Brave Food World

Joel Palentin of Polyface Farms courtesy of Food, Inc.
Joel Salatin of Polyface Farms courtesy of Food, Inc.

Eat something organic before you head to see Food, Inc., the provocative new documentary from filmmaker Robert Kenner, featuring authors Michael Pollan (An Omnivore’s Dilemma) and Eric Schlosser (Fast Food Nation) because you surely won’t want to eat after watching it.

The film serves up a stomach-churning look inside the highly mechanized world of food production, from chickens that never see daylight to cows forced to stand all day in their own feces. Even seemingly innocent soybeans are revealed to be “patented” by chemical giant Monsanto in their effort to control seed production and independent farmers.

Perhaps even more disturbing than the shocking reality of modern food production gone awry is that the agencies (FDA, USDA) that are supposedly there to protect us are in cahoots with the handful of corporations that put profit ahead of our health, the livelihood of the American farmer, and the safety of workers and our own environment.

Interspersed among the food borne illnesses and soul-less, window-less factories are interviews with colorful social entrepreneurs like Stonyfield’s Gary Hirshberg and Polyface Farms’ Joel Salatin. Says local hero Salatin,“Imagine what it would be if, as a national policy, we said we would be only successful if we had fewer people going to the hospital next year than last year? The idea then would be to have such nutritionally dense, unadulterated food that people who ate it actually felt better, had more energy and weren’t sick as much…  now, see, that’s a noble goal.”

Besides strengthening my resolve to not eat processed food and to support local producers whenever possible, the take-away for me was that we must pay even closer attention to what we are eating and why. Vote with your wallet by choosing locally grown food and organics, eschew mass-produced meats, corn syrup laden snacks and genetically modified produce. We can’t afford not to.

Playing in a Sustainable Schoolyard

SpongeBob lunchbox? Check. Miley Cyrus binder? Check. Sustainable schoolyard? Check! Complete the back-to-school ritual with a visit to the Sustainable Schoolyards display, part of the One Planet—Ours exhibit, at the U.S. Botanic Garden until October 13, 2008.

The Sustainable Schoolyard Exhibit includes:

  • solar features
  • water systems
  • edible gardens
  • wildlife habitat
  • green building
  • waste as a resource

Each part of the exhibit can be used to teach children about math, science, and of course, the importance of green communities for our health and the planet’s well-being. It’s a great opportunity to get them away from the TV and XBox and into nature.

Interested in learning more about how to green your schoolyard? Visit DC Schoolyard Greening. It features examples of what schools in our area are doing to promote greener living and sustainability such as planting herb, wildlife, and vegetable gardens; building green roofs; implementing composting programs; building birdhouses; and more.

Bethesda Goes Green

Today was the kickoff event for Bethesda Green, a “living business model that will sustain the current and future development of Bethesda by reducing the community’s environmental footprint.” Held in the newly renovated Bethesda Theatre, the event drew well over 200 people (and that’s during a workday, mind you) to talk about ways in which Bethesda can serve as a model for sustainable communities around the country.

Seth Goldman, founder and CEO of Honest Tea started off with a personable and inspiring account of his company’s humble beginning and astounding recent growth. After that, there were speakers representing the government as well as Mike Mielke from the Sustainable Business Network and David Feldman of the Livability Project.

Plans for Bethesda Green include more sustainable transportation (bike racks, paths, smart bikes), more collection bins and recycling, green business guides and certification, green buildings and roofs, and more renewable energy products like the current efforts to turn the leftover grease from Bethesda Row restaurants into biodiesel.