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In her documentary book, Eat Less Water, author Florencia Ramirez has done careful research and determined, “The solution to worldwide water shortages is in our kitchens.” While many of her recommendations to us as consumers deal with our purchasing choices at the grocery or local farmers’ market, there is also a central farming and gardening theme that we would all do well to learn how to learn to grow our own diverse crops from seeds utilizing sustainable cultural practices that conserve water. She also feels we must teach these growing and cooking skills to our children in order to insure an adequate clean water supply for future generations.
“The farmers and food producers I present in this book illustrate the very best in food cultivation,” says Ramirez, “This food is grown with farming systems in sync with the surrounding environment, working to replenish rivers, not pollute them. They represent farming methods that regenerate the soil, thereby keeping more water in the ground so the well never goes dry.” Ramirez says we all must try to emulate these farmers by using these water-conserving practices when gardening or farming on our own, as well as supporting these water-savvy farmers when we make our food purchases.
Ramirez is determined to persevere in her quest to eat less water. “We can influence change,” she insists, “A survey among top corporations found customers to be the leading driver of their company’s sustainability initiatives. Customers are over two times more influential to sustainability decisions than company shareholders and three times more than policy-holders and non-governmental organizations. Larger companies are taking notice of the growing American preference for organic foods. We hold the power to change the way food is grown and produced in the United States: we the eaters.”
She is convinced, “There is power in the collective, I write at the end of each of my blog posts. It is the idea that gives me hope. We can influence food systems to grow and produce our food differently, but only if we merge our influence. ‘It’s a combination of all these little things that will fix things,’ said Kurt Unkel, who plans to return to farming after recently giving up his love of farming. “Collectively,” Ramirez believes, “We will rewrite the story of the future of water on this exquisite planet we call home.”
Ramirez says there is much work to be done. “According to a 2015 Gallup Poll, 44 per cent of Americans ‘include organic’ in their food purchases,” she notes, “But what the poll doesn’t ask is ‘how often?’ In the same year, 3 per cent of food produced and sold in the United States was grown without chemicals, antibiotics, petroleum-based fertilizers, or genetically-modified seeds designed to be paired with pesticides. If 44 per cent of eaters ‘include organic,’ why are we not supporting more organic agriculture? Three per cent is not enough to reverse the damage of pollution from agriculture on our rivers, lakes and oceans. And it falls short in halting the practice of drawing down groundwater resources to irrigate thirsty crop fields treated with chemicals,”
We cannot always make the best choices, Ramirez says, “But everything in life is a work in progress. Each time we make a decision to eat less water, it is like tossing a pebble into still water, causing a ripple effect.” She encourages us, “The best foods for water, (1) Are grown without petroleum fertilizers and pesticides; (2) Are grown with green water like dry-farmed and rain-fed foods; (3) Use water-efficient irrigation like drip irrigation, water-catchment and closed-loop systems and (4) Are grown on small-scale, diverse farm operations.”
Ramirez concludes that we need to take our ‘eat less water’ choices right on into our kitchens. She says, “The best action steps to institute in our kitchens for water are: (1) Waste less food by planning meals and keeping perishable foods front and center in the refrigerator (30-50 per cent of all food is thrown away); (2) Buy fewer meat and dairy products (the average American eats 270 pounds of meat, 250 eggs and 630 pounds of dairy each year); (3) Support local sustainable agriculture and shop at a farmers’ market; and (4) Cook meals from scratch as much as possible to control the source of your ingredients (when you eat out, follow the same rules for best food).”
For her fifth rule in the kitchen, Ramirez urges us, “Teach the children in your life how to cook and why food choices matter to the health of our environment. My three young children each choose, plan and cook a meal a week. They were taught how to use knives at a young age. My hope is when they graduate to their own kitchens, they will continue to implement the practices they learned in mine. The next generation of eaters needs to be active participants if we are to fundamentally change food systems. Compost food waste (decomposition of food waste in landfill and wastewater treatment plants accounts for 20 per cent of methane emissions).”