Monday, January 11, 2010

Are Freegans Local?

Starting in February, I will be trying a new food experiment. I’ll admit, I think I’ll make a better Freegan than a Locavore.
One of the seemingly unavoidable consequences of starting the ELFOY project one year ago was food waste. One reason that I joined the project at all was because of my concern over environmental issues associated with wasteful food industry practices. It just didn’t seem right to toss perfectly good food after January 1 just because it came from far away.
A few weeks into the project, the core group had a meeting to discuss changes to the challenge. One of the changes we agreed to was that it would be OK to eat non-local food if it was going to be thrown away. This was supposed to be an occasional event, but exactly how often was never clarified. Is it a couple of times a month, or a couple of times a day?
If you were walking by a dumpster and heard a baby crying, would you dive in and rescue it? Of course you would! You would rescue the baby and call 911 and get that baby adopted into a loving family that will honor its right to its intended life purpose. Wouldn’t you? What if it wasn’t a real crying baby, but just a bag of European baby greens, or little baby patty pan squash or new potatoes? What if some farmer lovingly planted heirloom seeds, carefully watered, tended, harvested, packaged, padded and shipped it, only to have a grocery store overbuy and throw it away, the rest of its life and purpose interrupted, and all the accompanying energy consumption down the drain?
And what if the food was grown in Peru or Chile or Ecuador, flown here, and then thrown in a dumpster? Wow, for a locavore, that is even worse! OK, what if it was just harvested by a cog in the agribusiness machine? Wouldn’t you still want to rescue it? Well, I would, at least.
To my way of thinking, when the food is from the dumpster, the food-miles get set back to zero. If, by rescuing them, they stay out of the landfill, then the food-miles are even in negative territory, sort of like carbon offsets, without all that pimped out buying and selling at some European exchange.

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