The Good Girl?

January 16th, 2012 10:41 am

The story of a hungry woman trying to live sustainably

Janne Dale Hauger

As a Christian and as a citizen of the world, I want to live a sustainable life. I know that my every-day choices, like what I eat and what I buy, will impact the environment – either in a good way or in a bad way. For example, I can choose to buy a kilo of beef, which takes up massive resources, or I can buy a kilo of potatoes, which takes 99.6% less water to produce. You don’t have to be a math genius to realize that it’s going to cost mother earth a lot more resources for me to have hamburgers for dinner, than if I made some home-made mashed potatoes with sautéed vegetables.

Being the ‘good girl’ I try to be, I set off on my quest to live a vegetarian and sustainable life.

This was great… until I realized how much I love meat! After starting to have dreams about juicy hamburgers, I decided that a more sustainable path for me would be to eat meat, but rarely. So I made up my own term, and became a ‘restrictatarian’, that is, someone who restricts their meat consumption to a few days a week. So far, so good.

Or so I thought. I went on for a few weeks, merrily filling my refrigerator with all sorts of vegetables and fruits: tomatoes from Italy, bananas from South Africa, mangoes from Peru, etc. Then, one day, I learned that if you want to live a sustainable life, you ought to eat locally produced food. You can’t just consider what food you’re eating, but you must also find out where and how it is produced, and how far it’s travelled, and how it has been transported to your local supermarket.

Good heavens! I guess I hadn’t been living quite as ecologically responsibly as I had thought. But at least I still knew this to be true: vegetables are better for the planet than meat. So I started my hunt for locally produced vegetables. Sure, they were kind of expensive, but that’s a small price to pay to know that you’re living as sustainably as possible.

Then, came that tragic day, where I realized that I had been misguided… again! As it turns out, the tomatoes that are locally produced in Norway, require massive amounts of energy because they are produced in greenhouses. And guess what? Producing tomatoes in Norway emits so much greenhouse gasses, that it would be better to eat a pound of chicken than a pound of Norwegian tomatoes! So, I had been wrong all along, believing that locally grown veggies are always better than meat. And if I was wrong about the Norwegian tomatoes, what else was I naïvely purchasing under the pretence of living ecologically? In the process of trying to make the right choices, I had ended up with nothing more than exhaustion and an empty stomach.

So what is the moral of the story here? I believe that caring about where our food comes from is not a lost cause, even if it might feel like it sometimes. As more and more of us start to question where our food comes from and how it is produced, the producers of food will learn that their customers do care about more than just the price-tag. We, the consumers, have incredible power! Let’s use our consumer power responsibly, and demand to know where our food comes from and how it is produced. Even if it’s an exhausting journey, it will make a difference. Amen.

– Janne Dale Hauger (born in Norway, 2 August 1986) has a background in psychology and gender studies and is now finishing her Master’s Degree in Public Health. She also works at a crisis centre for women with chemical dependency, is an environmental activist, and serves on boards for international and ecumenical issues in the Church of Norway. Janne was a delegate to the Climate Justice Now! conference held in France in September 2010.

Printable version available: Dale

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