Video Series: Recycling

Learn about the three easy steps it takes to start recycling at home.

 

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Explore more strategies for recycling at home and grow your understanding of recycling and waste management on the national scale.

-Posted by Hannah

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Reducing the “Paw-Print” of Cats and Dogs

As the effects of humans and our systems become more apparent on their impact of the environments around us (climate change, pollution, extinction, etc.), individuals have taken the initiative to hold themselves accountable and live more sustainable lives. The UCLA Sustainability Committee includes in their definition of sustainability “Sustainable practices support ecological, human, and economic health and vitality”. Whether a person tries to live sustainably by reducing their carbon emissions, living waste free, or shopping organically, there is one factor that impacts our environment greatly that is often overlooked: The environmental impact of our beloved cats and dogs.

Cat’s and Dog’s “Paw-Print”
The United States is the leading country of pet ownership, and according to Gregory S. Okin’s study on cat and dog food consumption Dog and cat animal product consumption is responsible for release of up to 64 ± 16 million tons CO2-equivalent methane and nitrous oxide, two powerful greenhouse gasses (GHGs). This large impact is mostly due to the high meat consumption in cats and dogs. A great way to try and reduce our animal’s impact is to look at their diet and source sustainable pet foods that strive for environmental, social and economic health.

What is the Solution?
There are many diets that owners may choose to feed their pets. On one side of the spectrum you can choose a raw food diet, and on the other end you can choose a vegetarian. There are dry foods, wet foods, and combinations of both. Make sure you always consult with your veterinarian to make sure your pet is healthy. Whatever diet you choose to feed your pet, there are steps everyone can take to reduce the environmental impact of their pet food.

Amount of Pet Food
According to Kelly S. Swanson in her article Nutritional Sustainability of Pet Foods, as of 2013, an estimated of 34% of dogs and 35% of cats in the United States were labeled as overweight or obese. Not only does an animal being overweight and overfed lead to serious health problems, but it also impacts the environment. Maintaining your pet’s weight and feeding them the proper amount for their size cuts back on food waste and reduces your pet’s negative impact. Swanson says that if the percentage of cats/dogs that are overweight/obese were fed the proper amount, it would have a significant impact of the footprint animals contribute to our food systems.

The data at the Association of Pet Obesity and Prevention (APOP) shows that as of 2018, an estimated of 59.5% of cats are overweight/obese and 55.8% of dogs are overweight/obese, showing levels have increased drastically. Reducing these numbers may also reduce their environmental impact. The website also offers guides and calculators to help pet owners determine what is the proper amount to feed their pet.

Where you source pet food
Debbie Phillips-Donaldson in her article on petfoodindustry.com says “According to documented reports received by USDA, more than 57 common pet food ingredients are sourced from supply chains using child labor, while more than 16 have sources using modern forms of slavery.” Paying attention to not only the environmental impacts of pet food but the social impacts as well is just as important in buying sustainable pet food.

Fortunately, there are certifications and labels you can look out for on your pet food that show the consumer the product is not only reducing its impact on the environment but is also sourcing their ingredients ethically.

The USDA offers an organic certification. This certification allows consumers to know mostly about the farming practices that were used when producing ingredients. It focuses on soil health, crops, pest management and even animal and human welfare. The Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) is a certification based upon three aspects: Sustainable fish stocks; minimizing environmental impact; and effective management. You can read in more detail about each certification here.

 

 

Another great certification to look out for are companies labeled B corporations. B Corporations are “business that meet the highest standards of verified social and environmental performance, public transparency, and legal accountability…”. The first pet food brand to be B Corp certified is Only Natural Pet located in Boulder, Colorado.

Paying attention to labels and other certifications on the packaging on pet food brands can give you insight to their practices and whether the pet food is sustainable or not. Certifications let the consumer know that there are requirements being met by the brands towards sustainability.

In Summary
Pet food is a large contributor in our food systems and to the impact our food systems have on the environment. It is important we bring awareness to this issue to allow us to be aware of our choices and their impact. Not only should individual pet owners strive towards making sure they are purchasing sustainable pet foods, but the pet food industry as a whole should be striving towards the goal of environmental, social and economic health, as they play a huge role in our food systems. Always staying informed and making smart choices as consumers can be first steps to having sustainable systems.

-Posted by Hannah

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Video Series: Food for You and the Planet

There are many ways in which you can make shopping and cooking more sustainable and Earth friendly. These videos include tips for shopping, what to buy, and a recipe too. Enjoy!

You can still support your local growers and producers during the pandemic! Explore Edible New Mexico’s Local Provisions Guide to find out about farms, restaurants, and other food businesses that are open. Many now have curb-side pickup, delivery, and online ordering options.

Although the Albuquerque Downtown Growers’ Market is not happening in Robinson Park this spring, you can participate in their weekly “Farm to Car” program! Pre-order online from local producers, and then pick up your produce and other goodies downtown on Saturday mornings.

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-Posted by James
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Arriba New Mexico (#arribaNM): Uplifting our story

March 9th 2020 Marked the kick-off for the 4th World Conference on Women and the 64th Commission on the Status of Women, to take place at the United Nations Campus in Manhattan, New York. This was also a time for dozens of other parallel gatherings and community building opportunities organized by grassroots and NGO groups from around the world. By historic circumstances, this event I was to participate in, was one of the first of many events to get cancelled in the weeks to come in anticipation of the spread of the COVID-19 virus. This gathering was also historic in my own life. It would have been my first time to the Big Apple, and more importantly- I was to appear on the Panel, “Sisters, Seeds and Soil: Bold Voices and Choices for Ecofeminism,” and attend a week-long advocacy practicum organized by the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF). I was to appear on this panel with a few other people representing their work and organizations like organizers with Seeding Sovereignty, and Indigenous Iowa, Farm School NYC and the Black Farmer Fund, and more.

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Statewide Next Gen Farmers group meeting in Northern New Mexico. Photo courtesy of Next Generation Farmers & Seed Savers

Additionally, some of the main goals of the UN gathering this year were to review theprogress and identify of gaps and challenges to fulfilling the 1995 Beijing Declaration (en español) on women’s rights, and the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Since my invitation to participate in all of this, my neurons have been firing with excitement thinking about the ways the projects throughout my state are working to empower women and fighting for a sustainable future. Writing about the bold voices and choices of womxn, LGBTQ and indigenous people in my community is a topic I am still very excited to expose on the international stage. There is an amazing scope of work occurring in New Mexico working to cultivate knowledge, build community, seeds, soil, and sustainable farming. There has always been a sense of urgency to preserve and contribute to these projects, but in light of the pandemic- this urgency is more apparent than ever to all of our communities.

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Youth organizing seed packets for the opening of the Espanola Healing Foods Oasis seed library. Photo credit: Emilt Arasim

If you have not heard or seen it yet, New Mexico has a vibrant and thriving local food movement. Literally on every level- from preserving the native seeds or foods, regenerating soil, building sustainable farms and urban agriculture corridors, to fighting for food, land and water sovereignty and social justice. All these efforts are not new to our communities, and wisdoms from the past still inform the work of today. Combined with our use of acequias, a centuries-old communal watering system, some could say our state fosters a strong foundation for an agroecological movement. New Mexico and the surrounding regions entail diverse cultures, living within equally diverse landscapes, and carrying a very complex history of colonialism that still impacts communities today. There are many ways that communities are harnessing traditional knowledge and practices that sustain our communities, rebuild our natural environments and work towards social justice. Even in the time of a global pandemic, we are exercising our resilient local food system, and grow food that is accessible and nutritious.

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Soil comparison at the first soil health crash course at the developing community farm and agroecology center sponsored by Project Feed the Hood. Photo Credit: Stefany Olivas

The opportunity to participate in the UN events arose through my involvement as an undergraduate student in Biology and University of New Mexico but was a perfect fit because of my evolving community activism over the past 7 years. In particular I have been “in training”  with organizations like the Center for Social Sustainable Systems (CESOSS), and Project Feed the Hood, a food justice campaign of the 40-year-old organization, SouthWest Organizing Project (SWOP). My hope and excitement for the social justice work in New Mexico has been growing exponentially since my learning has been enriched by the Chicana/o Studies and taking classes with the Sustainability Studiesprogram at UNM. I have had the amazing privilege of linking my passion for cultivating food and community with a critical analysis on the agrarian heritage, resilience and radicalism of our communities throughout the state. This foundation makes it easy to image why I think we have a lot to offer when it comes to international discussion of seeds, soil, sustainability and climate action.

Equally important is the need to de-romanticize this perspective of our “Land of Enchantment.” Despite great efforts and potential of our local food system, governments continue to allow and subsidize Fracking in Northern New Mexico, or the military-industrial complex in Albuquerque. These are some of the same leaders that leveraged our local farm movement throughout their political careers. Our small farmers still do not make a living wage, and they still cannot afford to purchase the organic food they cultivate. Despite the many barriers and challenges to bolster our resources to full-blown local food movement- farmers are still growing and finding ways to distribute their fresh, nutrient rich produce in the time of this pandemic.

Agroecology also holds an international stage at the United Nations, as one of the many promising platforms to mitigate climate change and bring about social reform. This practice and praxis could also help us achieve milestones of the 2030 SDGs. To the local agroecologist, growing food in harmony with the environment doesn’t just restore biodiversity, and nutritional foods. It also means actively confronting industrial agriculture and extractive industries that destroy the land, its ecosystems, and the communities that live there. We may not call it agroecology yet, but New Mexicans are working diligently to grow, process and consume food communally, sustainably, using traditional (and contemporary) methods, while also working to achieve sovereignty, realize food justice, and ultimately use local food as a tool to organize for all types of social justice.

My top fan-girl interests in general:

Rapid-response initiatives providing basic needs and cultivating knowledge:

-Posted by Stefany

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A Taste of Home: Digging into the Roots of an Indigenous Food Experience

Roxanne Swentzell is an artist, seed-saver, and a founder of the Flowering Tree Permaculture Institute. In 2013, she and her son, historian Porter Swentzell, along with 14 volunteers from the Santa Clara Pueblo, committed to an experiment: to eat only the foods of their ancestors for three months, which they dubbed the Pueblo Food Experience (PFE). In that time, they experienced remarkable changes to their health individually, and a greater connection to their collective roots. Since then, Roxanne has been working to spread the word and rekindle the viability of heritage foods in her community.

The following interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.

Jade: In doing your research for the PFE, did you discover a food you’d never had before?

Roxanne: There’s things like amaranth I’ve been growing for 30 years—I knew you could eat the young leaves, but I never learned how to process the seed. It was one of our staple foods, but was totally lost; now in the communities if you say “amaranth,” they go, “What’s that?” Also, things like wild spinaches, cat tails, wild things you can get out in the fields, those are things that I may have known about but I never tried before {laughs}.

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Harvesting amaranth at Roxanne’s garden. Image courtesy of Roxanne Swentzell

You offer classes to your community through your Flowering Tree Permaculture Institute—can you tell me more about that?

We teach certain things, like how to make tamales or process corn, and it changes based on what the needs are at the time. That’s why we put together the cookbook [The Pueblo Food Experience Cookbook]. A lot of times people don’t know where to start, and the cookbook seemed like a good way to help them start the conversation. Even though we’re a much more intact tribe than most in the US, many Pueblo people don’t know about these foods anymore. For me, that’s really scary, because if we lose these foods, we lose a lot. That’s the same for every culture—the diversity is very important. The connections are very important.

What needs or opportunities do you see right now?

For years now we’ve been getting enough seed to grow out enough food to get to more people. Now we’re slowly putting together a little processing facility so that a group of us gets together and processes some of this corn. And that’s just one product, so it’s a big project {laughs}. We’re working on one strand of this basket, and it’s going to take all our lives to put the basket back together. And that’s just one community—I’m desperate for the whole world to start doing this.

Have any other groups reached out to you about their experiences doing similar work?

Many of the tribes around the US are trying to find and nurture back their original diets, which is exciting because we’re all rediscovering and holding onto ourselves in this way again. The scary part of it is that as soon as it becomes a fad then people want to jump in on it. It’s fun to try other people’s food, but don’t take it—that’s a colonizing mentality. Just like the seeds I’ve been saving all these years, we are very adapted to very specific conditions. If you’re interested in going about finding health this manner, it’s a really fascinating journey—let’s find out what fits us, individually, the best. All your answers are in you.

Are there any community organizations you’ve been able to partner with?

I partner with the Traditional Native Farmer’s Association; I’ve been working with them for about 20 years, we’re very much on the same path. There’s also a group out of Tewa Women United called the Oasis of Espanola, and they’ve been working on putting together a food forest in Espanola. I also work with a little organization here in the pueblo called HOPE, Honoring Our Pueblo Existence; we do a lot of work together, but it’s very localized within the women’s society doing specific cultural stuff for the pueblo.

What crops are you focusing on this year?

I probably have over 35 varieties of corn from our area, and that means about 30 years to grow each one of them out. We have to pick and choose carefully or try desperately to get more people to grow them. Right now we’re focusing on our main corn, blue, white, red, and some of the sweet corns. The more unique varieties I’ve put in smaller fields just to keep the seed alive—I’m hoping that somebody will fall in love with them and maybe grow a whole field and keep them alive. But it’s a big job.

Do you have any other projects for the near future?

This year we’re building a greenhouse that’s combined with a turkey pen, because turkeys are a very important bird to us. It’s really good pest control; if you just walk turkeys through your field every morning, they take care of all the bugs and fertilize everything, and in the end you get turkey meat and feathers. I’m into putting things together like that. I’m also continuing to teach a few classes—I teach in the summer a design permaculture course that focuses on Native sustainability. I’m also wanting to focus on growing out more of the traditional medicine plants. So, all of that and more {laughs}.

Is there a particular recipe you enjoy teaching people who are interested in trying an ancestral way of eating?

The thing is, it’s not a specific food, it’s how you interact with it. The more connected you are to the process, the richer it is. You go out there and put that tomato seed in the ground and water it, see that first flower come out, watch that fruit grow {laughs} and you get all excited ‘cause it starts to turn red. All those moments you interacted with that plant, it’s almost like a spiritual experience, because, “Oh my god, that’s the tomato I grew.” This is when they talk about food as medicine—it becomes something much, much bigger. When we put that back in our food, we hold it so dear because we saw what it took. Reconnect to your food, step by step, put the basket back together. Instead of buying everything, try growing one of the things you eat often, and then if you can do that, grow another one. And then if you can do that, just keep going. Reconnect. Reconnect.

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Planting day at Flowering Tree Permaculture Institute. Image courtesy of Roxanne Swentzell

Easy Crops to Grow in Pots or Indoors:
Bell Peppers ~ Mint ~ Kale ~ Strawberries ~ Tomatoes

-Posted by Jade

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Growing Local: Re-Envisioning Farm to Table With “The Sprouting Kitchen”

Many buzzwords surround today’s local and organic food market. “Farm-to-table” or “farm-to-fork” come with various associations about what it means to have an experience with food grown in the diner’s own backyard. These experiences may include a pop-up dinner at a farm, a restaurant with its own garden, or a cooking class using local produce. The farm-to-table movement has been steadily gaining popularity over the last 20 years and has gained popularity in the US as public knowledge of local food systems becomes more accessible. I got the chance to speak with topic expert, Fallon Bader, Registered Dietician Nutritionist, and founder of The Sprouting Kitchen who shared with me her re-envisioned model of farm-to-table.

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Fallon cooking radishes. Image courtesy of Fallon Bader

Bader defines farm-to-table as “the experience of tasting and observing where food is grown…giving some background and story to where food comes from. When we know the story behind our food it creates more value and pleasure when we eat it.” The main uniting principles of farm-to-table include; food security, proximity, self-reliance, and sustainability. The movement aims to develop local food systems and accomplish social goals such as fresh food access and community health outcomes.

One caveat is that proximity is not the most important principle and is not, in and of itself, what makes food sustainable. Broadly speaking, buying directly from farmers is associated with positive health, social, and economic outcomes. The Sprouting Kitchen takes all three into account by focusing on 1) community nutrition and access, 2) re-skilling people in the kitchen, 3) creating market equity for local farmers, and 4) reducing emissions by utilizing locally-grown food.

Eating local food is beneficial in many ways, especially for the local economy and climate change reduction efforts. Bader shares that this is because, “when you’re buying food directly from the farmer, the farmer then gets more money directly for their produce when you eliminate the grocery store middleman.” The Sprouting Kitchen supports and increases these efforts by teaching people about their local foodshed; how to access it, support it, and how to turn its products (delicious fruits, vegetables, etc.) into nutritious meals.

In addition to helping farmers and the local food economy, eating locally can also reduce your carbon footprint by limiting miles that food would otherwise have to be transported. An example of this is lettuce which, “takes a lot of water to grow so essentially when we’re shipping greens from those faraway places, instead of getting them locally, we’re shipping trucks full of water.” Growing greens in our own backyard, buying from a farmers’ market, or joining a CSA can potentially cut down on carbon emissions.

Produce from the grocery store is often grown and shipped hundreds or thousands of miles to get to us. “When we buy locally the produce doesn’t have to travel so far, and this can help reduce carbon emissions which in turn is good for reducing climate change.” That being said, it is important to note that “local” does not directly correlate to “sustainable.” Scale is only one factor, and the main aspect of sustainable food is the agenda or motivation of the system or actor to be eco-conscious and pursue certain strategies. The farm-to-table movement is a strategy more than it is about miles traveled, and readers should be careful to avoid the local trap.

The Sprouting Kitchen also considers community health and nutrition as a main goal. Bader says, “as far as health outcomes, as a registered dietitian, I have a focus on nutrition, health choices, and behaviors. We work with NMSU and Presbyterian Hospital to sponsor our classes so that we can offer our classes to high-need populations. We also partnered with Chispas Farm, which accepts SNAP – a form of EBT – on their farm in the South Valley.” This access piece is especially important to consider in the broader scope of foodsheds, food justice, and the practice of farm-to-table. The aim of this project is for anyone to be able to come to a class and leave with the knowledge and skills needed to make healthy, community-oriented, and sustainable food choices.

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Fallon teaches her smiling class how to make a delicious meal on a farm. Image courtesy of Fallon Bader

The Sprouting Kitchen is different from the farm-to-table restaurant experience in that those who sign up for the classes go to a farm, tour and speak with the farmer to learn more about what is being grown and why. After, participants get their hands dirty and harvest the ingredients for the meal they will prepare as a class, only steps away from where the food was grown.

“We hope participants come away with skills, knowledge and recipes that would allow them to have better health outcomes…[by giving skills and recipes] we empower people to cook tasty fruits and vegetables in the kitchen,” says Bader. Re-skilling and empowering participants, coupled with the knowledge of local foodsheds and farming practices can change the conversation about health and nutrition, deepen social connections to our neighbors, and create a vibrant marketplace for locally grown produce that is both nutritious and delicious.

To join a class, volunteer, or learn more, please visit The Sprouting Kitchen or contact Fallon Bader at thesproutingkitchen@gmail.com.

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A class working together to prepare a nutritious meal. Image courtesy of Fallon Bader

-Posted by Trinity

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Video Series: Happy Earth Day!

This video kicks off our celebration of Earth Day! 2020 marks the 50th anniversary of this important event, and is dedicated to global climate action. May we as humans remember our roles on the planet and aim to be our best sustainable selves — especially during these unique times. Linked below are additional resources pertaining to the video and other ways you can learn about the relationship between yourself and the Earth.

Want to start making some changes? Calculate your ecological footprint to better understand – and reduce – your environmental impact on the planet. Learn how to build a sustainable future with the Story of Stuff Project’s short animated films and documentaries.

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-Posted by Eliana

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