June 30, 2008

Living mindfully isn’t always convenient.

I read a friend’s blog discussing the difficulties she’s having trying to live a healthier, mindful lifestyle.  The entry contained no small amount of irony; considering that she lives in Boston, you would think things like organic food, farmers’ markets and the like would be easily accessible.  Not so.

Choosing to live mindfully is one thing… actually DOING it takes a certain amount of commitment.  Take water bottles.  With the recent admission that BP-A is not good for a person, I decided to make the change to BP-A free bottles. Sounds easy, right?

Not so, young Padawan!

First, there is Nalgene. The ever ubiquitous bottles seen attached to nearly every backpack in Colorado, now in a BP-A free version, made in the good ol’ USA, and a bargain at only $9.50 for a one liter bottle. Problem? Nalgene also manufactures equipment used in animal testing, so if you are against animal testing, then supporting Nalgene isn’t an option.

Camelbak? BP-A free, but $15 and if you are trying to avoid things made in China, then this bottle isn’t for you.

On to the metal bottles, which can be recycled so are more eco-friendly than both Nalgene and Camelbak, so there’s a definite bonus, but you can’t three-quarters fill them and pop them in the freezer for cold water all the next day like you can a Nalgene (or similar plastic bottle), and ice cubes don’t fit into their narrow tops, so you have to buy an “ice tube” maker or deal with lukewarm to warm water. The two that seem to be the most readily available are by Klean Kanteen and Sigg. A 27-ounce stainless steel Klean Kanteen will run you about $19 while a 40-ounce bottle will set you back a good $26. “Responsibly made in China.” What does THAT mean???

Finally, there is Sigg. Ceramic lined aluminum for about $22 and comes with a 20 year warranty. Manufactured in Switzerland… and China. *sigh* Ultimately I decided on the Sigg. All of the bottles had “Swiss made” on them, so one can only hope that indeed mine were made in Switzerland and not in China.

And yes, these were all thoughts that I had and went through before purchasing my new water bottles.

And don’t even get me started on food. Going out to eat is quite the challenge, especially if trying to avoid GMO’s in food. With the U.S. actively resisting labeling foods containing GMO’s both locally and internationally, it is quite difficult to know exactly what you are eating unless you choose to eat organically. Let’s take a look at the bigger fast food chains. McDonald’s? Ew. Not an option. Burger King? No better. Nor is Wendy’s, Taco Bell, Arby’s… all crap, in my opinion, and none of them known for mindful practices. Pizza Hut, with its new, all natural pizza is trying, at least. Better options? Good Times, with its Coleman Beef, is a step in the right direction. Local, grass fed, not frozen beef. Noodles & Company is a good option, and their ingredients tend to be good quality. Best bet for the budget? V.G. Burgers in Boulder. All organic, fresh food. It’s vegan, but so what? It’s still super tasty and good for you. It’s pricey (a full meal deal of a burger, fries and a drink is $9), but you get what you pay for. Added bonus: everything is compostable… the food and the containers it comes in, including the cup and straw for your drink.

Now let’s talk about home cooking. My goal is not just organic or at least all natural food, but local as much as possible. In Colorado, we’re fairly blessed. The Boulder Farmers’ Market runs from April through November, and so for most of the year I am able to eat locally grown, fresh, organic produce. This year I am going to try my hand at canning and preserving my own food so this winter I will be able to open up a jar of local produce and continue to follow the 100-mile diet, more or less (I admit, I cheat a little… can’t get coffee or bananas that are grown locally in Colorado). Thanks to the Farmers’ Market, my shopping at traditional food outlets (Whole Foods, King Soopers, Costco, etc.) has decreased by leaps and bounds. My milk gets delivered from the local dairy, my beef comes from a local ranch where the cattle are grass fed, and raised and slaughtered humanely; most of my produce is local. I’m working on the switch for my chicken and pork. Fish, particularly salmon, is problematic, as is some produce like oranges and bananas. I still read the food labels for everything I buy, even if I’ve bought it before, just in case ingredients get changed; in a few cases that’s happened, so it’s worth the continued reading. The vast majority of “convenience foods” are gone from my diet now, with the exception of things like rice pilaf, and I tend to buy pasta from the store instead of making my own, even though that will likely change soon also (the pasta, I mean).

Yeah… it takes me forever to buy things.

To some extent, there has been an increased financial cost, but in many ways it balances it with the increased health of everyone in my family, and with the decision to buy not only organic and/or local but also fair trade, the karmic cost is also worth it. Everything is connected to everything else, and to think that there are no costs beyond the wallet is simply erroneous. This goes for not just foodstuffs but any item in general, really.

In some ways I guess I’ve informally joined the Slow Food movement… meals take longer to prepare, especially dinner, but the quality of the food is higher and tastes much better than it used to. Actually, most things take longer now… multitasking, a skill that so many others prize, is simply a way to keep us distracted; to keep us from really paying attention. I find myself doing less and less of it these days and find that I’m noticing life and being present more and more.

But as I’ve said, all of this… it takes commitment. And I can’t say that there aren’t times when I’m tempted to take the easy way. To ignore that can on the street instead of picking it up and carrying it until I find a recycle bin; to stop in and pay a buck for that double McCheeseburger. Yet I find that when temptation sets in, I can’t bring myself to follow through on it. I know too much about what goes on with my food and with so many other items that I buy, and I just can’t bring myself to go back to where I was. Yeah, it would be easier sometimes, but just because something is easy doesn’t mean that it’s right. And if I’m really going to live up to all that I say and talk about to others, then it’s a commitment I have to make and take seriously, and follow through with every minute of every day. And you know what? In so many ways, it’s totally worth it.

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