on far right.

Saturday’s ZW crew – ready to rock that trash! Yours truly on far right.

To get things going, we obtained a small grant from the Can’d Aid Foundation’s #CrushitCrusade, and used it to obtain training and waste disposal tents from ZeroHero, a company that specializes in sustainable waste management for events all over the country. We scheduled Trail Marathon Weekend, April 23-24, as our inaugural Zero Waste event. We recruited volunteers, deployed the tents, and hoped for the best.

Stylin' it on the trail!

Stylin’ it on the trail!

The results were better than I could have hoped for. Of the nearly 500 pounds of total waste we collected over the weekend, less than 50 went to the landfill. Everything else was recycled, composted, or will be sent to TerraCycle for “upcycling” into new plastic products. And we got several positive comments from the runners. “Those are the coolest tents EVER!” I heard one of them say. (Oh, wait, that was me. But I’m sure many other runners were thinking it.)

So if you’re going to a Running Fit race this year, look for the green shirts and the coolest tents ever, and know that we’re doing our best to make the sport we love better than ever!

Below are more ZW photos from Trail Marathon. Enjoy!

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