green in the belly

I can’t believe I still haven’t posted on resolutions. January’s almost over, and the only insights I’ve offered into the hallowed New Year have been of the barley and lentil variety. I can do better than that, don’t you think? Don’t I owe you more than just these meagre attempts at undoing eight pounds of Christmas cookies?

Peering into other people’s resolutions is kind of thrilling. A keyhole glimpse into another person’s I’ll-do-it-betters can rejuvenate even the most tired of an old year’s routines. Resolutions actually make New Year’s one of my favorite times of the year. Why do I love this event full of pressure to HAVE SO MUCH FUN, you might ask. It’s simple: I’m addicted to newness.


Newness doesn’t have to be sparkly or expensive. It’s simply the chance to see something differently: a morning, a plate of food, a friend, yourself. Newness rubs the spice into our stale lives, and livens up even the most jaded. There’s an adrenaline rush that comes with each bout of new. Making lists and setting goals, bring it on.

Our 24-hour train ride home (plus the 8 hour delay in North Dakota, plus the layover in Chicago) delivered moments abundant with time for resolving. I nestled up with my journal against a snowy window frame, the American prairie unfurling its stark white coattails behind me. What did I see in the snowglobe months ahead?


So not only did I etch out a scintillating list of things to do in the first week back, I cobbled together some realistic aims for the new semester, including: developing a better working vocabulary, putting away the recipes to nurture my spontanous cooking side, and making my kitchen— and my body—more environmentally friendly.

How serendipitous then, when I returned to my February Bon Appetit proclaiming 50 Ways to Eat Green (sorry Paul Simon). After unpacking, showering, and ceremoniously devouring the crumbs of our train-induced junk food binge, I dove in. I couldn’t wait to read all about how I could fight the Christmas-body blahs and save the planet all in one proverbial bite.


I quickly discovered that I’m already doing something right. I am proud to say that 17 of their handy little tree-hugging tips are already habits of mine. All those crushing moments reading about the demise of agriculture and all those non-organic apples I’d purchased flitted away like the plume of a free-range chicken. I waited for Al Gore to come out in an angel costume and give me a USDA Organic stamped halo. (When he fell through, I resorted to good old self-congratulation.)

So in no particular order, here are the 17 food-related things I — and probably many of you — already do to save the earth. Following that list are five more I resolve to practice more diligently in the New Year.

What I do:

1. A full freezer uses less energy than an empty one

2. Cooking with bison actually helps save the species

3. Cooking at home avoids excess packaging and processing of foods

4. Roasting a whole chicken means less waste and yummy stock to boot

5. Hand chopping uses less electricity than fancy processors

6. Buying in bulk reduces wastefulness and packaging and encourages whole-food eating

7. Being your own barista reduces expenses and landfills

8. Reusing containers and bags is a given

9. Making your own soup stock reduces trash

10. Making your own cereal cuts out packaging and is good for your bod

11. Going mostly vegetarian frees up energy for others

12. Packing your lunch makes lunches greener and more fun

13. Eating more tofu conserves water in a way that meat does not (replacing one pound of beef with tofu each month saves 20,000 gallons a year!)

14. Reusable grocery bags are more fun to carry and better for the earth

15. Boxed wine generates half as many carbon dioxide emissions in transport as bottles (and there ARE good ones out there!)

16. Keeping and eating the greens from beets reduces waste

What I will do:

1. Eating Alaskan Salmon is more sustainable and higher in omega-3’s

2. Savor Sardines because they they aren’t in danger of being overfished and contain less mercury than tuna 

3. Join a CSA and support local agriculture  

4. Bike to the market when the weather gets nicer and I find a safe and scenic route  

5. Text the Blue Ocean Insitute’s FishPhone when I buy fish, and find out how good it is for me and the world

paraphrased from Bon Appetit magazine, January 2009

12 responses to “green in the belly

  1. “Hand chopping uses less electricity than fancy processors”???
    Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for reducing waste and whatnot, but I think people need to stop being so self righteous about claiming that they are “saving the planet” by doing these stupid, piddly little things that really don’t matter. Man made global warming is a lie. Al Gore is an idiot, not a scientist. In the 70’s people were afraid of global cooling. The fact is, the earth goes through normal climate changes on it’s own, and we haven’t even been recording tempatures long enough to be able to detirmine patterns (if there are any). In the 1930’s there was a long dry spell, (you know, the dust bowl era). Does that mean that mankind created that?
    You can believe what you want, but I choose to believe that global warming is more about people trying to control other people’s lives than anything else, and I wish some people would stop making heros of themselves for “biking to the market” and eating beet greens.

  2. Actually, mankind did create the dustbowl- if they hadn’t farmed so extensively without crop rotation there would have been prairie grasses to hold the soil in or crops growing in nutrient rich soils. You go, Jen! If we all keep energy use and our effects on the earth in our day to day consciousness, only good can come of it!

  3. Ok, the farmers made it dusty, but they didn’t make it dry. The earth did that on it’s own, and the earth bounced back on it’s own. That’s one of my points. We don’t have the power to change the weather.

  4. Regardless of whether global warming is caused by mankind or not, our current energy resources (i.e. oil, coal, natural gas) are finite and do have adverse environmental impacts besides global warming–which I won’t begin to get in to.

    It may not happen in our life time, but eventually our habits of relying on cheap oil as energy especially to support our transportation habits will have to change dramatically–and people will be biking to places out of necessity rather than choice. Good for those people who do bike to the market instead of driving, they are heros for taking a stand against the status gas guzzling quo, while improving their well being and using less energy.

  5. Whether we should believe that global warming is a real phenomenon should depend on whether we’ve got good reasons for so-believing. Sherral seems to think that “Al Gore is an idiot” and apparently she thinks that rhetorical questions count as arguments. Well, Sherral, I don’t let my first year undergrads get away with that unnoticed and so neither will you. If you’ve got reasons, give them don’t just rant.

  6. Hi Sherral. I am surprised that my little food blog here inspired such a vehement response from you. I don’t intend to preach, only to freely share recipes that bring me joy. I don’t ask anything from my readers but respect and feedback on what’s on their minds and on their plates.

    Thank you for your honesty. I am sorry that my attempts to make a more gentle, compassionate footprint came across as self-righteous. (Perhaps I should have mentioned that the wording of my resolutions comes directly from Bon Appetit magazine. I will add the reference.)

    I don’t understand much of the science behind the state of our environment, and I apologize for my ignorance. I do know that leaving more resources for the rest of the world, and being a steward of the gift of this Earth frankly just makes me feel good. For that I will not apologize.

    Enjoy the recipes. Maybe you’ll have something more positive to say about those.


  7. Our planet is in dire straights if people don’t own up to our responsibilities to take a greener approach to life.

    Environmental debates aside, let’s not forget the importance of keeping our bodies healthy. Biking to the market (or anywhere, for that matter), eating organic and soy-based foods, and cooking at home simply keep us healthy, active, and free of toxins.

    Congrats on starting your first official forum-war, Jen! People get heated when they are passionate and/or when they identify so strongly by their opinions that they must defend them at all costs. Keep your passions alive – it’s something you do really well.

  8. Gotta agree with the greenies. But *boxed* wine! Besides the obvious ickiness, is it really better to buy mass produced agribusiness wine over wine sustainably grown by small producers? I get that there would be fewer emissions from transporting boxes vs. bottles, but responsible small producers likely emit less carbon in their production methods in general. Less pesticide too. And without bottles, no corks, and the cork forests in Spain and Portugal are an environmental niche for several species and are threatened by “development” (see: ).

  9. This is a lovely post Jen. Be encouraged! You encourage lots of people with your ultra-creative recipes and your fresh and beautiful approach to the environment and to life.

  10. I just discovered your blog, and I’m so glad I did! I am truly inspired by your beautiful recipes and holistic approach to the kitchen and to life! (and the passionate debate your post sparked is just a testament to the clarity and poignancy of your writing!) Bravo – and thank you for inspiring me to follow more of the worthy resolutions in the January issue!

  11. Love this post Jen! I’d actually like to see more of this kind of writing from you. As a tofu eater who is also all about the bison–this list was great affirmation and inspiratiaon. And, I have a great route to bike from the University area to the Regional Market–I’ll share it with you whenever you want it. Keep up the beautiful writing!

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