the TAO of CHANGE

a boots-on-the-ground view of the change that's a-foot

Posts Tagged ‘organic’

Your Money Or Your Life?

Wednesday, September 3rd, 2008

by Tao Oliveto, Carrboro, NC

A friend shared a story the other day about her experience of a would-be city mugging several years back. Though a truly frightening moment, it had a happy ending with the mugger running off. The punch line, only amusing in retrospect, was that for unusual reasons, my friend happened to have $2,000 cash with her at the time.

It got me to thinking about how some decisions are darn simple – based on an innate instinct of survival – one that could not be ignored. If the mugger holds a gun to your head and says, “Your money or your life?” It’s a no-brainer. You’re either James Bond, or you give up the money.

So, why, in contrast, do our sustainable “life and death” choices seem so difficult to make? For me, it goes back to my early work in nutrition. I could easily convince people to by supplements and exercise, but hit a road block when, with the organic food movement still young, I struggled to convince people that paying more to eat organically was truly a choice between their money or their life (and the life of the planet.) It took not just facts, figures and threats over pesticides in our bodies, water and soil, but the willingness of my clients  to see the larger, long-term picture that shed light way beyond their wallets.

I started to take small groups through the natural food store (newly owned by Whole Foods) stopping in each department to talk about the truth regarding conventional and organic choices. I knew my stuff and was nothing if not passionate about the topic. I even shopped on a tight budget myself and managed it while committing to eating close to 100% organic food. Surprisingly, my conversion rate was a mere 40%, leaving me feeling not just disappointed, but baffled. Wasn’t the choice obvious? Wasn’t this something that could make us healthier right now and protect our future? Wasn’t it simply a matter of money  – and not all that much of it?

I’m an idealist, if not an optimist, so the wake-up call was difficult – though I did (not surprisingly) get offered a position at that store, where I continued to share my excitement about the whole foods/organic food business for several years. Local eating came along later and the transition by consumers has been similar in many ways – slow in coming, wrapped up in the long, arduous process of getting enough information out to enough people and the commitment of small groups of dedicated farmers and consumers.

Now our money and life choices have extended to living sustainably in many other ways and perhaps the questions change slightly when it comes to our cars, our homes, our use of resources, our wasteful habits. Your life or your luxuries? Your life or your conveniences? Your life or your ego?

The answers still feel knee-jerk certain to me – more no-brainers. What’ll it be? Your money or your life?

Culinary Adventures – deliciously local

Tuesday, April 29th, 2008

by Tao Oliveto, Brattleboro, VT

Our first meal in Brattleboro was at the local Co-op down the street from our historically amazing hotel (see below). Now that I think about it – while we enjoyed coffee, tea and homemade goodies from many other local establishments – our first, last and most meals in between were at the co-op down the street. This is not a coincidence. A food co-op is high on my list of priorities when I’m choosing a travel destination. It allows me to eat in a healthy, simple, affordable and local way, and on my own schedule. I can also stock up on wholesome snacks to stow away for other activities like hiking.

If you’re thinking this is some kind of sacrifice – think again. In addition to organic produce and bulk items like nuts and energy snacks, co-ops usually have “salad, etc.” bars and delicious-looking hot foods (which change daily), in addition to local specialties like baked goods and farm products. In this case, we tried various local cheeses and yogurt and even an outstanding chocolate bar by Taza, made in Somerville, MA. In fact, my first meal was entirely local and organic: baby swiss cheese, cultured daikon and cabbage, fresh-baked bread with local butter and even tapioca pudding – compliments of a cow named Stella. From the hot bar, we experienced excellent scrambled eggs, breakfast burritos, vegetarian lasagna and polenta.

I like meeting co-op employees and other patrons, too – friendly, interesting and interested folks who don’t look at you funny when you pull out your canvas shopping bag or your cloth napkin. We even stumbled in on a wine-tasting event one day – no plastic cups! They gave each person their own real wine glass to use for the event. We did buy a bottle at the local wine store and when we mentioned we were at the hotel, we were offered two glasses to take with us and return later.

I save sit-down dining for selected occasions, so I’m not sure how much less I spent eating this way, but I imagine it is significant in terms of the average traveler. As you’ve read, though, I’m in it for the experience, curiosity and to satisfy my green greediness. I’ve been munching my way through many miles this way and I always end up feeling healthy, energized and happy to be part of the local economy of each new place.

Happy and deliciously greener travels.



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