A reel green thing at the deadCenter Film Festival

Posted by Sustainable OKC | Posted in Current Affairs, Film, Food and Drink, Social Justice, Transition Town | Posted on 05-06-2009

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Now in its ninth year, the merry, amazing, ever-growing deadCenter Film Festival has a reel green thing going on this year with an entire block of four films devoted to sustainability, Sat., June 13, 1 p.m. at the Kerr Auditorium, Oklahoma City. Click here for details. Of course the whole festival is worth checking into for a few days of creative immersion, but if you can’t make if for the full film

enchilada, then at least save time for the sustainability slice.

Here’s what’s reeling in the deadCenter green world:

Chase the Can | DEQ | An aluminum can makes an unexpected journey in this wind-powered video from the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality.

Soil in Good Heart | Deborah Koons Garcia | Soil In Good Heart is a taste of a documentary currently in production by Deborah Koons Garcia, director of The Future of Food (2004). The importance of understanding, preserving and rebuilding this essential resource is the foundation of sustainable agriculture. We are all part of the soil community and we ignore this at our peril.

A Moment of Reflection

Posted by Sustainable OKC | Posted in Current Affairs, Jennifer Gooden, Politics, Social Justice, Volunteering | Posted on 26-01-2009

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by Jennifer Gooden

Occasionally, everything comes together in a way that triggers my reflection and gratitude. I had one of those days today and thought I would share this moment with our Fresh Greens readers.

It began this morning at work at the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma, where we had the first meeting of our green team. The food bank has already made admirable strides toward energy efficiency and environmental stewardship, including efforts as sophisticated as lighting and energy management systems to practices as hands-on as organic gardening and vermiculture. Still, there is more we can do, and our nascent team met this morning to plan for future improvements. I am so happy to be a part of an organization that has broad vision and an ethic of constant improvement.

Today, Monday, January 19, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, was also the day that Michelle Obama called upon our country to engage in volunteerism, suggesting we give up our lunch money and lunch hours to donate to and volunteer at food banks. Our building was filled with people today, all helping sort food and assemble backpacks for our Food 4 Kids program. We regularly have volunteers at the food bank—15,000 a year, in fact—but it was a busy day for us and a great opportunity to come together as a community to feed those in need.

Connected to this day of service is a day of anticipation. Tomorrow is the inauguration of Barack Obama as President of the United States. I have never seen so many people in our country so full of hope, so aware of the significance of this moment in history, and so proud to be part of this collective celebration of our nation. 

So this day closes with gratitude and optimism. In the spirit of progress and the many ways in which we can come together to craft a brighter tomorrow, I savor this moment and look forward to the years to come.

Braving the Blue Norther

Posted by Sustainable OKC | Posted in Bob Waldrop, Community, Food and Drink, Social Justice, Volunteering | Posted on 22-12-2008

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by Bob Waldrop

On Saturday afternoon, I was finishing up the day’s work of coordinating the delivery of food to 300+ low income households. As I moved empty boxes and bags from the U-haul to my pick-up, I was cold. I had on three layers of clothes, two coats, hat and gloves, but even so I was chilled to the bones. I had been in the cold most of that day, and as we all know, the Blue Norther came in early. A stray thought crept into my brain.  “Exactly why is it that you are doing this Mr. Waldrop?” 

I have had that thought before. I remember thinking it one hot August day, in the midst of the monthly Delivery Day of the Oklahoma Food Coop, at our non-air-conditioned facility.

Yesterday, as I thought about the day’s work, I remembered an elderly woman who died a few years ago. We delivered food to her every month for years. On the last Christmas that she was alive, she gave me a card, and it had 2 quarters taped inside. When I opened it and saw the coins, I burst into tears. Here was truly a Widow’s Mite. I have that card and those quarters to this day, and every so often I just take it out and look at it. 

Some would have us believe that there is nothing more to life than greed and selfishness. To those who hold these views, what happens on the Delivery Day of the Oklahoma Food Cooperative, or at a Catholic Worker delivery day, would seem almost incomprehensible. Both events  are ecumenical affairs – religiously, politically, socially, and culturally. Many of these volunteers would not ordinarily be in the same room or even necessarily on speaking terms. Yet, we find in these works of social justice and environmental sustainability, common cause,  common ground, and a common hope. 

We do not lack for issues that divide us these days. Indeed, the polarization that grips our politics and economics is deadly for community, but countering that polarization is the growing realization among a diverse group of people that we are all in this together. There’s a name for that feeling, and it’s called solidarity. That’s why fifty people gave up time this past weekend to engage in a little distributive justice. That’s why people come back, month after month, and work hard at the delivery day of the Oklahoma Food Cooperative. That’s why, in the midst of all the crises and dooms that confront us, I remain hopeful. The way I figure it, if we can get people to work all day in an un-air-conditioned warehouse to distribute local foods and get people out in the midst of a cold blue norther to deliver groceries to low income people they don’t even know, then there is nothing that cannot be done.

In the midst of the darkness of the growing shadow of Mordor over Middle Earth, the enormity of his task confronts Frodo, and he says plaintively to Gandalf that he wished that these events were not occurring in his time. Gandalf replied, "So do I, and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for us to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us."

So as the troubles come so fast we can barely keep up with the flow of events, never forget that every moment we can create a future that we will want our children to live in. If you seek a solution to economic and ecological crises, random and deliberate acts of beauty, kindness, wisdom, justice, and sustainability are all good places to start.

Financial Trends—Food Trends

Posted by Sustainable OKC | Posted in Business, Community, Current Affairs, David Brooks, Family, Finances, Food and Drink, Home and Garden, Locavore, Social Justice | Posted on 26-10-2008

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by David Brooks

Americans have watched in awe as the financial markets have taken a rollercoaster ride that few expected, or knew how to handle. Families are making adjustments in spending so their paychecks will make it to month’s end. It is not surprising that how well a family eats is more and more based on finances instead nutritional choices. The reason is simple; food is purchased with the families’ finances and finances are struggling. 

One thing we know for sure is that no matter what the state of the economy people are going to eat. Unfortunately, money is often the determining factor in the quality of food that is chosen. From the corporate side we know that when money is tight people select less expensive food that tends to fill them up.  This trend is what makes the sale of Chips, white bread, and pasta increase while the sales of lean meat, fresh produce, and healthy beverages decline. The trend is also apparent in the restaurant business. Sit-down restaurants see their business slow while restaurants with a drive through show strength. Steak gives way to Pizza in tough financial times. However, during the 3rd quarter of 2008, even the fast food groups showed a decline in customer count as well as a decline in the revenue going through the registers.

If this recession continues, those that thought about a garden in 2008 will probably start digging in 2009. The families that worked hard this summer planting, gathering, freezing and canning, will have the opportunity to eat well, and healthily, through the tough times. 

The company I work for partners with the Regional Food Banks of Oklahoma to supply food for kids that do not eat well, or at all, from school lunch Friday until school breakfast on Monday. These kids are now receiving a backpack on Friday with a weekend’s supply of nutritional food that needs no preparation. The number currently receiving backpacks on Friday is a little over 11,000. The waiting list has grown from 2,000 to 7,000 this school year. It is a sign that people are struggling and that next year more families should read this blog, and consider growing a garden.

The food business is constantly monitoring and even attempting to change the food trends in the world. I thought you might like to see what the pundits are saying about the expected trends for 2009:

•    In marketing terms, “organic” has gone mainstream. “Local” will be the term for 2009. Consumers want to know where their food came from and restaurants are beginning to brag about local sourcing. Hence the growth in farmers markets, and community supported agriculture.

•    Unfortunately, the ideal of from-scratch cooking has been set aside for convenience and speed. Encouraged by pre-made sauces, frozen entrees and other conveniences, people will be buying, or assembling, many of their meals. Cost will be high for such convenience.

•    As eco-sensitivity has grown, consumers have questioned whether eating organic grapes from Chile is a particularly “green” choice. In the future, people will want to know how far their food traveled, and the closer the better.

•    There is a chance that “local” will see the same dilution that “organic” has seen once the big box retailers get involved. There were so many labels claiming organic origins in 2008 that consumers doubted the validity.

•    Another predicted trend is the growth of vegetarianism. Deborah Madison’s book “Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone” was re-released recently after having sold over 300,000 copies.

•    Watch for a rating system that will keep score of the “good-for-you-ness” of food.

•    Expect more from probiotics, a fancy word meaning friendly bacteria that is good for the gut. So far yogurt is the expected source, but soon to hit the market will be: cheeses, supplements, milk, and even chocolates.

•    Functional Water (vitamins and minerals added) will continue to be the rage.

•    As companies try to make products more healthful, notice that “low-“ a favored prefix for calories, salt and fat will be replaced by “crunchy” and “crispy.” Some products will taste bad, but apparently they will be fun to chew.

•    Last but not least, the trend for America to become even more obese is expected to increase. As consumers purchase foods that fill the belly but are not necessarily healthy, this trend is a natural result of these financial times.

The world food supply is still strong. Distribution, or lack of it, is why parts of the world remain hungry. It is no surprise to people reading this blog that good food is still grown in the backyard, and food laced with chemicals we can’t pronounce, or explain their function, is the primary item on the grocer’s shelf. 

Should these financial troubles continue—and they will—we should all grow more, and share with others at the local farmer’s market. Sometimes good ideas actually do catch on.

One last note: “locavore” was chosen as WORD OF THE YEAR by the New Oxford American Dictionary. It means one who eats locally grown food. 

A Question to Ponder

Posted by Sustainable OKC | Posted in Community, Jennifer Gooden, Social Justice | Posted on 01-09-2008

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by Jennifer Gooden

I sat down to write a post about social justice and sustainability in an attempt to tie together my experiences working to alleviate homelessness and volunteering for a sustainability organization. I expected that I could draw the two together fairly easily, given that 1) sustainability purports its three pillars to be economy, environment, and social justice, each carrying equal weight, and 2) I spend a lot of time thinking about them both.

Disappointingly, I wasn’t able to tie together social justice and sustainability, at least with the time and resources I had available on a Sunday afternoon. I found I couldn’t make an argument that withstood scrutiny.

Here’s the crux of the problem. To sustain something means, essentially, to keep it going. If something is unsustainable, then it can’t be kept going. To say that social injustice can’t be sustained is, well, false.  Sadly, social injustice has been sustained for centuries, likely millennia.

I should clarify that the question of whether social justice and sustainability are connected is a separate question from whether either of them is right or wrong. I think it’s widely accepted in our culture that both social justice and sustainability are concepts that are virtuous.  But we cannot fall into the trap of assuming “sustainable” and “right” are synonymous.

Since I was not able to answer my own question, I would like to throw it out to our Fresh Greens readers:

•    Why do you think social justice is described as a necessary and required component of sustainability?
•    We know that social injustice is wrong, but is it fair to assume that social injustice is unsustainable?

I look forward to hearing your answers. In the meantime, if I come across any convincing arguments, I’ll post a response to share the good news.

Happy thinking!