Spectrum: Life in the Green Zone

Lizz Winstead goes loco trying to buy local

By Lizz Winstead

Photo by Rachel Leibman

I had a dinner party recently at my New York apartment. A whisper campaign started because I made a blueberry tart in February. I was treated like some kind of Traitor Joe for using berries that were obviously not local. They were organic, but that didn’t matter.

How do we all—urbanites especially—deal with trying to buy goods grown locally while living in a place where the only thing grown locally is bitterness about the lack of anything grown locally? Of course there are people who find a way. On the really extreme end, there are the freegans, who dumpster dive and consume only the remnants of discarded items in the name of absolutely rejecting a corrupt economic system. I am not sure if what they retrieve is local or if it just ends up local. Either way, I am just not that noble or nimble or um, adventurous. The thought of weeding through certain types of doggie bags in the trash to find something edible from another type of doggie bag is not a commitment I’m willing to make.

Sure, I’ll grab an old lamp or even a shirt I’ve found curbside, but when it comes to food, I need to find a different path—one that doesn’t involve treating an expiration date as merely a suggestion. So, having ruled out freeganomics, the obvious choice is shopping at the farmers’ market. Even though our local farmers’ markets aren’t exactly local, they are localish and mostly organic. (Apropos of nothing, just as an added bonus—in the sexy department, organic farmers are the new firemen.)

But should I not eat produce in the winter? Become a victim of scurvy? What about that ribbon on your lapel—was it made locally? And what about everything else we buy? Until chain stores like Bed Bath & Beyond rename themselves Bed Bath & Nothing Has Been Made Beyond a Five Mile Radius of Your Home, I will not be bullied. I’m going to buy carbon offsets every time I want to eat an orange, so don’t even try to get all self-righteous on my ass.

I already use flushable, biodegradeable poop bags for my dogs and carry their business home twice a day. (What can I say? I feel for the dumpster divers.) I use vinegar to wash my windows, so my apartment often smells like I’m trying to get rid of that not-so-fresh feeling. My canvas bag collection has taken over the back wall of my kitchen. How much more can I do? We all have our limits, and for me, the enviro movement today is all about reconsidering and discovering that we can establish new ones. But in the end, there are still limits.

As for those tart-judging hypocrites? They had no comment about the Bordeaux they were happily chugging while questioning my blueberry choice. No one asked how many trees died to make those $20 bills I used to pay for the tart, pasta, wine, and pricey hothouse tomatoes I served, either. No, oddly enough, those issues never came up. Instead, at the end of the night, they said, “We should do dinner again.”

Issue 25

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