Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Eating Environmentally

So when I first got to Ireland, I was dismayed at the lack of widely available all-natural organic etc. etc. foods, so much so that I thought it would be pretty much impossible for me to ever make a permanent home here. As you may have noticed, I'm kind of big on environmental issues, and I'm in the very long process of altering my lifestyle to make it as sustainable and environmentally-friendly as is reasonably possible. How could I maintain that in a country without Whole Foods?

But as I've lived here longer, I've become more and more aware of the many alternatives to shopping at Tesco that are available. I've concluded that my real problem lies in UCD's location: the suburbs. Okay, I exaggerate, but still, on the scatter graph that is Dublin city, UCD is a bit of an outlier. On Saturday I cycled into town to go to the Asia Market and get some tofu (which turned out to be organic) on the cheap. While I was there, I also picked up some granola for breakfast from a small shop nearby selling grains and legumes and teas and such in bulk, and a salad from Blazing Salads Food Company (har har), which also stocked various organic, veg(etari)an-friendly stuff (I'm going back for the peanut butter soon). This was within a block or two, maybe a 10-minute walk away from the Temple Bar Food Market. Were I to attend Trinity, I would hardly have to leave the house to accumulate my idealized food stuffs, and I'd be much less restricted by schedules, both of my own and of the markets'.

Moving away from city centre, however, things get more dispersed. I experimented with a new market on Sunday, in Ranelagh, a bit closer than the one in Temple Bar but far, far smaller. Denis Healy was there, too, though, so I got all my produce, and there was a really good baker stand where I got the best wholegrain sandwich bread of my life, and an Italian man selling pasta and sauces that were really, really good (I sampled the pesto, which pretty much lived up to his claim of "best in the world") but too expensive for me to justify when I already have a load of pasta in the pantry that I don't use sauce much on anyway. At any rate, there's that one in Ranelagh, another small one on Wednesdays in the even-closer Stillorgan (though the ride there has more hills), which is across from an expensive but well-stocked Health Store (fake ham lunchmeat!), and a fresh produce shop in Donnybrook that's pretty close but doesn't seem to indicate organic-ness or local-ness on its goods. Oh, and Donnybrook Fair, but they're a gourmet shop and therefore charge gourmet prices. Even Tesco, when it comes down to it, carries several organic products:some produce and dairy, a small meat and fish section, and Bunalun. Bunalun is an organic food company that makes things like pasta and orange juice and rice cakes and honey and other kind of basics, and which I'm starting to see more places - like Centra now that they've revamped and expanded their little shop in Merville.

So there are, in fact, a number of options when it comes to eating consciously in Dublin, particularly if you live in the city. They're just not shoved in your face with a zillion different labels and certifications, probably because its still more of a niche industry here. It is a bit annoying how often organic gets grouped in with the gluten-free items (I like my gluten!), and you do have to pay a bit more in the stores, but the farmers market prices can actually be cheaper that conventionally grown produce at, say, Tesco. And theirs is fresher and tastier anyway, so it's totally worth it.

All that said, I would like to assert that I still prefer living in the states, for a variety of other reasons, including awareness. The fact that this stuff is available in Dublin doesn't mean that people are flocking to it, and the Irish attitude to other environmental concerns is severely lacking. Littering is not really seen as a problem, a fact not helped by the dirth of rubbish bins in the city. And where there aren't trash cans, there also aren't bike racks. I used to wonder why everyone had a cable lock when U-locks are safer...then I realized that its because you have to be able to fasten your bike to any tall poll available, because bike racks are rare and usually full where present. Combined with horrible driver awareness of cyclists and occasionally disappearing bike lanes, it's a pretty effective way of discouraging people from using bikes to get around. I think a bit more public activism is in order, but maybe that's just my Americanness talking.


Anonymous said...

While I understand the moral/ethical reasons for eating organic, I dont see how they are more sustainable?

Environmentally friendly, yes in some case(but not when it comes to meat it seems).

PS: one of the reasons you see no activism is because theres a very small divide between local and national politics, especially compared to the states.

Kate said...

Something that is "environmentally friendly" is more sustainable just by its nature of being less harmful to the environment. Specifically, however, things like petrochemical fertilizers and pesticides that are used in conventional farming techniques are (as you can probably tell from the name) derived from fossil fuels, and are therefore not only a non-renewable resource but are also contributing to the problem of global warming.

What do you mean when you refer to meat?