#1. Produce your own food by sprouting inside, gardening outside, eating more raw food, and take care of waste by starting a compost pile.
No matter what your living situation, your physical condition, your age or disposition, producing your own food is good for you and the earth. You can sprout and compost all year long, Gardening can be inside or out, in the ground, raised beds or containers, early spring through late fall or just the sunny months. You can grow for immediate use or learn to can, dry, freeze and store your produce.
Wow!! If you are thinking “That sounds like a lot of work and a lot to learn”, you are right. Perhaps you are asking, “Where do I start, what are the advantages, how much energy can I save, is it really worth it?” This article begins to answer those questions and links you to other articles that can help.
First some of the benefits:
• Your food is in your home or yard. No gasoline to travel to the market.
• There is no packaging.
• No energy used in storage. Vegetables are picked and eaten immediately.
• If you grow organically, there are no pesticides or chemical fertilizers.
• Energy to cook food is reduced.
• Garbage becomes a useful soil additive (compost) with nature doing the work not to be transported miles to be deposed of.
• Every benefit of the other nine ways to save fossil fuel energy (check them out).
There is an article on sprouting on this website. It is an easy way to start a relationship with seeds, watching germination and early growth. It is fast (usually 2-4 days from start to harvest), cheap and easy. The food is highly nutritious, tasty and versatile. You can use many sprouts like lettuce or with lettuce for salads. They can be dropped into soups or stews at the last minute or added to a stir fry. They can be chopped and mixed with other ingredients for dips and spreads. They can be ground and dehydrated into flat bread or crackers. The seeds are stored at room temperature and can be almost anything: alfalfa, clover, broccoli, wheat, rye, spelt, sesame, sunflower, pumpkin, lentil, chickpea, mungbean and on and on. Some seeds can be exposed to light on the last day to “green up” providing more nutrition. Micro-greens (very young plants) can also be grown on your counter top or under lights
Gardening on any scale provides food with minimal expenditure of fossil fuel. The energy used is your own. The physical activity is not only good exercise, but deeply rewarding. Whether you live in an apartment, in a house in the city or suburb or on a farm, you can garden. There is a series on this site called “Gardening Through The Year (GTTY)” in Sustainable Living that provides help with many ideas and a time table for our area. Just read one entry a month for that month and decide what you can do. If you have never gardened, it is wise to start small and get some experience. If you think that food from roadside stands and farmers’ markets is wonderful, just wait until you pick and prepare your own. If you have a gardener in your neighborhood, ask for help and advice. Gardeners love to share their knowledge, not just their zucchini. Be sure to grow only the things you like to eat.
When you have an abundant supply of fresh produce from your own garden, it is easy to eat food raw, especially in the summer. There are many websites with recipes and preparation methods for raw food. The energy savings is obvious – no gas or electric, just your energy again, chopping, grating, mashing, etc.
Finally there is composting. There is really no better way to disposed of all your vegetable waste that to build a compost pile. It can be as simple as finding a spot in your yard that is inconspicuous and dumping your garbage there, layering it with leaves or grass clipping and a couple shovels of dirt from time to time. Compost happens. With minimal attention, the bacteria and fungus do all the work, decomposing the organic matter into a rich, soil-like additive. You can turn the pile to speed the action (those soil organisms love the oxygen). If you do not have a vegetable garden or flower beds, use this on your lawn or to side dress your trees. Return it to the earth.
The benefits of becoming more food independent are immense. You will forget that you started to save energy. The security of a pantry of home canned tomatoes, a freezer with beans and greens, a storage place with winter squash and potatoes and onions gives you a sense of ease and contentment. Knowing how to take care of the land increases its fertility, but also your connection to it and appreciation of every living thing. Your health will improve with the better nutrition, the exercise, the sunshine and the peace the plants share with you. It is truly an experience you do not want to miss in life.
If you have never done any of these things, begin right now by learning about sprouting. Next month buy a few seed packets and try a small garden. Just start somewhere and enjoy the journey.
Nancy is a retired secondary teacher. She built and lives in an active and passive solar, high thermal mass home. She is an avid gardener and helps others to learn how to garden.