A Clean Life Thanksgiving

If you remember back to the stories we learned in school then Thanksgiving is about giving thanks. This is in two specific areas thanks for the fall harvest and gratitude to others (thanks in general).

This Thanksgiving I ask you, the reader, to honor this tradition by getting into the fall harvest. Head to your local farmers market for fall harvest potatoes, vegetables, etc. Stop by your local whole foods for a free range, cage free heritage turkey.

Potatoes at the farmers market should be abundant and cheap (comment if you can’t find a market in your area). At Whole Foods you can special order a turkey (link helps you find a location). I went in and talked to the butcher, he said to estimate about 1.5 pounds per person and the price was $2.50/pound. For my family dinner of 6 people that will be about $25 for the turkey.

The benefits to doing so are numerous and powerful. Supporting a local farmer builds up our Capital foodshed and adds to a sustainable food industry. It reduces pollution in your community and in our water. It even increases you and your family’s health.

If you’ve heard me speak before you know that our current food system is one of the largest polluters in the world. It is also one of the unhealthiest (67% of all adults are overweight). Unfortunately, the alternatives to this food system (farmers markets, coops) constitute only 2% of our food system. Some studies show that if every American were to buy one item at a farmers market each week then that 2% would grow to 10% in one year. Maybe this Thanksgiving is your chance to join in.

Turkey’s are another story altogether and its not a sweet bedtime story. Most turkey’s purchased for this Thanksgiving will be obese and loaded with drugs. Their weight problems and our industrialized food system also make them sterile or unable to reproduce. They are fed an unnatural diet that kills their organs, requiring more drugs. Their cages are indoor factories where they have no room to move (rarely move their whole life) and often sit in their own bathroom stuff.

I won’t scare or bore you with any more details. But, I hope it does give you a motivation to develop a new Thanksgiving tradition this year. If you do you can join several million people around the country and the world who are doing so. In the process we are all making ourselves healthier, the planet cleaner, and creating a sustainable future for our children.

My Visit to Whole Foods Compost

Tonight I visited the Whole Foods stores of Washington D.C. and spoke with a nice lady named Erin. She is a part of the green mission for the market super chain. Thank you very much Erin for showing me around the compost operations.

Whole Foods is truly a unique operation in that it actually has a green mission. The mission is a part of its core values to care “About Our Communities & Our Environment”. Now, I bet most of you are thinking that this is another corporate ploy. I had the same thought and so I used this opportunity to discover for myself.

Right when I arrived at the Tenleytown store, Erin greeted me and we began discussing the internal workings of the composting business. We talked about facilities, pick-ups, and different types of decomposition. She explained how the stores she works with are cutting their waste disposal costs in half by actively engaging in composting. They are able to divert very high percentages of their waste away from landfills. Something in the range of 80-90%, very close to being a zero waste corporation.

That right there was enough for me. Here is a large operation that could be sending out many tons of waste each day to our landfills. Instead they are being proactive, saving money, and proving that it works.

As we continued along, Erin showed me how she implemented these features in the store. At nearly every location where a trash can existed there was also a recycle bin and a compost bin. Now anyone involved in recycling knows that sorting this stuff is tough. Yet the employees had worked this into their daily activities, it was almost second nature. It was really cool to watch one worker spend the time to break down and compact some cardboard, instead of just wheel it outside to the dumpster.

An interesting side note is that all of this is hidden from the customers. We definitely live in a bubble wrapped world.

Other features of the operation were that as the process grew she was working on making everything in the store recycled. The actual trash bins were few and far between (most that I did see were for the customers). The large trash chutes and compactors were now being used for compost and recycling, rather than for landfill trash.

Can you imagine working in an environment with only recycle/compost bins and no trash cans?

I’m not sure these workers ever imagined that, but here they are working that way. They were deeply involved in a quiet compost revolution at their stores.

Overall it was quite an impressive operation and I walked away impressed and hopeful for this nonprofit’s future.

Thanks again Erin.

P.S. thanks to the @wholefoods twitter account for this informative tweet. Also, here is a link to their blog about their compost operations.