Competing Priorities


Today I want to address the problem I have with all of the different issues competing for priority.   Do you buy locally produced or imported organic?  Fairtrade or the cheapest available?  What about produce that is cheaper per kilo if it is already bagged in plastic?

Clearly, this the best.  Grown without pesticides within 100 metres of my kitchen and no packaging.

005Unfortunately, we cannot produce everything ourselves, hence my opening question.

Some bloggers are very clear in their strategy and I admire them for their single-mindedness.  However, I do not not want to be quite as fanatical on any one particular issue but rather to approach the things we do buy with a more holistic view.

Here are some that I read:

Zero Waste Home – as the title suggests
My Plastic Free Life – as per the title
Frugal Queen – frugality first

I have tried to minimise the plastics that we use, particularly single-use items, for many years.

This is one of our stainless steel drink bottles.  I am not saying that we always take our own drinks or that I never buy drinks in plastic bottles.  However, we have got rid of the 15 or so plastic drink bottles that we had acquired over the years and I studiously avoid collecting any more from corporate events and the like.

004These are some glass storage jars in my pantry, albeit with plastic lids.  They are old coffee jars which came from my mother.  I do use plastic screw top containers as well in my pantry.  While it would be nice to have everything stored in glass, I would prefer to re-use something I already have than go out and buy more things.  I do not see a significant health risk in storing dry goods in plastic food-grade containers.

006I do try to use glass containers rather than plastic for heating and cooking in the microwave.

007Despite my best efforts not to acquire any plastic bags over the past 10 years we still have some.  They are used for various purposes, washed and re-used over and over again.  Here are some hanging out to dry.

2012-04-21 05I buy a lot of our dry goods from bulk bins and store some of them in large plastic buckets.  Here is my new storage cupboard showing the buckets as well as the boxes of plastic bottles that The Duke uses when bottling his home-brew.  There will be doors on the cupboard once they are finished being painted.

First and foremost my strategy is to buy only what we really need.  If you remove excess consumption from your lifestyle then you eliminate a lot of waste immediately.

I buy as much as possible from bulk bins and am constantly looking to source less wasteful options for everything I purchase.  However, I know that quite a lot of this is imported.  The upside is that dried beans for example, weigh less than the equivalent in canned beans, therefore the transport costs (petroleum products) are reduced.

I source meat and fresh produce as locally as possible to reduce ‘food miles’ but do not set arbitrary limits, such as the 100 Mile Diet.  This concept began as a blog in 2005 by 2 Canadians.  I cannot find the original blog but this link explains it.  The idea is excellent and it reminds as all to consider the source of our food.

I take my own containers to the butcher to eliminate plastic bags from that source.

I have reusable mesh bags for buying fruit and vegetables and pay mostly pay the extra for loose produce.

Why organic?  Read here to see which fresh foods are likely to retain the most pesticides.  Consider growing your own if possible or buying organic of at least some of ‘the dirty dozen’.  I do not necessarily follow all of my own advice on this one but intend to re-double my efforts.

Fairtrade?  Coffee – always.  Chocolate – rarely bought so I have not been so diligent.

What about you?  Are any or all of these issues important to you?  How do you decide what is a priority for you?

6 thoughts on “Competing Priorities

  1. I pretty well do everything you do although we can only have a tiny garden because we live in a villa and all one can do is do one’s best within one’s budget. I have a wonderful plastic bag dryer I made in my laundry. Basically it is a pot with florists foam in with skewer type sticks stuck in and the bags go over the sticks and dry in no time.

  2. It took me a few days to think about this post. The order of priority, according to the 100 mile diet, is local-organic then local, then organic-non local, and last possible non-organic non-local. I try to use that order when choosing food especially fruits and veg. But I also look for packaging. I would prefer no packaging but the least possible. Every once in a while I will buy a pineapple and not feel too bad about it. I want to use my own reusable bags and containers so depending that will become the priority. Which stores will let me do that and what selection do they have. For coffee I try to mix it up – bulk, fair-trade or I get sucked in with a $6 large tin of name brand. I think the point is that people need to think before they buy. We vote with our purchases.

    • Thanks for your thoughtful comment. I am much the same as you when it comes to buying. No (or minimal) packaging has always figured highly on my list so it is a matter of balancing that against the origin of the goods.

  3. We have local fruit shops and it is nice to buy their fruit for a fraction of the cost of the supermarket prices. A while ago we stopped and bought some potatoes from a man at the side of the road. He says he grows them for the supermarkets but also grows his own organic ones to eat as the ones for the supermarkets have so much spray on them and apparantly potatoes soak up all sprays through their skins.
    We recently lost all our chickens to a naught fox so I bought some free range eggs from Aldi’s. I was very shocked to see that the supplier of the free range eggs is also the supplier of the “non” free range eggs…does anyone else find this disturbing?
    We are hoping to move to 10 acres soon so will be getting some new chickens. We also have ducks but they are not laying at the moment. My husband grows heaps of veges and we have masses of fruit trees so will have to start all over again.

    • Lynda – Wow, 10 acres. That is a lot of space. We have 1.5 acres and only about half of that is usable (the rest is too steep). I look forward to hearing your adventures.

      The man with the potatoes is correct – potatoes are one of the ‘dirty dozen’ fruit and veg with the highest chemical residue. If you can get organic or grow your own it is really beneficial.

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