Saturday, July 21, 2012

Cathy's Sustainable Awakening

Baby Goats at Point Look Out Farm. Don't they look happy?
This week, I weeded some garden beds at Point Look Out Farm where I’m helping teach teenagers about environmentalism and horticulture for 6 weeks in Wilmington, Delaware. As I weeded around the tomato plants, I had a feeling so strong of nostalgia for farm life, and remembered why I’ve come to love having dirt underneath my fingernails. There are few things that connect you more to earth, the environment around you, and the fact that everything –not just humans – is alive. I certainly wasn’t always this aware or drawn to nature, let alone cognizant of how humans are impacting planet Earth. I recently watched a documentary called No Impact Man (see his blog here:, a film that follows writer Colin Beavan’s year-long project to have zero impact on the environment, carried out through his radical life-style choices, as some critics claimed. 
He began his project with more modest undertakings, such as eliminating waste, shopping strictly from local food sources such as farmers’ markets, and reducing his consumption of ‘stuff’. Six months in, he turned off his electricity in his 5th avenue New York City apartment, where his wife and daughter also partook in his experiment for a zero impact lifestyle. Why am I telling Colin’s story rather than my own? you might wonder…

As I watched No Impact Man, I found myself reflecting on my own journey to living more sustainably. Maybe some of you read my entries from my personal blog that documented my WWOOFing experience last fall out in Kings Valley, Oregon. Thrown onto a farm in the middle of nowhere, it first seemed, was really where my attitude changed about how we as humans can connect to and interact with the environment in a positive way. I admit that I may have gone from one extreme to the other during that time, finding it hard to imagine the return to eating anything out of a can, or throwing away recyclables, or (gasp) flushing poop down a water-bowl toilet. I think I even declared that I would refuse to consume non-organic cosmetics. Since then, I’ve been trying to find a happy medium where I do what I can with the time and resources that I have. But if I were to really go as far back as I can in my sustainable awakening, I’d have to thank a New York Times bestseller, Skinny Bitch. My mother gave me this book for Christmas of 2009. In January 2010, I ‘pledged to be a veg’ for 30 days. At first I had no idea what to cook for dinner, since all of my meals centered on meat before the dawn of my vegetarianism. But after reading the (I’ll admit) preachy pro-vegan text of Skinny Bitch, it was hard to just erase from my conscience the facts I had just read. Animals live in their own feces? They’re pumped with hormones and antibiotics purely for the fact that they wouldn’t survive without them, given their inhumane living conditions? Nobody’s eating any freaking food besides those grown from Monsanto seeds? And don’t even get me started on high fructose corn syrup. 

(ATTN: Those ads you see on tv that claim HFCS is the same as sugar? Let’s be smart, people, it’s propaganda!)

While the authors of this book preached veganism in a way that kind of made me question their sources, it did successfully implant two key things in my brain: 1. Pay attention. And 2. You have choices. I wasn’t paying attention to where my food was coming from, and as a result, I remained very much in the dark. After auctioning off my last package of Perdue chicken breasts to my roommates after reading Skinny Bitch from cover to cover, it became hard not to pay attention. I had the choice to buy local, hormone-free meat. But also, I had the choice to not eat meat at all. Perdue lost my dollar, along with a lot of other agribusiness companies. What would happen if all the humans paid attention, and seized their right to make positive, sustainable choices?
Chickens! at Point Look Out Farm
Being born blind to the fact that humans aren’t the only important living organisms on the planet, it’s taken some time for me to see how our choices can and do impact the space we live in. And it’s been one hell of a time re-learning to how to live.



  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. How can we tell the difference between foods that are LABELED organic and foods that are really organic?