D.C. Yoga Week & my plan to get in tip-top yogi shape

OK. I have one confession and one announcement and bit of news.

The confession first…

I have been a bad yogi this year. A very, very bad yogi.

First, a little back story about me. I started getting into yoga my freshman year of college. I really found my groove at the Bikram studio in Tenley, which I loved and still do. Yoga was a hugely important part of my life. I worked at the studio to get free classes and really felt a part of something there. Then, I went abroad to study in Australia. And while I was there I bought a gym membership so I didn’t gain a thousand pounds eating out all the time and having the “I’m on vacation” mentality and what not, and it sort of worked for a little while. I was feeling pretty good.

And then, one April morning, I got hit by a car while crossing a street near my apartment. The driver didn’t see me, he was rounding a corner to make a left-hand turn, and I didn’t see him–I ended up with a tooth knocked out, a fractured sternum and lots of cuts and bruises. I don’t think I have ever mentioned that on this blog, but yeah, I got hit by a car while I was studying abroad in Australia. What luck! Getting hit by a car was obviously physically painful, sort of emotionally draining and worse yet because I turned into a paranoid ball of nerves for a month or two after. Only recently have I noticed I’ve let my super extra guard down when crossing streets; I was pretty cautious about it both in Australia and in America after. I guess there are some things worth being cautious about though. Anyhow, after the accident and during all the legal, medical and dental hullabaloo after, I got really bad about working out. I obviously couldn’t exercise for about 3-4 weeks after because I couldn’t even lay down at night and breathe without being in excruciating chest pain. Don’t even think about coughing or sneezing or laughing (yikes. thinking about it now is making me cringe.) After my sternum healed, I was basically able to return to normal, but for whatever reason I never really kicked into high gear again. I was in a fitness rut. I did yoga occasionally, which helped to calm me, and got sort of into a spinning class at my uni’s gym, but generally, I sort of fell out of shape.

On my way home, I did a stopover trip to Fiji and had the opportunity to finally get my open-water certification (a task that had been put on hold after the accident because of my breathing difficulties). While it was hands-down the best experience of my life, there were times I thought to myself, “I wish I was stronger so this equipment wasn’t so impossibly heavy.” I know, it’s supposed to be heavy, but I was also very weak and got the sense that I was struggling diving much more than I would if I were in stronger shape. When I returned to the States, I stepped on a scale at my parents’ house and was like, “Oh-em-gee.” I mean, I don’t ever really weigh myself anymore, because I have a past of being really obsessive about it, to a dangerous level. I should also clarify, it was never actually about the weight, however seeing that “evidence” did help to motivate me, in a healthy way. But when it came down to it, it was about how I felt physically, which was pretty awful.

So, I started running every day in the time between coming back home and starting up school again. And I shocked myself with how I was able to actually run a mile straight without dying. And pretty soon it was three miles straight. But, just like everything, if you don’t keep up a routine, you easily can slip back to square one, and that is what happened once schoolwork piled up and the weather got cooler. Meanwhile, I was writing the health column for my school’s newspaper, but sometimes would feel like a fraud, because I wasn’t really being quite the shining example I wanted to be. I had way too much on my plate this year and I can realize this now. Everything worked out as far as me being able to get through it all, but not really, because I let my fitness suffer.

and the announcement…

OK, so what does this have to do with yoga? Throughout the past year, I have gone through various yoga “phases.” I would get really into it for a couple weeks, then get really busy with school or just get lazy or ditch it for running for a week or it was too expensive or there were three feet of snow on the ground keeping me from getting to the studio, or whatever. I ended up writing my last health column on different yoga studios around my campus, which got me to try a few new styles, and it was awesome. I hadn’t forced my body to do most of that work for so long and it felt great. I decided after that I really need to make yoga a priority in my life and now that school is over, I have basically no responsibilities to speak of aside from bringing home the bacon and dealing with day-to-day life stuff. I have been told that this time after graduation is very strange because you find you have so much free time, and I want to use my free time in the smartest way possible.

This week, my new fave Vinyasa yoga studio in my fave day-time neighborhood in D.C., Dupont, opened up a new location. They kicked off their first week with free classes and I went everyday. I love the instructors there (Katja is my fave). The best part is that their regular prices, even for non-students, are pretty fabulous. Also, they are totally wind-powered, don’t sell bottled water, clean with environmentally friendly supplies, etc. Basically, I love them. And, the studio is right near where I will be interning for the next couple months, so it’s just darn perfect.

Further, starting today and going all week is D.C. Yoga Week! Today from 1-5pm, there is Yoga on the Mall, and I am going to try to get there for at least the tail end of that. But regardless, I am really going to use this opportunity to get myself back in the yogi routine. I am excited to start fresh. I am already feeling better and stronger (and sore!) after just one week.

So I was wondering, have you ever had an injury that threw you off track? How did you deal with it? Do you like to switch up your yoga styles or just concentrate on one (Bikram, vinyasa, ashtanga, etc.)?

Have a wonderful weekend, everyone.

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Sweet and soy grilled salmon & flowers to make my apartment a home

Well, now I have tons of stuff to blab about. I am debating if I should break all of this up into separate posts? Yes, yes I should.

OK. Now. I do want to talk a bit about what’s the deal with how I changed my blog theme (and ask for your opinion, although it’s not done yet so I guess that doesn’t matter…) and announce that I did indeed graduate last weekend and I managed not to trip across the stage or forget to bring my name card or some other Kelly-like embarrassing thing, in addition to lots of other mushy crap about how much I love everyone who’s been reading my silly blog over the past semester and told me how much they enjoy it. I also want to talk about where this blog is going now that my independent study is over (I got an A, in case you were wondering, and even though it’s “over” I am thinking I may following in Jacquie’s footsteps and try to print up my most relevant posts up and bind them together. I might be good to show future potential employers, no? I can’t quit you, blog!)

Anyhow, all of that can wait because I made this delicious salmon dinner for a friend and I Thursday and holy crap. Ah-mazing.

Let’s discuss.

I decided I wanted to go all out and get that most sustainable salmon available at Whole Foods (Wild King Alaskan, $24/lb.), which in my humble opinion, tastes the absolute best. I ended up buying two 1-inch (at the thickest) fillets for $17.

Here’s what I did.

Sweet & Soy Grilled Salmon with Avocado, Capers, and Red Onion

Combine in a bowl the following:

  • 1/4 c. olive oil (exact amounts don’t really mater, you might need more if you are marinating larger fillets)
  • a few T. of soy sauce (I don’t know how much, I just poured the rest of the bottle in)
  • 1/4 c. brown sugar
  • Juice of 2 lemons
  • a dash or seven of garlic powder, depending on how much you love garlic

Yeah so swirl all that stuff around and plop your salmon fillets in and if you are super fancy and have a brush, coat them with the marinade. Then cover the bowl and pop in the refrigerator. Mine marinated for about 7 hours, but I am sure you could do for much less time, probably even 3-4 hours would suffice.

Then, slice up some avocado and some red onion and tomatoes (if you want) and drain some capers. Whatever you love on salad. You could also do a couple hard-boiled eggs using Jaden’s method (from the Steamy Kitchen) that makes the egg somewhere in between soft-and hard-boiled. I opted to leave the egg out. I initially was going to use Jaden’s recipe for a grilled salmon sandwich but then decided to use a marinade for the salmon…and then never actually made the dressing and I also made a salad instead of a sandwich…so really my dinner ended up totally different and I’m not sure why I am even referencing that recipe aside from the fact that it made me think to use capers, which I never have cooked with before.

By the way, I should also mention that my parents got me three new K. Sabatier knives as a graduation present, and they are fantastic. I have never had nice knives and it feels so nice to be able to actually slice through food without applying pressure. Fabulous. (When you begin asking for things like food processors and knives for presents, does that make you officially old? Yikes.)

I also bought myself a new eco-friendly skilet at Target the other day, which made me laugh because I never would have thought that a skillet could be not eco-friendly but hey, I guess that’s just the direction we are heading and I dig this pan a lot. I made eggs the next morning without a speck of cooking spray and it just slid around the pan like in an infomerical, it was hilarious.

Back to the salmon. You then heat up a skillet to medium-high and set your fillets on it. I ended up grilling the salmon for about 3 minutes each side, but it obviously will depend on how thick your fillet is.

Yes, mom, that’s a band-aid on my thumb. Yes, it’s from the knife. Yes, I will be more careful next time. Yes, I know those knives “could CUT OFF my finger.”

Definitely don’t overcook the fillet. If you have any feeling it might be done, take it off and take a good look at the center–with salmon you don’t really want the rare-ness you might go for with a tuna steak, but it should still be rather pink. Also, about halfway through cooking, throw your onion slices and capers in with the skillet (I much prefer grilled onion over raw.)

Once everything is ready, you plate it all up and voila! We found the salad didn’t really need “dressing” especially if you let the salmon marinate for as long as I did, because it was sooooo juicy and the onions had collected that marinade as well. But do what you like. I suppose you could do a drizzle of honey-dijon or some such over the lettuce if you prefer.

By the way, we drank a Pinot Noir with dinner which was a great pair. Pinot Noir’s are a bit more smooth and sweet, which went well with the hints of brown sugar sweetness in the salmon. (This is me trying to sounds like a foodie. Or a wino that doesn’t know wine, either/or.)

That meal tasted like you would pay at least $25 for it in a restaurant (maybe even more because of the fact that it was Alaskan King salmon, which is the priciest.) But when it came down to it, not including the wine, it  cost about half that to buy all the ingredients. And it was so so worth it. It just melted in your mouth. The best part, for me, is you could almost feel good about eating it knowing that it didn’t have the added dyes and hadn’t been raised in a confined space being fed tons of antibiotics, etc. I’ll spare the nasty details for here.

OK. So not to be all jumbly, but I do want to give you a glimpse into last weekend, in a post later on today or tomorrow in case anyone cares (I’m mainly thinking of relatives…)

…and next up, what I am looking forward to doing today (and hopefully for the rest of my life!)…Yoga! =)

It feels good to be back.

We graduate in eight hours.

I have a lot to say and announce and express gratitude about on here.

But right now I need to sleep, because tomorrow at 9am, a whole bunch of talented, amazing, intelligent friends of mine and I are graduating from American University—and my roomie and I decided sleeping through the ceremony might be funny to us, but wouldn’t be to the 20-odd relatives who travelled thousands of collective miles to see us wrap up our college careers.

Wrap up, though? See, I never understood why they call it a “commencement” ceremony. Never made sense to me. Doesn’t “commence” mean to “start?,” I always thought. “Shouldn’t they call it a ‘Culmination ceremony’ or something?”

Not until right about now did it make sense. “Commencement” isn’t a misnomer remotely. It’s so entirely appropriate. Nothing’s ending tomorrow really, it’s just beginning.

I think that’s fabulous.

“Congraduations,” everyone.  🙂

What many environmentalists haven’t learned: economics says personal action drives change

Lester Brown, if you ever read this, it is not meant to be a personal attack. I find you to be an exceptionally influential person in the field I care so deeply about. However, I felt compelled to use what I noticed about your visit to AU to talk about an issue that I have wanted to express for a while, and that is the importance of personal responsibility and individual action and how those coincide with one’s future aspirations.

I wrote this blog entry a couple weeks ago

…but never posted it because I wanted to cool down and look back on what I wrote a little later to see if I was just fired up or if I was maybe on to something.

And I think I was on to something.

The purpose of the following entry is not to bash the Baby Boomer generation, although it does hint at that in places. It is not to say, “Hey! You got us into this mess! You help us figure it out!” Far from this, it is meant to serve as a way to empower members of my generation, it is meant to help us understand that we each, in our own lives, hold more power than any corporation and any politician does. We have a wallet, we have knowledge, we have the freedom to use both as we wish. But most important of all, and forgive me for sounding trite, but we have each other.

As Barbara Kingsolver said in her commencement address to Duke in 2008, during what I consider the greatest piece of advice that someone could give our generation:

“You can be as earnest and ridiculous as you need to be, if you don’t attempt it in isolation. The ridiculously earnest are known to travel in groups. And they are known to change the world.”

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And so this a variation of what I had written that night, when I came home downtrodden and–I’ll admit, almost near tears (OK, maybe I was just having a rough week…):

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Lester Brown and the Dasani bottle and why I got so mad

Last night, I heard Lester Brown speak on campus. For those of you who don’t know who he is (I didn’t until the event) he’s the author of over 50 books on global environmental issues, he’s the founder of the Worldwatch Institute, the Earth Policy Institute, and basically the inventor of the term “sustainable development,” (evidently, a legacy he wishes to renounce, saying that we have a “language problem” in this movement and instead should use the phrase, “saving civilization.”)

And guess what? He’s 86 years old, which is pretty impressive.

But here’s a couple other things about his talk:

  1. He drank from a McDonald’s cup during the first half of the presentation.
  2. He drank from a Dasani bottle the second half.
  3. He quietly slipped away to take a cab home (he lives in D.C.) after answering three questions out of swarms of students who were dying just to shake his hand.
  4. He appeared to have done so partly because his books, which were meant to be at the reception after for people to buy, never arrived. (Which appeared to have been some sort of dealbreaker?)

(First, let me just say he isn’t the first environmental activist who I have seen speak who does all of these things, so I’m not singling him out. I am merely using him to make a point. And yes, I am sure he was just given the Dasani by someone at KPU or whoever. But if you were speaking on such a topic, wouldn’t you have said, “Sorry, I have my own bottle–mind refilling it at that water fountain?”)

These four seemingly innocuous actions stood out to me more than anything he said throughout the hour he spoke.

We, (and by we I mean the younger generations, say, everyone under forty or so)—we, the ones born into the “Age of Irony,” are the ones that quite literally must change things. We must pick up the pieces of the broken systems our grandparents left us with. Our lives, and most certainly our children’s lives, depend on it, according to statistics. A couple such statistics:

“By 2025, there will be no glaciers left in Glacier National Park.”

“Our population may only stabilize before 10 billion people because at that point the mortality rate will begin rising steadily due rising levels of hunger.”

I could rattle off others, but you’ve heard them all before.

Brown raised a point in his talk about how economists need to learn ecology. He said, “The World Bank uses all kinds of economic models to predict and explain trends. Why haven’t they looked at our growing population and asked, ‘How will we feed these people?'”

I don’t disagree, but there are also way too many ecologists out there who don’t understand basic economics. And I mean, basic. They might understand advanced economic theories. But they don’t seem to understand the concept that communities bound by solid belief systems, even just one, can change things. Living by a principle, when that principle is shared by a group, can change things. We’re currently seeing an example of this in one New Jersey community who is setting a precedent with a group of businesses who are pledging to stop selling and using products that have the endocrine-disrupting chemical triclosan in them (OK, maybe I used this for-instance because I wrote the press release and pitched the press conference that announced this to the media…) But, this is just one for-instance. There are countless others.

We can use a basic law of economics to create social change and influence more environmentally beneficial behaviors. It’s quite simple:

  1. people refuse to buy products that harm the environment
  2. they tell their friends
  3. issue campaigns promote education even further
  4. companies must create products that don’t harm the environment
  5. those that fail to evolve based on consumer demand can’t keep up in the marketplace.

The environmentally-conscious companies thrive, the environment thrives, humans thrive. It’s basic economics and it’s basic environmental morality.

If you participate in the easily avoidable actions that are driving our problems (ahem, drinking bottled water), you are subscribing to the idea that your actions don’t mean as much as some other person’s. In reality, it is the sum of our individual actions that drive change.

It’s easy for people like Lester Brown to stand before an audience of twenty-somethings and say to them, “Look at these problems which were set on course over a hundred years ago! They must be fixed! Here is this puzzle, please solve it and while you do, I am going to tell you about all the statistics of this dire situation.”

And yet, with a Coca-Cola bottle in hand. Talk about taking Ghandi’s everlasting, “Be the change you want to see in the world,” and just tossing it right in the garbage.

How can the leaders of this movement expect to inspire us to change if they are still doing the same old messy things? And perhaps more importantly, how can we expect the people who scream, “You’re a crazy fascist for threatening to take away my bottled water” to take this movement seriously when its leaders are drinking bottled water as they speak before us, preaching principles of conservation?

Final point: This wasn’t all just about a Dasani bottle. If you thought that it was, I apologize for not having been able to make my point clearer through this extended metaphor of sorts.

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My take-away message

I submitted a speech to AU’s School of Communication for our commencement ceremony a couple months back. I wasn’t chosen but they seemed to like mine and a couple others enough to have our messages up as runners-up (take a look if you love that mushy stuff…self-promo #2…reaching my limit, aren’t I?).

But, here is what my advice would’ve been more like if my speech didn’t need to be SOC-oriented:

“Don’t think about thirty years from now in terms of where you will be career-wise. Don’t think about which organization you will be working at, trying to fix our broken world. Instead, think of the organizations that will have wrapped up their work because there is no longer a need for them. Dream up a world where there is no Worldwatch Institute, because our commonly held beliefs finally came to unite us, so we were compelled to take up different efforts on our own, to watch out for the world and each other in our own lives, no longer requiring an institute to facilitate. Imagine a world where we don’t need organizations to rattle off statistics. Imagine there were no statistics to report.

Even better, imagine living out these statistics…

  • living modestly, in a neighborhood where you grow most of your food within a few miles
  • being part of a community that is self-sustaining because that is what makes people happiest and because that is what makes the most sense
  • having a child who learns about what your generation endured and how it was able to turn things around
  • writing a book, and then having it available online (or whatever the current technology called for! On the current “iPads”?)
  • being part of a generation, a community, that was constantly learning to evolve.

And imagine how much better life would be.”

I know we’re not there yet, remotely, but these “far-fetched” dreams are important. They keep us positive and positivity restores our faith that what we do, here and now, actually matters. It all matters.

How positively overwhelming that is. How positively empowering, too, right?

Fun with food processor-ing

Woo! So, this is the final homestretch for school. I have one more final paper for *this* class that I am going to finish up tonight and get turned in and then, I’m done! It’a going to be hard to put all I have learned from this blog into a 2-page paper. How am I going to do that? Wish me luck!

I took this weekend off, quite literally–I slept until 4:30 on Sunday. Who does that? Consequently, I was awake rather late playing with my food processor. And I may have proud mother syndrome but I am going to say, she’s the best, ever. Literally, the best hummus I have ever had. The best almond butter I’ve ever had. Not the best cookies I have ever had–but that’s only because I should have added the chips last…and then would have retained the chip-ness. Instead I got CHOCOLATE COOKIES. Yummy but not what I intended. Also, I made them vegan! Yeah! I have a problem eating regular chocolate because of the dairy content. So these ones didn’t give me…issues.

Jen thinks I could land a husband with this hummus.

“Recipe” – Yummus Hummus

  • 1 can of chickpeas (15 oz.)
  • juice of 2 smallish lemons (keep seeds out!…obviously!)
  • like a couple tsp. of olive oil
  • a couple dashes of salt
  • 1 1/2 T. sesame tahini
  • 1-3 cloves of garlic depending on how much you love garlic and the size of the clove

Put it all in a food processor, zooshzoosh… and you’re done!

OK, I bought all of this because it was on sale 4/$9. and it will last me lunches for a couple weeks.

Dinner! Hummus on a pita with tofurkey = the best.

Chocolate chips that don’t make me feel sick! Yay!

Vegan CHOCOLATE (chip?) and peanut butter cookies

  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • cinnamon, a hefty dash or five
  • vegan chocolate chips
  • 1/3 c. white sugar
  • 2/3 c. brown sugar
  • 1/2 Earth Balance butter or vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 T. peanut butter because I wanted to get rid of it so I had a jar to store my almond butter in

Basically you put the dry stuff in the food processor with the dough attachment, and in a separate bowl mix the softened butter with the sugar. Add the vanilla last. If you want them to look like mine, put the chips in at the beginning, but if you want them to come out like real chocolate chip cookies, put the in at the end.

This literally was just almonds (one lb. bag for $4.49 at Whole Foods made enough to fill an old PB jar. Meaning making almond butter at home is cost-effective. AND SO MUCH FUN. TRY IT. )

Another amazing thing I did over the weekend: bought a new computer! My old one has been kernel panicking lately (just turns off sporadically), so I decided to splurge and spend some hard-earned babysitting dough.

OK enough messing around. Off to write my paper!

PS: Got any great food processor ideas? Drop me a line 🙂

Maqluba, hummus, falafel, baba ghanoush, baklava…

Yum. My professors rock, that’s all I have to say.

So last night being our final exam block for my Theories & Methods of Nonviolence class, our professors had us over to one of their homes to hand in our final papers and enjoy some fine home cooking. The professor whose home it was, was born in Palestine, so the food was mostly of that Mediterranean variety. It was all so delicious and it was a really cute night. And I took pictures this time because the food was just presented so wonderfully and tasted so great.

This is maqluba. It is basically a rice casserole and in this picture it is the one with chicken and cauliflower I believe. But the vegetarian one that I ate had eggplant and tomato. It was divine. And they flip it over so it’s like one of those upside-down pineapple cakes, only, it’s a casserole.

Salad.

HOMEMADE hummus and baba ghanoush. Which tastes infinitely better than out of a tub at the grocery store and now that I have a food processor and more time on my hands I can’t wait to make my own.

Falafel! I’ve only had falafel once before this, in Brisbane. It’s really popular in Australia for whatever reason…and my professor’s was awesome.

SO much good food.

PISTACHIO BAKLAVA. ‘Nuff said.

Oh, I also tried Arabic coffee. Not a fan. It’s really thick and gritty-like! Anyone ever tried it?

I think the best part of the meal is that it was so made-with-love tasting. It felt like being home for a holiday or something, and not just because we were out in Suburbia (which was totally weird, to see a vast backyard and homes so far apart from each other…) but because he and his wife cooked it all for us. They even set out ziploc bags after and made us take as much as we could home for leftovers. How awesome is that?

I went into this class knowing next to nothing about international relations and conflict resolution and all of that, but I still found it to be really interesting. It was way over my head in terms of being able to contribute to class discussion in a room full of many people who have actually been to the countries and seen things first-hand. But, I did get to learn a lot of new stuff and it was good to be out of my element.

All in all, if you’re an AU student and looking for an elective to take, I’d go for this class. Plus, there’s an awesome dinner at the end. =)

Communicating the benefits of urban agriculture while innovation grows

The area of urban agriculture has grown by leaps and bounds in just a few years. I think the more people start to realize the feasibility, and soon necessity, of producing their own food, the more it will develop and become even more feasible, affordable, and mainstream. So what are some of the innovations we have seen?

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Innovations in urban agriculture

  • Hydroponics is a method of growing fruits and vegetables in water, which conserves the use of vast areas of farmland and allows crops to be grown in desert areas where they otherwise would not be able to. Further, it is able to also conserve and re-use water that is lost during evaporation or field run-off in traditional soil farming. Also, there is no risk for parasites or weeds to infest the controlled systems in which hydroponic plants are grown, therefore making them largely non-GMO and free of pesticides and chemicals. Bonus: you can grow hydroponically basically anywhere–in an apartment or a house. Eve Bratman has a hydroponic garden on her houseboat that she made entirely on her own from used water bottles and empty jugs.
  • Permaculture is still a bit of a flimsy term, in my opinion, only because it can mean so many different things, and isn’t widely known about. But it basically indicates an “ecologically designed system for sustainability in all aspects of human endeavor.” Permaculture is currently being used in different ways in different places and in all of those places, there is not a unified “permaculture” there are just isolated tactics that build on the idea of a permaculture. For example, think of worm composting, or vermiculture, which is one such tactic which is being carried out in various cities in the country, some even offering workshops and providing free worms and materials to those interested. This provides a sort of mutual symbiosis between two living things–the worms benefits by being fed, humans benefit by receiving rich soil and not filling landfills with compostable garbage. Perhaps a ” perfect permaculture” is the pie-in-the-sky goal we set to achieve, but it is through these mutually symbiotic relationships that we are able to do get closer to that.

    Photo credit: cafedirect

  • Rooftop farming, which can often be combined with hydroponic growing, is typcially used in areas of urban sprawl where soil/ground space is limited, to utilize unused rooftop spaces where sunlight is ample. Eagle Street Rooftop Farm in Brooklyn is one case study that has really taken this concept to a whole new level. They also offer various workshops on cooking, gardening and how the farm works. Their farm grows primarily vegetables, and is open from June through November.
  • Sack gardening is a way for people to grow vegetables in small sack containers, usually when the contamination of the soil around them is too high. It is typically done on a smaller, individual scale, in places where food scarcity is a problem, and in both urban and rural locations.
  • Window farming is another way of using hydroponics, but in a specialized manner and primarily in urban settings. It is a way of using water bottles, water, hydroponic seeds (usually herbs and lettuce and greens like that), along with an low energy-intensive air pump which circulates the water, to grow plants in your window. This type of method is barely “farming,” however, if people were properly instructed on how to best go about making their own, it could be worth looking into. Also, if you live in a city and the view of your outdoors is the brick wall of the building next to yours, this could actually prove to be an improvement to your home, from an aesthetic viewpoint. (Not to mention that having plants in your home has been known to have all sorts of health benefits.)
  • Seasonal cooking would basically just mean knowing what is in season and planning your meals around those items. The fortunate reality is that a lot of us have access to local, fresh fruits and vegetables. However, many people don’t know what to do with a lot of those fruits and vegetables. It would be great to see more community and cooking classes, mobilizing people to learn how to cook just to start, but also to learn how to use local ingredients. Because if the option is there, there’s no reason not to choose local over imported. Epicurious offers an example of a map that can help to inform people about about what to expect is in peak season from their CSA or farmer’s market and how to therefore meal plan to accommodate those ingredients.

So what’s stopping us?

Locations. Some work better in some communities versus others.

Seasons. Not all of these methods can provide food at all times of the year everywhere, (except for the hydroponic ones.)

Culture/Value systems. People are going to have to shift how they think about and value their food, each other, and future generations. These types of methods require more time, patience, research, and money than traditional ways of getting food–going to a restaurant or the grocery store. Which means people are going to have to change the way they think about food. People might have to forfeit some of the time they spend watching television in the evenings in order to tend to their gardens or make time to cook meals from scratch in their homes. They are going to have to learn to appreciate eating with the seasons, and in fact, eating generally less, in quantity.

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Communicating benefits to consumers

While all of these methods of urban gardening and having a local, low carbon-footprint certainly interest some of us, and they are something we would be willing to use, they aren’t all 100 percent practical. Would these methods be used in conjunction with traditional food shopping? Would they slowly replace traditional methods? Or would they just be something some people adopted while others did not?

It’s hard to really know the answer. What I foresee is something quite similar to how companies like, say, Apple, market their products to consumers: first, the innovators get on board. Eve Bratman, my professor with the compost bin and on-the-boat garden, is one such innovator in the field of urban agriculture. Next, there are the early adopters, then the early majority (also called the “pragmatists”),  then the late majority (“the conservatives”), and lastly the laggards. How you move along more quickly is by conveying the importance–the “gotta-have-it” factor–of the technologies.

This reality and challenge is something that excites me, as a student and soon-to-be graduate in the field of communications. I feel like a lot of what is missing in the environmental movement is strategic communication about how and why people should change their behaviors. I think there is a place for communicators to get that message out to the public and I see that as being a huge catalyst for change in the future of the “sustainable movement”.

The way I imagine these sorts of methods becoming more widely accepted is through slow implementation motivated by strategic communication, just like all new technology works. Pilot programs embraced and tested out by the innovators and early adopters will not only provide evidence for the feasibility of certain tactics, but will allow for what doesn’t work to shine through and motivate alterations that can be modeled after later on. This will also allow programs to evolve at a pace that doesn’t freak out the “treehugger-phobics” as I like to call them (the kind of people who, when you “threaten to take away their right to buy bottled water” get all bent out of shape and start spouting off allegations of “fascism”)!

It’s important to communicate knowing that there are going to be those opposing voices when it comes to getting people to change their lifestyles. Which is why I feel when it comes to revolutionizing our food system, especially with tactics that require people to change on a personal level, you have to prove to consumers the benefits, and that change doesn’t have to be just easy, it’s rewarding.