Sustainable Food

More on our time spent in Blighty over the holidays, I’m afraid.  This is something I’ve been thinking about a lot.  TealGreen in-laws live in the 2nd biggest city in England in a nice area, but the local high street is a real mix of rough and nice, so it’s eye opening to me to see the amenities that are available there.  Since the last time we visited, a new Co-op supermarket has replaced the old Kwik Save – and that’s a very good thing.  The Kwik Save was cheap and not very cheerful and seemed reflective of the rough aspect of the high street.  The new Co-op astounded me, in a good way.  Here are some pictures from inside the market:

I include these photos not because they are beautifully presented or earth shattering, but because they say so much about the difference between where thinking about your food and where it comes from is between here and Europe.  Can you think of a single supermarket in the US that would market itself in this way in its stores? Even Whole Foods doesn’t do this. The Co-op is a normal, dare I say it, not even particularly high end supermarket in the UK.  And it’s extolling the virtues of sourcing local food, sustainable fishing, free range organic eggs, fair trade coffee and using renewable energy.  BRAVO!  This is a market in a city in a very mixed socio-economic neighborhood.  And it’s selling a wide range of food at pretty affordable prices and treating its customers like grown ups, explaining its commitment to not just selling the cheapest crap they can get away with.  And you know what?  It’s working.

This is where the conversation needs to get to in the US.  There’s no doubt that there’s food poverty in the this country, and that’s a different discussion.  But for many Americans, they are spending their food dollars mostly with a view to cheapness rather than value.  Learning the difference will be an important first step to creating a more sustainable food economy.


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Just returned from a semi-annual visit with TealGreen hubby’s family in England.  Can’t help commenting on some of our observations of all things green while we were there.  The irony is that in European terms, England isn’t even at the top of the league on the environmental front – the Danes with their wind power, the Germans with their efficiency and environmental regulation come to mind first – but the English are still far ahead of us.

The most obvious observation is the cars you see on the road.  There are countless models one never sees here, smaller, but not minute and with vastly better gas, or should I say, diesel mileage.  For example brother-in-law drives a diesel VW Touran, a 7 seater, which, of course, is not for sale in this country.  WHY WHY WHY.  TealGreen sister-in-law says they chose it for its luggage capacity, relative lack of thirst and the ability to buckle in 2 extra passengers when they need to without hauling around a load of extra metal on the road when they don’t.

In case you’re thinking, OK, that’s fine, but it’s a diesel, who wants to drive that, it’s probably horrible, consider this from Motorbar, a UK car site:

  • The punchy 1.9-litre TDI engine generates 185lb ft of torque at 1,900rpm. As you increase pressure on the accelerator, the more than ample torque makes the Touran feel much quicker than the paper figures would have you believe. From standstill to the benchmark 62mph takes 13.5 seconds. Top speed is 110mph and the good news — for the family budget — is the combined fuel consumption of 47.1mpg.

Even allowing for the larger Imperial Gallon, that comes out at over 35 mpg in the USA.  That’s better than most station wagons, let alone mini-vans.  Suck on that, US market.  And then, I come home, with all these thoughts in my head and see this from Matter Network: Want the Coolest Green Cars? Fly to Europe. Well, I suppose by the time you pay off your carbon debt from the flight, it might not be worth it, but it’s worth a thought.

NEXT UP: Food and supermarkets….