How We Do Sustainable Living - Year Three

Two years ago, in April, Kristl and I decided that it would be a good idea to start a blog about the way we live. A lot has changed in two years. If you are feeling like you could never live a more sustainable life, like it's too expensive or time consuming, consider that it took us almost three years living together to start living the way you see us today. Sustainable living takes a little while to get used to. It's a transition! So, in honor of Earth Day, we give you How We Do Sustainable Living - Year Three! (For the 2013 installment, click here, and for 2014's version, click here.) Last year, we used a system of colors, bold lettering, and strike-throughs to communicate what we had changed. Let's be real, it confused all of us more than it was worth. This year we are going to start from scratch, but follow the same pattern. So, if you go back to previous years, you'll be able to follow our progress pretty easily. If you don't, you'll still get the picture.

Projects related to housekeeping:

  • Cleaning almost exclusively with products derived from white vinegar or Dr. Bronner's Castile Soap Baby Mild
  • Using rags instead of paper towels - When appropriate, which is most of the time except for when pets are involved
  • Buying post-consumer recycled paper products and recycled aluminum foil - We used to roast veggies on foil, but now we roast them on our Sil-Pat, which is easily cleaned and infinitely reusable, so we rarely use foil anymore.
  • Downsizing our apartment and purging in the process - We moved last summer and definitely got rid of furniture and lots of stuff we didn't need
  • Not buying anything we don't need, especially clothing, books, gadgets, etc
  • Trying to buy things with as little packaging as possible - The less you bring in, the less you have to recycle or trash
  • Still using the same homemade washable swiffer cloths, because they are totally reusable
  • Simplifying and organizing our stuff - We hired a personal organizer to work with us a couple times to streamline our stuff. Organizing and downsizing frees us from clutter and helps us focus on the things that matter.
  • Running full dishwasher and laundry loads to conserve water
  • Recycling, obviously - our building separates paper goods from containers, because we are a six-flat and have to contract our own recycling service. Thanks, Chicago.

Projects related to self-care:

  • Using baking soda as shampoo - Works like a charm
  • Using homemade deodorant - We finally settled on a recipe we really like
  • Making homemade lotion/balm
  • Making homemade facial oil
  • Using Chinese medicine/chiropractic/massage/Reiki/nutritional supplements in addition to Western medicine to keep us healthy - It would be weird if we didn't use alternative medicine, Kristl is an acupuncturist, after all.
  • Using Oral Wellness HealThy Mouth Oil and EarthPaste to clean our teeth - No cavities and no added sweeteners.
  • Daily meditation practice, exercise, and reading - Healthy body, healthy brain.
  • Eating "Sustainable Whole Food Nutrition" for good health - See our blog about How We Eat
  • Using eco-friendly, reusable menstrual products 

Projects related to food:

  • Making at least one batch of bone broth in the pressure cooker per week - Gives the crock pot competition
  • Saving bacon fat and using it to cook other things - Butter and avocado oil tend to be our go-to fats these days, but bacon fat comes free with the bacon, so we totally use it.
  • Meal planning for the week, and buying groceries based off the plan - Helps us keep in our budget and limit food waste.
  • Planning large meals or doubling recipes that we can divide them out over 2-3 days so that we don't have to cook every day
  • We carbonate our own water with our Soda Stream and add lemon or lime to it - Our days of making syrups, infused liquors, and shrubs are pretty much over.
  • We definitely make mustard from scratch
  • We make our own mayo with the immersion blender - Keep an eye out for a video on that trick!
  • We cook 95% of our own meals - Try this at home, but remember, it took us a while to get to this point.
  • Participate in True Nature's meat and egg co-op  - $5/dozen for pastured eggs? Yes, please.
  • Participate in C&D Farm's meat co-op delivery - Part of a wedding gift that just keeps on giving
  • Buy produce from farmer's market or local farms in season
  • Buy local food and local products because we care about local business - See these posts for our restaurant and local products recommendations

Projects of the miscellaneous variety:

  • Not buying cable - It's really easy now, because one of the things we sold when we moved was our TV.
  • Making our own gifts - Much like Christmas 2013, we didn't spend too much on gifts for 2014. We would rather have good experiences with our friends and family than get things for and from them. When a gift is appropriate, we'll make it.
  • Feeding our cat and dog grain free/raw food
  • Using backyard (and maybe community garden) to grow food - We missed out on our old community garden plot this year, but not to worry, there are always locations to grow vegetables. Rachel has plenty of offers on the table and she's making plans.
  • Using mason jars for storage - We cut back on our random glass jar collection when we moved. Now we mostly use Mason jars and it does us just fine.
  • Worm composting - We didn't do the best job of worm composting on our own, but our current living situation pays someone to worm compost in the basement. So we totally take advantage of that service our building offers.
  • Budgeting with You Need A Budget (YNAB) - Our commitment to use YNAB keeps us on budget and honest about the money we have coming in and going out. Confused how this relates to sustainability? Sustainability is all about using resources wisely. Money is a resource, and if you are using your money wisely, that will allow you to use your other resources in a sustainable manner. (And if you use the link above, you save 10% off the purchase price!)
  • Donating to people and projects that are actively working to make the world a better place - If you want to play along, we have some suggestions
  • Working at home/within walking distance of home - This is a transition that has made the next point possible
  • Living CAR FREE - We sold our car almost two months ago, and have adjusted just fine. We use the CTA more, we signed up for Enterprise CarShare, and we just bought Rachel a new bike to help with the transition. However, day to day, unless we are getting a huge load of groceries or going way out of our neighborhood, we don't really notice the difference. The best part is we don't have to worry about parking, street cleaning, city stickers, insurance, etc.

There you have it, our lives in sustainability this year! There are probably things we do that we don't realize. We are in deep, folks!

Sustainable living, especially in the city or on a small budget, is not a competition. It's not about keeping up with anyone; every little bit counts. Tell us what you are doing to live the sustainable lifestyle! Comment below or on our Earth Day post on Facebook

Grocery Delivery Series: CarShare and Public Transit

To conclude our series on grocery delivery, we decided to go in a little bit of a different direction and "deliver" groceries to ourselves. This is a comparison of two weeks of groceries. One week we rented a car from Enterprise CarShare to go get groceries and this week Rachel went to the store via the Chicago Transit Authority. This was also our attempt at a control in this experiment, so when we wrap up for you, you can have a pretty good idea of how the different delivery options compare to getting your own groceries. For those of you who were hanging on for the CSA post, we are still planning on a future post about what to expect from a local CSA farm share in the Midwest, including a compare and contrast of some of the more popular Chicagoland CSAs. When we talked about selling the car, it was always part of our plan to join one of the car sharing programs in Chicago. Sometimes it just makes more sense to take a short trip in a car. Time, location, and even cost can often make using a car the most reasonable option. Conveniently, Enterprise and Zipcar both have cars within a couple blocks of where we live. Also, they both have plans that meet our needs, and they are competitively priced. We chose Enterprise because they have electric cars parked at Uncommon Ground Restaurant, and we wanted to have the option of using an electric car. I mean, we are Sustainably Queer after all.

Rockin' out with our carshare

 

In regards to the CTA, for those of you who live in the great City of Chicago, this is old hat, but if you don't, a ride one-way is $2.25. There is a Whole Foods in Evanston and a Whole Foods in Boystown that are about equidistant from the train. We tend to go to the store in Evanston because it is less busy and occasionally cheaper for some things. This week Rachel did the shopping by herself and so it only cost $4.50 to "deliver" the groceries, but she couldn't carry as much as we could have had we gone shopping together.

Grocery shopping for ourselves!

 

On to the groceries! Turns out, we spend way more on groceries when we are in the driver's seat. Our total at the Whole Foods from the CarShare trip was $90.58. Dude. What happened? Well, first off, we had friends over for pork tacos that Monday, and we got high quality pastured pork shoulder for that. That alone was $36.55. We aren't mad about making delicious pork tacos from relatively happy pigs, but that's an unusual expense. Take the (pork)fat off the top and we're down to $54.03. This is still a little high, but more in our typical range.

Here's the rest of the list:

3 Pears - $2.48

1 bunch Green Onions - $0.77

3 Avocados - $3.00

1 Yellow Onion - $0.67

1/2 lb Mushrooms - $2.99

Ginger Root - $0.51

1 Garlic Bulb - $0.55

5lb bag Carrots - $4.99

1 head Cauliflower - $4.99

1 lb Spring Mix Greens - $5.99

3 Baby Bok Choy - $1.01

Hungarian Paprika - $0.32

Soy Sauce - $2.99

Nutzo Nut Butter - $10.99

Green Salsa - $3.99

Cottage Cheese - $3.19

Ok, so obviously, we do not buy soy sauce, paprika, nut butter, or salsa every week. Great! Then, if we remove non produce items, we only spent $32.55, which is the lowest amount that we have spent on produce, specifically. So, really we didn't spend more. We were just stocking up on pantry items we were running out of. Also, other weeks, we had to make multiple trips to the store, and last week we didn't.

However, was this the most sustainable week? Our trip in the car cost us $17.06, and it also cost the atmosphere some burnt gasoline. Could we have gotten similar groceries and kept one more car off the road?

Here's a random picture of Rachel on the CTA.

Well, what did Rachel get when she went shopping solo on the train? Here's the run down:

1 Bunch Green Onions - $0.77

1 lb Spring Mix Greens - $5.99

2 Bunches Kale - $4.00

4 Pears - $2.84

1 Celery Crown - $2.01

5 lb bag Potatoes - $5.99

2 Jewel Yams - $5.10

2 Red Grapefruit - $3.17

1 Avocado - $1.50

4 Golden Beets - $7.12

Cottage Cheese - $4.69

The total for this trip was $44.22. Who knows why golden beets are so freaking expensive, but we will treasure them as we eat them. For traveling on her own and not having extra arms to carry things, Rachel actually didn't do too bad. The number and cost of produce items was slightly higher for this trip than the average. It's a tricky time of year for produce. Prices will go down once Midwest producers start putting out their own vegetables again.

We will use Enterprise CarShare again, it's a smart program and it certainly makes sense in a crowded urban environment. We will do a full review of it after we've used it a couple more times. I'm not sure that it will always make the most sense for us to use to run to the grocery store. Granted, taking the car only took us a little over an hour. It took Rachel two and a half hours on the train. Sometimes, time is money. Luckily for us, there are small grocery stores dotting our neighborhood and there is an Edgewater Whole Foods slated to open at the end of April. This will make it a lot easier for us to get groceries without having to worry about a vehicle at all.

What we are looking forward to most is the growing season and farmer's markets starting up again. Fresh local food trumps all when it comes to deliciousness, affordability, and sustainability - you've just got to know what you're looking for.

Let us know what you think of this series in the comments! Have you used grocery delivery or a carshare to get your groceries? What has your experience been? 

Grocery Delivery Series: Newleaf Natural Grocery

Most people would tell you that having options is important to grocery shopping. You need to know what you are eating, that the quality will be high, and that you will be able to get the ingredients you need. Choice, however, can be a double edged sword; too many decisions can make planning what you are going to eat a huge a hurdle to overcome. When you cook as much as we do, meal planning can be a bit of a chore if the only restrictions are "no processed foods and no added sugar." We often end up with decision fatigue. The Newleaf Natural Grocery Produce Box was a relief for us, because it took away all choice while still giving us great variety and quality.  

Newleaf Natural Grocery is located on Loyola Ave, within convenient walking distance of our house. This store is usually a nice place to swing through if we need more of something for a dish we're making or if we need a quick snack on the way to somewhere. It is very small. I think it may be the smallest grocery I have ever been inside, you do one loop around and that's it. The nice thing is that they pretty much have one of everything in that tiny store, and it seems like they run a pretty efficient ship.

 

A big part of Newleaf's business is their weekly organic vegetable and fruit delivery service. Each week they post of list of 8-9 vegetables and 5-6 fruits and then you can decide what type of box you want. There are small, medium, and large mixed boxes, just vegetable, just fruit, a half fruit box, and a raw box (which contains fewer starchy vegetables). If you are picking up directly from the store, you can choose which day (Tuesday, Wednesday, or Saturday). If you are getting home delivery, your delivery day depends on your location. They deliver as far south as Cermak, about as far west as Western (though you should look at the map), and as far north as Wilmette. Delivery costs $5. Boom!

 

We ordered the "just vegetable" box and a raw box, because you know we like a lot of produce, and we thought it would be cool to have a variety of fruits for a change. You pay in advance, so this cost us $35.

Ok, cool, so what did we get..

3 bags of green beans

2 bunches of collards

2 heads of lettuce

2 bunches of carrots

1 pound of strawberries

4 small onions

2 bunches of broccoli

2 apples

1 1/4lb blackberries

1 avocado

3 oranges

2 tangerines

New Leaf Veggies

Hey, that's not a bad collection of produce. That's the selection from last week, this is what people got this week. Also, it was a lot more fruit than we have been eating, so consequently, we are still working on the fruit well into this week. Everything was ready on time when I went to pick it up on Tuesday. It was all fresh and well packaged. Kristl noted something we haven't seen in months: the lettuce still had dirt on it! Don't freak out, this is pretty cool. It probably passed through fewer hands than most of the very "clean" lettuce we've been eating all winter. This was oddly comforting and made the lettuce seem a little healthier, even if it wasn't. (Dirt = bacteria = probably not a bad thing if you're eating it.)

 

Since we didn't have to decide what vegetables were going to buy, we just made up our meal plan from what we were given. We got meat from C&D Family Farms (also delivered to our door, on Saturday, more on that in a future blog post), and picked up dairy and other items from Morse Fresh Market, which is less than 1/2 a mile a way. Suddenly this whole carless grocery shopping thing is looking a lot less difficult. We bought potatoes, cabbage, and a giant sweet potato for about $10 later in the week, but that was all the produce we added on. We still have green beans and onions. It means the Newleaf Produce Box stocked us up pretty well. If you aren't eating a lot of vegetables, you will probably be fine with the small ($15) or medium($25.50) box. It's really affordable!

 

Who would we recommend this option to?

 

  • Anyone who wants home delivery within Newleaf's delivery area (you do have to meet this requirement)
  • People with decision fatigue around vegetable and fruit choice, who want variety without hassle
  • People on a budget; this food delivery option is very affordable
  • Anyone who wants to support the little guy, Newleaf is a small business and they source from small businesses
  • Anyone who wants to eat local in the growing season, they get vegetables from Fat Blossom Farm and fruit from Seedling Orchard

The other nice thing about the Newleaf Produce Box is that there isn't a long term commitment. You can get it once to try it out, like we did, or you can set up a recurring order to happen every week. It's up to you! Once you have made the transition to prioritizing local food, and sustainably grown produce, finding simple solutions like this is such a relief. Kristl and I are definitely going to supplement our winter diet with the occasional Newleaf Produce Box from now on.

 

So far, this grocery delivery series is making Kristl and me feel like the Ultimate Queens of Produce. We just sit around and produce comes to us. Next week's review features Instacart, which makes you feel super fancy, because they deliver same day and you can get pretty much whatever you want from wherever you want (a slight overstatement). If you missed our review of Door to Door Organics from last week, you can read about it here, and if you want to try it out be sure to contact us for an awesome Door to Door discount code!

 

Grocery Delivery Series: Door to Door Organics

Welcome to week 1 of our Grocery Delivery Series! Today we are featuring Door to Door Organics. The concept here is very simple. First, you choose a type (all vegetable, all fruit, or mixed) and size (bitty, small, medium, or large) of box. Then you are given delivery day options based on your location. You can customize your box with up to five substitutions, and then you can buy additional items from Door to Door if you need. They have a variety of fruits, vegetables, local meats, dairy, eggs, and pantry items. There's even a sale section! Or you can just get your box. You confirm the box, and then it shows up on your doorstep on the appointed day, ta da! This process will happen every week (or every other week, depending on what you choose) indefinitely, but if you want to go on vacation or stop getting deliveries, just put your account on hold. EASY! Door to Door Vegetables

 

Our box was delivered on Monday, 3/2/15. Let's look at what we got:

 

Medium Veggie Box Contents

We ordered a medium veggie box and it contained 1 lb of rainbow carrots, 4 bananas, 1 red bell pepper, 2 pieces of ginger root, 1 green cabbage, 1 cauliflower, 1 bunch of red chard, 1 cucumber, 3 yellow onions, 1 OrganicGirl 50/50! blend, 2 d'Anjou pears, and 2 lbs of regular carrots. We used all five of our substitutions when we ordered, and definitely liked not being locked into getting things we didn't want or already had enough of. One really cool feature is that you can set account preferences - if you have an allergy or just hate a certain item, add it to the list and Door to Door will automatically swap it out for you. You can also add things that you would like more of. Talk about customizable!

Additional Items Screenshot

This second screen shot is of things we added on, because the medium veggie box was just not enough for us. We added another cauliflower, a whole chicken, a bunch of kale, a bunch of broccoli, another cabbage, and another container of mixed greens. These additions brought our total to $76.93. The chicken alone was $13.99, which is a pretty competitive price for a 4 lb organic chicken (full disclosure, it was on sale).

If you notice on the second screen shot that there is a "Credit" line item, that's because we had two missing items. We did not receive the rainbow carrots or the second cabbage we ordered. This didn't ruin our week or anything, but it was confusing. I almost missed it, too. Thankfully, customer support was very helpful, and they credited our account immediately when we notified them (to be clear, they didn't even charge our card for what they missed, which, in our opinion, is even better than getting an account credit).

Let's break it down. Who would be a good fit for Door to Door Organics?

  • You want to eat organic food
  • You have very little time or ability to grocery shop
  • You are trying to stick to a budget and want to avoid those impulse buys that jump in your cart when you go grocery shopping
  • You have somewhat predictable food needs

The food quality is high, the website is easy to navigate, the selections are above and beyond, and the produce boxes are pretty great. Not to mention, the local meat and dairy selections are impressive. Also, the packaging is all recyclable and reusable and you can leave it out at your next pickup for them to properly reuse or recycle. Yay for environmental friendliness!

Our order from Door to Door lasted us about 4 days. According to Door to Door, the medium veggie box should be enough for a "hearty vegetarian couple, or a family with a couple of veggie and fruit minded children." As we mentioned in the introduction to this series, we eat a LOT of produce. We found that the medium box was not nearly enough for us, but we also understand that our needs for produce are much different than the average person. Seriously, guys, we eat ALL. THE. VEGETABLES.  We did end up going to the store 4 times this week to supplement. I think our ideal will be one big grocery haul a week with 1-2 trips to supplement. Such is life when you only eat perishable foods, especially during the non-growing season. In order to get the freshest options, sometimes it's best to shop multiple times a week. Our next vegetable delivery will be on Tuesday, 3/10, with the Weekly Produce Box Program from Newleaf Natural Grocery in Rogers Park. Check out our Week Two Review here.

Have you tried Door to Door Organics? Did you have a good experience? Share your comments below! If you would like to try them out, email us at hello@sustainablyqueer.com for a discount code for $15 off! Yeah!

Grocery Delivery Series: Introduction

Last weekend, Kristl and I took the plunge and finally sold our little blue 2005 Hyundai. There wasn't anything particularly wrong with it, but our big goal this year is to aggressively pay down Kristl's student loan debt, so we're cutting the chaff. Plus, it wasn't the best for winter driving and we found that we were maybe using it once a week. It is pretty simple to transition to living car-free in Chicago, especially when you live as close to work and transit as we do. Of course, we're planning on blogging about our experience with being car-free, so you have that to look forward to! Our main difficulty with being car-free is figuring out how to do our grocery shopping. As part of our debt-reduction plan, we have agreed to only eat out once a month. You read that right - once a month. Combine that with the fact that we don't really eat very many processed foods and that adds up to a lot of perishable groceries. A whole lot.

In the growing season, we get our produce directly from a farm, a farmers market, or a CSA, but in the cooler months, we tend to go to Whole Foods, Costco, or our neighborhood grocery store. We are super lucky that we have 3 small, locally-0wned grocery stores within walking distance of our home that have a decent selection of local, organic foods, but they often don't have the amounts we need. We are not dye-in-the-wool Whole Foods groupies, but because we tend to choose organic for the majority of our produce, it is often the best option because they have quicker turnover. They tend to sell their produce more quickly, thus, the produce you see on the shelf has been restocked more recently than what you may see at a smaller store, even if they are coming from the same regional distributor.

A Whole Foods is opening very close to us at the end of April (hopefully!), which will be very convenient, but in the meantime, we are doing some interesting research into grocery delivery programs. We will review one each week in March, for our knowledge and yours.

Here is our planned schedule of reviews:

Each week we will post a new review and link it to the list above. We have done our best to choose 4 different types of grocery delivery options so that we can provide options for the vast majority of our readers. These options run the gamut from almost-immediate-gratification-someone-else-does-your-grocery-shopping-for-you  to hyperlocal, seasonal CSA. We will compare price points, ease of use, reliability, customer service, and quality of produce. We hope you're as excited as we are!

 

Farm Focus: Joe's Blues Blueberries

There's nothing like February in Chicago to make you dream about picking blueberries in the heat of July. The Sustainable Queers have just about run out of our personal supply of July blueberries, but we want to let you in on our secret blueberry patch.

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Five Food and Homesteading Goals for 2015

Happy New Year from Sustainably Queer! Before we take on the ARDUOUS task of tasting a whole slate of butters on tangy sourdough bread, we thought we'd write a quick post a post to inform you of our food and homesteading goals for 2015.

1. Eat no processed sugar - This includes white sugar, brown sugar, High Fructose Corn Syrup, other corn syrups, other processed sweeteners that are called by other names, etc. We will eat products that include honey, maple syrup, and molasses (we understand it's byproduct of sugar refining, but it has a much higher nutritional value than sugar because of this), but not in large quantities. We will make exceptions to this goal for very special occasions, but in general, we will try to avoid sugar in general, because of the effect that it has on the brain and the gut flora.

2. Cook at home at least five days a week - We recently did a 21-day purification program (let us know if you want more info - we actually really enjoyed it!) that forced us to cook at home every day for at least two of those three weeks. This took a little bit of getting used to, but once we got into the swing of it, we realized we were saving a lot of money, and eating really well (The program started with 10 days of just vegetables, fruits, seeds, and fats, with protein shakes, then you could add back in lean meats on day 11.) We learned a lot of recipes that are easy and delicious (veggie garam masala, baked salmon, mashed cauliflower with mushrooms, roasted lemon broccoli, broccoli cauliflower soup, etc). We love to cook and we're glad to be back in the kitchen in 2015.

3. Season our cast iron and actually start using it - We have three beautiful cast iron pans that are sitting in the trunk of our car, two old, unseasoned pans that were given to us, and one that we took camping and totally covered in soot. They have been in the trunk of our car for eighteen months. Literally. We have Teflon pans that are slowly killing us and cast iron that is waiting to set us free. Look forward to a post chronicling our experience.

4. Buy even more of our food from local sources - As you can tell from many of our previous posts, we are all about supporting the local economy and small businesses.  We want to know about small, local businesses who are committed to sustainability and are using quality ingredients and  products to make their goods. We have a goal to increase our knowledge of these businesses and our patronage of them. The stronger the web of the local economy, the easier it will be for these businesses to survive, and that creates jobs and a myriad of other good things.

5. Make more of our own products at home - As you can imagine, not every item we want to buy can be sourced locally (yet), so we have to buy some things from places like Target (though we do try to patronize small businesses over corporations whenever we can). There's no shame in going to Target now and then, but we are going to do our best to be more intentional about what we buy there. Is this something I can make at home? Then I should make it at home, instead of buying a processed, packaged version. Our final goal is to make what we can at home, be it deodorant, dish soap, laundry detergent, pickled carrots, belts, or just dinner at home.

Ok, those are our simple food and homesteading goals for 2015!  Feel free to play along and share some of your goals with us! And once again Happy New Year!

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(And we'll get back to the conclusion of our Ninety-Nine Favorite Things list shortly!)

Good Food Festival - Chicago: Our Overview

Selfie at the Exhibition Hall  

 

Recently, on March 14, Rachel and I went to the Food Policy Conference at the Good Food Festival, because we're giant nerds. (Seriously, we were talking about it and decided to go for it since neither of us could remember the last time we'd done anything "fun" other than going out to eat - yes, we decided going to a Food Policy Conference would be a good use of our fun money.) We opted to skip the morning symposium and arrived just after 10am to explore the exhibition floor before the first talk.

The first talk we attended was called "Urban Agriculture and Local Food Enterprises" and the panel included a couple speakers presenting on community-focused food and agricultural developments in the Englewood neighborhood of Chicago.  There was also a representative from the City of Chicago's Planning and Development department.  The panel finished up with a speaker from Cleveland's Green City Growers, one of the Evergreen Cooperative's community-owned, job-creating companies that focuses on farming in their city.  The panel was illuminating and a good introduction to our day. We hope to give you a more detailed post of some of these organizations in later posts.

After this panel, we got a whole hour for lunch and some time to browse around the exhibition floor. We got a kale burger from Green Spirit, a pulled pork sandwich from Gunthorp Farms, and mac and cheese with bacon sausage from Big Fork.  We usually take the opportunity to eat meat when we can be sure of the production practices behind it, so we chose the pork and sausage because they were locally sourced from farms we trust.  The kale burger was from a small vegan restaurant in Rogers Park, and the best thing about it was the beet ketchup. Go figure. After eating, we nabbed some Butter Bella cookies for later and talked to the folks from Seeds of Change.  Seeds of Change was giving away cool bags and free grocery items, like jars of tikka masala sauce. We never say no to free food.

Seeds of Change had a #PledgeToPlant photo booth

After lunch, we went to our next panel session on "Creating Justice and Food-Secure Communities with Sustainable Methods," which featured more speakers from the south side of Chicago, working on various projects related to alleviating food deserts and giving people more agency when they are making choices about what they eat.  Most striking from this bunch was Naomi Davis from Blacks in Green, who not only gave us a full picture of their vision for a fully walk-able economy in West Woodlawn, but was also inspiring in a general sense.  Here is a quote from Blacks in Green's website:

"We serve as bridge and catalyst among communities and their stakeholders in the design and development of “walk-to-work, walk-to-shop, walk-to-learn, walk-to-play villages” within black neighborhoods...our walkable villages are designed to increase household income, by increasing the rate at which neighbor-owned businesses are created and sustained, thus keeping resident money active locally, supporting community self interests, and preserving the heritage of a place. Thus, we address the terrible triplets of pollution, poverty, and plutocracy."

Pretty inspiring, right?  I know, here in Edgewater, we have some semblance of this, especially when the majority of our work, food, and play takes place within walking distance. It's not meant to say we never want to leave the neighborhood, merely that the ideal sphere for human interaction and community building is within a 1/4-1/2 mile radius of your home.  Click through to Blacksingreen.org to learn more about their Eight Principles of Green Village Building.  Clearly, this is fodder for a whole post separate post, as well.

Fair Trade banana from Dill Pickle Co-op

Finally, we thought Rachel would find the "Good Food U - How can Chicago-area higher education support healthy local food?" session a very interesting melding of her professional interests, but about 10 minutes in, we decided to try a different session (mostly because they wanted a group discussion and we wanted to listen and learn).  We hopped over to the session on "Fair Food for Global Sustainability" just as Sharon Hoyer from the Dill Pickle Co-op in Logan Square was finishing up her presentation about Fair Trade Bananas.  We, unfortunately, missed the opening remarks from Nancy Jones of Chicago Fair Trade, but the information about bananas was fascinating (we hope to do a post about Fair Trade in the near future, but for now, check out this video about the bananas!).  Then our favorite speaker of the day, Eric Rodriguez from Café Chicago, started telling us about the issues with undocumented day workers in the Midwest and his group's initiatives to give them more agency and power to control the type of work they do.  Café Chicago is a coffee roasting cooperative based on these concepts and we are 100% hoping to sit down with Eric at some point and possibly visit their location for more information, but their website gives a succinct run-down of what they do:

Cafe Chicago Coffee"Café Chicago is a worker-made, worker-run cooperative that roasts, packages, and distributes great tasting, fair trade, organic coffee in the Chicago area. With a new model of job creation, job training, and social action that create living wage jobs and provide training in coffee roasting and cooperative management, the for-profit Café Chicago also funds the social justice organizing of Latino Union at a time of dwindling non-profit funding. "

 

 

We left that presentation feeling inspired to buy Fair Trade across the board, and if we ever need coffee, a bag of Café Chicago coffee will be the first place we turn. About four days later, we were at True Nature Foods and right there on the shelf was freshly roasted coffee from Café Chicago.  It's very exciting that organizations like this exist and that their products are readily available all over the city!

We then headed back to the exhibition hall for some serious snacking and chatting with reps from all the delightful, local food organizations and companies.  I'm not going wear out our welcome and list everyone we talked to but some highlights were The Brinery (delicious fermented veggies from Ann Arbor looking to get more into the Chicago market), Mo Rub (meat/dip/veggie seasoning from Iowa now available at some Chicago-area Whole Foods), the Illinois Stewardship Alliance (advocacy group supporting our local food system), and the Institute for Justice Clinic on Entrepreneurship (national group of lawyers, based at U of C in Chicago, who focus on providing pro bono legal advice and support for new business owners in the city, specifically local food businesses).

It was a very full day and we learned a lot, but the Friday version of the Good Food Festival is not for everyone.  Last year we went on Saturday, and that was more our speed at the time.  There are more booths in the exhibition hall, and the presentations are focused on topics like "Brew Your Own Beer" or "Home Butchery and Curing" or "Food Co-ops 101", that kind of thing.  It's more focused on things you can do at home and less so on things that are happening in the community and the world of urban agriculture. We're hoping to make it to both Friday and Saturday next year, if we have the energy! (Also, we didn't even mention the Localicious Party! We didn't make it this year, but hope to budget for it next year. It's a party celebrating "the farmers who grow our food and the chefs who transform it.") The moral of the story is that if you like food, the Good Food Festival has something of interest for you, so you should check it out next year!