Saturday, October 27, 2018

Guest Essay: "Green" Your Farmers' Market Routine

The following essay by Jacqui Stork, assistant manager of the Hillsdale Farmers' Market, is full of helpful tips for making your farmers' market shopping more earth-friendly. (Hint: These tips also work for shopping at the grocery store!)

We farmers' market people tend to care a lot about the earth, and our impact on it. As such, we work hard to have a net positive impact in our actions and approach to food and always seek to pass that along to our customers. That being said, there are times when the drive for quality and convenience means that we use plastics or other disposable products. Because we want to balance our desire to be more green with the realities of running a public market, we thought we'd share six super simple ways you (the customer) can help green up the market every time you shop.

Reusable bags are the best!

Remember Your Market Bag(s)
This one is probably the lowest hanging fruit—most of us have a least one reusable bag hanging around at home. Keep it somewhere that you'll remember to bring it with you. If you forget, or just want to sport a new look, most markets have heavy-duty bags available at the information booth. They can hold a pretty hefty market haul and are machine washable. If you are doing an especially heavy shop, consider bringing a wagon (some markets provide wagons) to pack it in and out!

Decline the Plastic Bag
Along these same lines, you will likely be offered smaller plastic bags for produce at market stalls—you can always decline to take one. Just use your market tote as a carryall for the day's purchases. If you like to keep your items separated (or simply need to corral smaller items, like tomatoes) consider purchasing cotton or mesh produce bags.

Look for the recycling station.

Recycle the Right Way
One of the biggest challenges we face at the market is making sure that our recycling is "clean." We often find that things have been tossed into the recycling bins that we end up having to trash. The biggest culprits? Coffee cups, bottle caps, plastic straws and containers with food refuse on it. When these get mixed in with the recycling, our volunteers have to hand-sort and remove them (which is no fun at the end of a long day). If you aren't sure whether or not something is recyclable, ask before tossing it in.

Prioritize Plants
Eating a plant-based diet is one of the best things we can do for the environment. This doesn't have to mean eschewing meat and other animal products entirely—it can simply mean shifting your focus to prioritizing foods like vegetables, legumes and fruits. Stock up on fresh, seasonal items that fit this bill and use recipes that make these items the star.

A wagon can come in handy!

Rethink Scraps
A lot of the time we don't know what to do with those "extra" bits (like mushroom stems, corn cobs and onion peels). Try keeping a zip-top bag or airtight container in your freezer to fill with scraps for making stock. Once you get a full bag or two, dump the contents into a large soup pot and cover with about a quart of water. Add salt, pepper, bay leaves and any other aromatics you have on hand and let simmer for one to two hours to create a light broth to use in soups or other cooking projects.

Practice Durable Dining
If you plan on eating or drinking at the market, consider bringing (some) of your own dishes. While our hot food vendors can't fill your personal tupperware, you can use silverware you bring from home to eat your meal. (Anybody else love those camping sporks?) You can also bring your travel coffee mug to be filled at some coffee vendors' stands, and carry a reusable water bottle to hydrate at the info booth.

Small steps can make a big difference when we all practice—try some of the tips above to help us help the planet!

Photo of recycling station from Portland Farmers Market.

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