One local food meal = one step toward reducing foreign oil dependence

Posted by Sustainable OKC | Posted in Change, Community, Conservation, Consumption, Energy, Food and Drink, Local Economy, Locavore, Oklahoma City, Peak Oil, Resiliency, Shauna Lawyer Struby, Sustainability, Sustainable OKC, Transition OKC | Posted on 14-04-2011

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A couple of weeks ago Transition OKC helped host a Local Food Meet and Greet. The Meet and Greet provided a host of folks passionate about growing a local food system the opportunity to network and get to know each other better. It was enthusiastically and well-attended, with more than 110 people coming on a sunny Saturday afternoon to IAO Gallery in Oklahoma City to nosh on locally produced food, wine and do a little “speed meeting.”

The event was organized by the “Going Locavore Group,” a loosely organized and growing grassroots coalition (or alliance) of several Oklahoma City organizations focused on catalyzing and transitioning our food system to a healthier, more sustainable and resilient one – and one strategy for doing so is to localize it. The team organizing the event was for the most part all-volunteer, and although we were scrambling up until the last minute to put all the details in place – we pulled it off – a total team effort if there ever was one. If you have any interest in networking with this group, or want more info, email us at localfoodokc@gmail.com

As one of the volunteers working on this event, part of my task was to put together a slide show about the reasons for transitioning to eating local food, and to provide a high-level overview of some of the initiatives in other states focused on growing regional and local food systems. As we researched, we discovered coalitions in New York City and Vermont have aggressive strategic plans for regional and localized food sheds and the body of work on this topic is growing exponentially — encouraging.

Above you’ll find one of the slides from the presentation and I’ll be sharing more of these in the coming days. Eventually will put the whole presentation online at ThinkLady and here on Fresh Greens as well Transition OKC’s website so if it is useful in any way to other local food efforts, it’s available for anyone to use and adapt.

In the meantime, given the high price of gas these days, the fact the era of cheap, easy-to-produce oil is over, and the growing production decline in one of the U.S.’s major suppliers of oil – Mexico — thought this slide might be a good one to start with. It illustrates one way we can begin to reduce our dependence on foreign oil imports. Ebullient and grateful hat tip to Barbara Kingsolver and Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life, for helping us imagine a different way of eating in the world.

Imagine abundant local food. Imagine the jobs it will create and the ways it will strengthen our local economy. Envision the health it will bring to our school kids, our communities, the resilience it will give our communities. Imagine how much we can reduce our country’s oil addiction if we eat not just one, but two local food meals a week, three, five, etc. Imagine. And then try it. I think you’ll like it.

If you’d like info on how to get started eating locally head over to Transition OKC’s website where we have a page full of local food resources.

– post by Shauna Struby, this post originally appeared on ThinkLady 

Keep on reeling in the green world

Posted by Sustainable OKC | Posted in Change, Consumption, Current Affairs, Energy, Environment, Farming, Film, Food and Drink, Home and Garden, Sustainability, Sustainable OKC, Transition Town | Posted on 11-09-2009

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Sustainable OKC, the Cimarron Chapter of Sierra Club, and Slow Food OKC are sponsoring a film series, “Sustainability on Film,” at the Oklahoma City Museum of Art, Wed., Sept 15 – Sun., Sept 20, with a panel discussion following the Sunday film.

The films highlight a complex array of the challenges facing us. Film Curator Brian Hearn describes the series:

As our economic, social and environmental activities become increasingly integrated on a global scale, the human species faces unprecedented challenges. In the wake of the groundbreaking documentary “An Inconvenient Truth,” filmmakers have been examining the complex issues facing our species and planet: climate change, dwindling natural resources, population growth, economic crises and political conflict. Along the way humans are finding innovative, simple solutions from growing their own food, to green building, to developing new forms of renewable energy. These films explore how we meet our needs in the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet theirs.

Films

Wed., Sept. 16 – “Fresh” & “Food for Thought”

Thurs., Sept. 17 – “The Great Squeeze: Surviving the Human Project” & “Greening in the Heartland”

Fri., Sept 18 – “The Greening of Southie” and “Food, Inc.”

Sat., Sept. 19 – “The Garden” and “No Impact Man

Sun., Sept. 20 – “Earth Days

Join us Sunday after the final screening for a panel discussion, “Sustainability in Oklahoma: Where Do We Go from Here?” with local experts on how Oklahomans are dealing with the global issue of sustainability. Panelists for the discussion following Sunday’s film:

Bruce Edwards, Director, Urban Harvest at the Oklahoma Regional Food Bank

Kenneth Fitzsimmons, architect, U.S. Green Building Council, Oklahoma Chapter

Stephanie Jordan, Sierra Club Conservation Committee / Buy Fresh Buy Local Central Oklahoma

Jim Roth, attorney and Chair of the Alternative “Green” Energy practice group, Phillips Murrah P.C.

Shauna Lawyer Struby, Sustainable OKC / Transition Town OKC

Jonathan Willner, Professor of Economics, Oklahoma City University

Complete listing of films, screening times and summaries of each film available here.

Money for trash and the perks aren’t free

Posted by Sustainable OKC | Posted in Change, Compost, Consumption, Environment, Local Government, Oklahoma City, Recycling, Tricia Dameron, Waste Management | Posted on 25-08-2009

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by Tricia Dameron

City living definitely has its perks. One perk I’m enjoying since we moved to inner-OKC a mere three weeks ago has been curbside recycling. What a treat! Previously we lived in an unincorporated area and had to haul our recycling to a drop-off center during Saturday morning errands. Everything had to be sorted and it was common for the dumpsters to be overflowing with recyclables, resulting in us carting our waste back to the house.

Today is trash day in my new neighborhood and as I made my way to the office, I pondered the missing “Little Blues” at many of my neighbors’ curbs. I cannot comprehend why someone would opt out of curbside recycling. Because of my various residences, taking recycling to drop-off centers has always been a highly regarded pain in the butt. Comparatively, curbside recycling is a luxury. As of July 2009 26 percent of OKC trash customers set out their “Little Blue” every week and 52 percent of the same participate in curbside recycling, according to Mark Jordan at Recycle America. Perhaps you’re asking yourself, “What is the difference between set-out rate and participation rate?” I’m not clear on that yet, but check back for more information in the comments.

I wish Oklahoma City had a residential pay-as-you-throw program. I recycle and compost without financial incentive, but it would nice (and logical) to pay less when I use less (landfill space), as it is with gas, electricity, and city water. For $16.23/month, you can fill two 90-gallon “Big Blue” containers per week. A third 90-gallon cart costs an additional $2.76/month. I can request a smaller cart, but I’ll pay the same if I dispose 7 gallons or 180 gallons of waste per week. I wonder if there has been any correlation between pay-as-you-throw programs and multiplying illegal dump sites?

Recycling can also be incentivized by container deposit legislation (also called a “bottle bill”), which requires a refundable deposit on beverage containers. Seven states with bottle bills studied litter rates and found a substantial reduction in beverage container litter. Oklahoma Department of Transportation spends $3.5 million/year cleaning up litter along state highways. A 1998 litter survey found beverage containers to be the fourth highest source of litter in Oklahoma.

Iowa, with land area and population comparable to Oklahoma, enacted a bottle bill in 1978. If Iowa can do it, why can’t Oklahoma? Several attempts to enact a bottle bill have failed in the Oklahoma Legislature. In 2008 a measure creating a task force to simply study container deposit legislation didn’t even get a committee hearing.

Spending taxes to pick up litter will never cure the problem. And burying reusable materials — materials that save money, energy and natural resources — comes straight from pages of “Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed,” by Jared Diamond. Both practices seem antithetical to the fiscally conservative values of the political majority here in Oklahoma.

Meandering thoughts from inside a heat wave

Posted by Sustainable OKC | Posted in Change, Consumption, Energy, Environment, Nature, Robbie White, Sustainability | Posted on 24-07-2009

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By Robbie White

I live in an historic neighborhood so I often think about our connection with those who lived before us in our home, of how things were “back then.” Our house was built in 1903. Most of our neighborhood came along in the decades around statehood. During this most recent heat wave my thoughts have wandered to how things were before air conditioning. 

I think of trying to sleep in a house with no relief form the heat. Then, I look at the lovely windows in my home. If those windows were opened, a nice cross breeze would cool each room of this house. A walk around the outside with this in mind reveals yet another reason for nurturing that huge pecan tree that has shaded the house for so many decades. In fact, most of our bedrooms are shaded in one way or another by trees or else they are on the north side. I wonder if this house had a sleeping porch screened from bugs but open on all sides. These days we have so many places to cool off on hot days — the library, a movie theater, church, the mall, and so on — but we still have to sleep at night. And I sleep better when it is cool. 

I recently read the book, “The Help” by Kathryn Stockett. The book is set in Jackson, Mississippi in the early 1960s. Electric air is a new thing for the residents of the southern town. In one scene, the main character is trying to sleep in her parents’ plantation home, built in the late 19th century. She eventually ends up on the back porch remembering how many nights she slept on a cot out there in summer. In this and other stories of days before air conditioning, the heat becomes a force that shapes the lives in the narrative and illustrates how close those people lived to the natural world. 

My kids and I hid from the heat most days during the recent heat wave. We stayed inside where it was relatively cool. We watched movies, read books and worked around the house. We could be oblivious to the heat if we chose.

But with a sustainable lifestyle, you’re trying not to be oblivious. It’s easy to let the car idle in a heat wave because it is so hot, or to drive a car instead of bicycling on an errand. And you begin to see the challenge of stepping away from all that technology and of moving one step closer to the way things ought to be. 

How do you make your life more sustainable? In what ways are you closer to the natural world? Do you grow your own vegetables or have a compost bin or pile? Maybe you attended the local food fair at Harn Homestead last week? Or perhaps you support local farmers? Looking forward to your ideas. 

Let’s celebrate our choices together on Fresh Greens!

Look how far we’ve come

Posted by Sustainable OKC | Posted in Books, Consumption, Entertainment, Film, Robbie White, Television | Posted on 09-06-2009

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by Robbie White

From paper to plastic to paper again, from tape to disc to digital files, Robbie takes a thoughtful look at how technology is changing the way we consume, hopefully for the better.

The other day I picked up a paper straw at the OKC Zoo to drink a coke-flavored Icee and was transported back to my childhood when paper straws were the norm. At first the paper straw was kind of annoying because I crushed the end, and unlike the plastic version, the paper straw did not return to its original shape. I turned the straw over and was careful not to crush the drinking end again — firmly resisting the urge to get a new straw — and this led to pondering differences in consumption since my childhood.

Consider for a moment television and movies: I was recently telling my kids about elementary school days in the late 1970s, when we watched movies and film strips sparingly at school. We filed into the old gymnasium at Neil Armstrong Elementary School in Bettendorf, Iowa, and watched nature films projected onto a huge screen using 16mm projectors. These films were carefully cared for by our teachers who shared them with the whole district. I can’t remember being told this specifically, but I always knew the films were valuable and had to be checked out in advance.

The early ‘80s saw the advent of Laserdisc, VHS and Betamax consumer video recording and viewing formats. As a young married couple, we started accumulating VHS tapes purchased or received as gifts. We were so excited to finally own a player! I recorded my favorite shows and even catalogued a few seasons of “Star Trek: The Next Generation.”

Our collection of VHS cassettes was impressive by the time DVDs became readily available in the late ‘90s. We still have a collection of favorites on VHS we can’t bring ourselves to part with, but we’ve slowly replaced many titles on DVD as they become available. Admittedly, we’ve created a small nostalgic but wasteful set of movies on both formats. The ten years that passed between the purchases does not excuse the waste.

In 2008, we discovered Apple TV which allows us to build a library digitally stored and accessible from any of our authorized devices. Apple TV is not perfect but it is getting better. We can rent a movie without using any resources at all (except money and electricity) for store visits or delivery by mail. We can purchase other media this way as well. There are no discs to scratch, no magnetic tapes to deteriorate, but there are some limitations with regard to licensing agreements, sharing media with others, and decades from now when we pass away, we wonder whether our digital media will become nothing but virtual debris.

The movies we love (and hate) create a story of their own about us. My unique set of movies is a way of describing myself. For example, I liked “The Departed,” but not “The Godfather;” the Keira Knightly version of “Pride and Prejudice,” but not the ‘80s version; and I love “iCarly” and “M*A*S*H,” but not one other TV sitcom in the intervening decades has engaged my attention. Much as the books we keep and reread over years say much about us, I wish to preserve our film and video collection for our children and grandchildren, or at least the essence of it.

The same questions apply to e-books. My husband and I both have Kindle readers. We love the experience of reading on this elegant device, and appreciate the fact this digital tool allows us to control our consumption so we can again enjoy reading daily newspapers without waste or mess. I am discovering periodicals again because of Kindle. I cannot, however, loan you a magazine, but I can send an email with an article or selected text, or if really necessary, print it in the old-fashioned way.

I see new media delivery and storage devices as a
n improvement over the consumption of paper, but I don’t know what is involved in the production of a Kindle device. Will we discover some toxic secret (such as mercury in compact fluorescent light bulbs)? Will new technology in a few years cause us to recycle outmoded Kindles for something more cutting edge?

While none of us knows what the future holds, what each of us can do in the present is consume less of this planet’s resources by making decisions based on the best knowledge available in the present, and by doing so, contribute to a better future.