Transition Streets addresses five broad areas: energy, water, food, transport and consumption & waste. Food has clearly been the topic that has caught the interest of our group the most. We normally spend a month on each topic, but we’ve spent two interesting months discussing food. There is so much too talk about including:
- How do we make decisions about what to buy? (E.g., is it better to buy imported organic tomatoes or locally grown non-organic ones?)
- Where do we shop?
- How do we minimise food waste?
- What do we consider important for a healthy diet?
- How can we encourage our children to eat well?
Some of our group decided to ride our bikes to our local farmers market. Some of us (like Cathy and I) shop there regularly, while some of us had only been a couple of times. As we wandered around we discussed where were good places to buy our fruit and vegetables.
There are a wide range of options at the market just in terms of fruit and vegetables. Some are certified organic, some are “chemical free”, some are locally grown using conventional means and some just go to the commercial fruit and vegetable market and have produce you would find in any local green grocer. When Cathy and I shop we think about the nature of the pesticides and fertilisers used (we prefer organic and chemical free), the food miles (we try to buy locally grown), the amount of packaging (we avoid plastic) and the cost (we don’t mind paying a bit more but generally avoid really expensive foods). Because we go regularly, we now know where we will do most of our shopping, and are familiar with some of the stall-holders.
It can be quite a social event. This time we had morning tea (they have some great dumplings, popcorn and macaroons to name a few) and wandered around slowly. We often run into people we know and have a chat. It’s such a different experience to going to a supermarket (although in cold, windy or wet weather it can be a bit miserable).
As an aside, the downside is that farmers markets are putting extra pressure on local green grocers. We buy much less from our local shop because we are growing more and buying from the farmers market. I suspect that many of the people who shop at the markets would be more likely to buy from a green grocer rather than a supermarket, so the markets could be taking business away from green grocers.
Our Transition Streets group has also decided to have regular cooking afternoons. At our first one, four households learnt how to make sourkraut (fermented cabbage) and made a huge pot of tomato chutney. Interestingly the chutney recipe was one that Cathy and I enjoyed 20 years ago. When we made it this time, it was WAY to salty – how our eating habits have changed. We’ve had to make some more with no salt to reduce its salt levels. Next time we will reduce the salt by about 90%!
We are going to learn how to preserve fruit and vegies, make sour dough, find a better chutney recipe and explore ways of using the produce we grow. Coming together with friends helps make a potential chore in to an enjoyable pastime.
One of the strengths of Transition Streets is that it makes these types of activities more likely. Because we are creating relationships in the street in the context of environmental sustainability, we tend to have conversations about sustainability and share our ideas and experiences. Taking part in Transition Streets is certainly helping us to create closer relationships with our neighbours and to continue making small, but significant changes, to our way of life.
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