Climate Local Now: If My Dad Can Do It: Food Recovery for Climate

by Mary Morgan & Brianne Briggman

Dispatch from Brianne Briggman:

One year ago, my 64-year-old father started experiencing severe neck and shoulder pain. As his crunchy-granola, yogi-crazed, 24-year-old daughter, I urged him to try yoga.

One specific pose could really help, I told him. Tilt your head to one side, lift your arm until you feel a stretch, hold and breathe. He didn’t do it, of course. No stretches, no poses. The pain remained. A few weeks later he saw a specialist.

In addition to scheduled physical therapy, the specialist suggested some daily stretches, emphasizing one stretch as particularly helpful. I’m sure you can guess what that was. Tilt, lift, hold, breathe. 

Dad finally started feeling some relief, and this is when a switch flipped in his head. He started to see that his own actions, his daily choices, directly correlated with his neck and shoulder problem. The remedy wasn’t some drug, shot, or divine intervention. It was him, his actions, his choices.

He started doing his prescribed exercises every morning. Within three weeks his spasms were disappearing. So were his complaints. Within two months all pain was gone.

Habits and Climate Solutions

So, why am I telling you all this? Well, I think there’s a really valuable lesson here about habits. It’s one we can apply to climate solutions, and, particularly, to this biggie: food waste.

Food waste is a big climate deal. Thirty percent of food produced globally is wasted. Here in the U.S. it’s 40 percent. Food waste buried in a landfill releases methane, which is 25 times more powerful than CO2. This is seriously damaging our atmosphere, harming our human health and ecosystems. 

But there’s good news. 70 percent of food wasted in the U.S. is at the household level. That means our actions, our daily choices, really matter. WE have the power to be the remedy.

My dad taught me that changing your habits is hard, but it’s worth it. He struggled to change his routine until he understood the benefits. Likewise, it’s in our power to change our food habits and reap the benefits. Use that left-in-the-fridge ingredient in tonight’s dinner. Shop from a list so you don’t over-buy. Take home from the restaurant. Store bits in your freezer for soup. Walk those scraps to your garden compost. Enjoy the benefits of saving money, lowering your carbon footprint, and, if you have a compost, feeding your soil. To me the greatest benefit, the one that really matters to my generation and younger….is the clear skies, clean water, and healthy ecosystems that will result from no food becoming methane, worsening our climate crisis.

And you know, it all adds up. Your actions, my actions, ours together will define our future. The next ten years are crucial, my 20s and 30s, to prevent the most devastating effects of greenhouse gas emissions. Reducing food waste, as calculated by Project Drawdown, is the number one solution we can all take part in.

Dispatch from Mary Morgan:

Food Rescue for Climate

Standing on tiptoes to reach a microphone, Brianne relayed her story to 350 listeners. It was the Peconic Land Trust’s annual Peconinic, and Brianne was part of a pilot initiative called Food Rescue for Climate. Everyone applauded. 

Nearby, under a small tent, a team of 11 volunteers were busy staffing a recycle station, scraping leftovers into 3.5 gallon buckets to be delivered to five local farms. 

Brianne explained to the audience the USDA’s pyramid for food’s best use: First feed people, then animals, then feed soil. Food scraps are vegetative organic matter, a valuable ingredient in making “green gold” – the enriching soil amendment compost.   

Brianne thanked everyone for being open to considering a new habit, taking steps to not waste food. “I’m grateful to all of you,” she said. “Your actions to reduce food waste and lower emissions mean so much to me, my generation, our future. Thank you for caring. It literally means the world to me.”   

The Food Recovery For Climate pilot was organized by the Drawdown East End team. With over 350 picnickers in attendance  we filled only 6 buckets with food scraps, the low volume surprising us all. Maybe our message of treating food as a valuable resource –not to be wasted, zero to the landfill– made a difference! For more information: Mary@DrawdownEastEnd@gmail.com.

Former Locavore now a Climatarian, sailor, beachcomber Mary Morgan lives in Orient with her husband Tom, naturalist and mushroom forager, early founders of the East End chapter of Slow Food in 2004. Two years ago Mary co-founded a grassroots effort, Drawdown East End, to inspire local solutions to drawdown and sequester carbon. 

Brianne Briggmann is a Mattituck native and SUNY Geneseo alumna. She’s a lifelong home-composter, local restaurant worker, and relentless idealist. Her passions include literature, hiking, sustainability, and tacos.

Climate Local Now is a partnership between the East End Beacon and Drawdown East End, whose mission is to inspire local solutions to reverse global warming. |  DrawdownEastEnd.org

Beth Young

Beth Young has been covering the East End since the 1990s. In her spare time, she runs around the block, tinkers with bicycles, tries not to drown in the Peconic Bay and hopes to grow the perfect tomato. You can send her a message at editor@eastendbeacon.com

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