Sustainably Back to School – College Edition

While the heat of summer wanes, for many, the thought of school just around the corner hammers our nerves and sense of freedom even more. So, why not make the most of it? Look forward to that new year of classes. Now add to that a hint of green thinking, and it might just be the best school year ever!

Let’s focus our sustainable minds on the products college students need. To make sure life in the dorms is as comfortable and efficient as possible, there are a few key areas to address: technology, clothing and school supplies.

Technology

Unlike the school days on campus that your parents reminiscent over (perhaps way too frequently for your taste), today’s supplies include some high-tech gear. While laptop computers, cell phones and tablets are energy sinks, they do offer some sustainable benefits. Most notably, these products are eco-friendly in that their existence makes other products unnecessary.

desktoppic

Working at a desktop can be less expensive. You definitely lose the mobility, though.

One can take an endless amount of notes in class, thus limiting the necessity for notebooks. The fewer notebooks used, the fewer trees cut down. And, if you want to take it one step further, read how to find the most energy-efficient laptops.

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Sustainable School Lunches

With six kids, I understand that it is infinitely easier to let your child eat a hot lunch prepared by the hard-working cafeteria folk. For the most part, the lunch that your school district offers is tasty, well-balanced, and cost-effective. However, if you want to and have the time to make your child their very own lunch, why not make it the sustainable way?

We’ve put together a quick list of how you can make your child’s lunch both delicious AND better for the environment.

Reach for reusable sandwich bags and containers

snacktime

On a related note, there’s no need for single-use plastic sandwich bags. Instead, consider a waxed fabric sandwich bag, or one of the many reusable lunch containers on the market. From bento boxes to tiffins, there are loads of choices, although glass jars may be a bit too breakable for some kids. Here’s a collection of some plastic-free lunch containers (from Treehugger).

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Odd Stuff, Straight From the Farmers Booth

One of the most fun thing to do at a farmer’s market for me is to talk up the vendors. They talk about the flavors of one veggie compared to another on their table. They joke and they have stories. They’ll let you know when the lettuce in front of you was picked. They’ll make sure you know that if they don’t have it, they can get it for you.

But, what I really like about chatting up stall vendors is that they know they best ways to eat what they’re selling. They’ve put the time into testing and retesting then tasting and re-tasting their produce to be able to tell you what way it should be prepared. And, let’s be honest. Who better would know how a veggie should be prepared than the people whose livelihood depends on its delicious conclusion? No one, that’s who.

For the most part, these veggies, fruits, and plants are commonly known. But, once in awhile, there are things sold at markets that just do not fit into what you’d normally find.

I took the time to ask some of my co-workers what they’ve found at their local markets and I was surprised at what they said.

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Unique Farmer’s Market Finds

Farmers markets are becoming more popular than ever. It’s a combination of knowing where your food is coming from, shopping local, and eating healthier that seems to be the reason. However, there’s a large variety of produce being introduced that the majority of shoppers are not really interested in trying.

We know that August is the best time to harvest all types of tomatoes, peppers, potatoes, tomatillos, and other familiar produce. These are the staples of our summer. But, it’s time to try new things, to venture out of the familiar and into the unknown. Here’s a variety of veggies that are unheralded, but full of options. They only need a chance!

daikonradish

Daikon is a milder form of radish

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Farmers Markets All Around

Interest in local foods is more than a trend, and certainly from a historic perspective – it’s a return to the “way things used to be”.

The number of Farmers’ Markets has grown dramatically in the past few years, this echoes the increased interest by consumers to procure tasty, fresh, unique, and ripe food.

prmspicsmallThere are diverse reasons shoppers appreciate Farm Markets. Many site the interaction with farmers, growers, and crafters to be a highlight. The opportunity to talk with people about their products is powerful. When purchasing relish at the supermarket, for example, it’s not possible to ask when it was made, how it was canned, and if there is a secret recipe, maybe even one that can be shared. A conversation with a grower can be much more than “how much are the tomatoes”; it may inform every tomato purchase that you have after that. Things like fertilizer use, pest prevention tactics, heirloom and open pollinated seed, how to avoid blight, recipe suggestions, and much more may transpire between consumer and grower. This is just one of many thousands of conversations that happen at a typical market. At the least, Farmers’ Markets are a place to find seasonal products; but there is much more to the equation, they are an opportunity to build community, support smaller growers, circulate dollars within the local economy, and boost health and diversity within diets.

raspberryinsept

You’ll find all sorts of fresh foods at your farmers market.

Many Markets take place outdoors offering a neat environment for children and adults alike. Some also have kid-focused activities and amenities. Shopping with children at Farmers’ Markets is a neat experience to share. Opportunities to show that food isn’t made in a supermarket but is grown and that the growers are “real” people. Also, depending on the Market, shopping may be a cultural diversity adventure for kids. Different cultures have different vegetables that are common in their recipes and may be present at a Market.

Often referenced rationale for shopping at Farmers’ Markets might be familiar, though it bears repeating. People love that produce is allowed to ripen on the plant versus in the shipping crate or on the shelf.

Almost always, the produce is picked day of the Market, offering freshness that is only rivaled by backyard gardening. In addition, the varieties that are grown by Market vendors can be focused on attributes like flavor, and color versus shelf life and transportation tolerance. Some customers purchase in larger quantities in order to put-by for off-season eating through canning, freezing, and dehydrating.

Take every possible opportunity to stop by Farmers’ Markets, each experience is bound to be different and rewarding. Unique foods, neat ideas, and great people abound. Whether trendy or not, they are dang tasty!