There has been some cautiously excited buzz lately around the new federal climate legislation: finally, it feels like, something on a large scale policy level is actually being done. And even though we all know it’s not enough, and despite the despair we can sometimes feel about the intransigence of a fossil-fuel-driven oligarchy, it IS a sign that activism and advocacy can still play an important role in change. What we do, what we say, and how we act on the things we care about are critical to shaping a living, thriving, equitable system of food, energy, housing, economics, transportation, and urban design.
It’s hopefully pretty obvious to our valued members and supporters that MARSH is actively attempting to create a relational, reciprocal, cooperative economy that centers climate awareness and action. Some examples include:
- Bulk food options that reduce single use packaging, encourage “bring your own” or recycled containers, and concentrate nutrition. (50% of all plastic waste is packaging, less than a third of that is presently recycled.) https://ourworldindata.org/plastic-pollution
- No single use packaging. Though it is extremely difficult to balance the value of plastic in preserving food integrity (and therefore mitigating waste), our produce and prepared food packaging is all re-usable and/or recycled. Patrons are strongly encouraged to bring their own tote bags or, if possible, reuse the paper ones we supply, and to return any bags or containers for reuse.
- No-waste kitchen/inventory management. Americans discard 30 to 40 percent of all food produced. Much of this is grocery store waste: a typical grocery discards over 30 percent of their entire inventory, much of it fresh produce which makes up the majority of all landfill waste. https://www.rts.com/resources/guides/food-waste-america/. The reasons for this are extensive and complicated, but MARSH’s approach to a solution is fairly straightforward. First, “buy by” and “sell by” dates are not researched or regulated. While we follow these dates carefully for perishable dairy and refrigerated meats, we use judgement and discretion when applying them to dry groceries. Secondly, if a product isn’t selling, we don’t buy it again (as opposed to a conventional grocery store which uses store supply and setting protocols designed and managed by the suppliers and not the retailers!) If you don’t see what you are looking for, PLEASE ASK. We are very happy to honor requests; in fact, that’s the best way to be sure we are stocking products patrons want! Third, virtually nothing ever goes to waste at MARSH. The first line of use is to transform products (mostly produce) into prepared foods. An apple gets dented or bruised? We make pie or apple butter. A few of the grapes in a bag show signs of mold? We sort them out, wash them, and use the rest instead of throwing the entire bag away. Misshapen or spotty produce from the garden? These are easily adapted for use in a huge and rotating list of baked goods and prepared options for the grocery. If items are going bad, we freeze, dry, or otherwise preserve them before they can. The actual waste that is inevitably produced by cooking large volumes of food (peels, cores, spots) are composted on site and developed into fertile soil for our gardens. All cardboard and other packaging is either recycled or used (mostly at the Food Patch!) for developing new gardening ground.
- Climate-centered food production. This item deserves its own essay (see more below) but includes such actions as managing three farm lots in the neighborhood to produce food directly for local consumption; vendor selection that focuses on sustainable production, organic methods, resource and energy policies, regional location; no-fossil-fuel use policies (no tractors or tillers, no mowers, no chemicals) for food production, and much more.
While the climate actions listed above have been MARSH principles from the start, they all keep us so busy that we haven’t told you much about the grant we received from the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) Program of the U.S.D.A. for 2022 and 2023 to research and explore climate agriculture practices that can help food producers adapt and build resilience as we move rapidly into a climate-imperiled world. I’ll write more about the details of this project, including strategies, successes, applications etc. in upcoming newsletters, but the important things to know right now are that
- the food you buy at MARSH + your membership and support, is going directly to front-line climate research, action, and education AND
- the terminal step of the grant project is to hold a CLIMATE CONFERENCE (fall, 2023) where we can activate the power of cooperative organizing to collectively review where we’ve been and decide where to go next! We’ll look forward to connecting with you for ideas, innovations, and all types of participation as that time approaches.