I want to make a difference in the world, and you do too. I’ve been doing a lot of reading and thinking lately, and to me, that means lightening the waste I leave in the world and focusing on how to make the most positive use of my time.
That means doing a job I love, and taking care of myself with home cooking, surfing and lots of yoga. It also means educating myself and learning what I can do to make a positive, not negative, impact on the environment. I want to leave this planet better than it started out.
These days, that looks like it might be impossible. But I’m a firm believer that the actions of one person can make an unimaginable difference on an outcome, and I know that the global community, acting as a whole, is capable of great things.
When I read The Omnivore’s Dilemma, and then, the same author’s Food Rules, I started to eat more things found in their natural state, like vegetables, fruits and meat. As an expat, this is easy: I go to the market, or hire someone to go for me, to pick out the freshest, most delicious-looking produce on an almost daily basis. Science has now proven that locally grown, organic food is better for you than the plastic white tomato imported stuff. Makes sense, when you think about it.
This summer, I devoured Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, a get-your-hands-dirty book that chronicles a year of living off her family’s West Virginian farm. She writes about making friends with her local farmers’ market growers and learns to make mozzarella and butcher heirloom turkeys. I’d skip the hardcore stuff on my own DIY projects, but she intelligently shows that locally grow, organic food is as good for our communities, farmers and the natural environment as it is for our bodies.
As expats, this is very good news.
First of all, let’s get this out of the way: unabashed traveling is such an integral part of my global nomad DNA that I don’t plan to reduce travel to reduce my environmental footprint. So I needed to think of something else.
Eating local and being ‘environmental’ in your approach to expat living is not only good for the earth, but it’s also better for you. It can also more fun, if done with planning and style.
This world we’re living in can be pretty fucked up. In our line of work, living where I do, I know it. I see over a dozen examples of disparities, poverty, inequity, before breakfast. It’s not enough that we’re aid workers, trying to make the world better, country by country.
It’s just not.
Maybe back in the days of Mad Men, if we had gotten to play diplomats, we would be forgiven for not knowing better. But future generations that have to deal with the Earth we’ll leave them aren’t going to discriminate when they look back and blame us idiots in the past.
Is it really that fun to drive your own SUV, drink soda, and take a plastic bag from each person who offers you one?
Not when you can drink your own cocktails and cook spicy tasty vegetables for your date/hotie/partner with the exotic local food you brought home in a cool community-made bag. Come on, every country has a bag project, right?
Things in our environment are changing very quickly, and it’s smart for me to root myself in community, to encourage innovation and ingenuity, and to surround myself with people I love. As an aid worker, that makes me happy. As someone concerned for our planet, it’s what I can do.
Over the next few weeks, I’m going to be writing about expat environmental living. I’ll tell you how to enjoy eating local wherever you are, and use less plastic.
And it’s going to be fun.