// Ksenia Kolodka
Something that many university students are good at is being frugal with food consumption. We search for the best deals at grocery stores, go shopping on Tuesdays when groceries are 10% off, and learn how to meal prep. Many students don’t have the means to buy organic or local produce because it’s just too expensive, and other things – such as last minute studying – often take priority. Because of this, we tend to buy foods that come from across the world and have an immense carbon footprint – even if it is something “healthy” like a red pepper. This year I’ve become increasingly conscious of my food consumption thanks to MIT 3932 (Politics and Representation of Food) where we watched documentaries and read texts about food production – unveiling what happens before the food arrives at the grocery store.
Vegetables, for example, go through a highly automated agricultural process with intervention from labourers working in precarious conditions. In the fields, the workers spray vegetables with various types of pesticides, fungicides, and insecticides. These harm animal habitats, waterways, and soil health, which also impact humans who are living in close proximity to these farms. Using all of these chemicals leads to monoculture – when there is only one type of plant grown. For example there are dozens of different corn species, yet only one type is seen in grocery stores. Since there is no variation in plant types, this makes the plant more susceptible to disease which could wipe out an entire field, or in severe cases, an entire species.
It is difficult not to participate in this sort of consumption with harmful repercussions, even if one chooses to pursue a raw vegan diet. You would still be adding on to the carbon footprint of vegetable and fruit production if you buy produce flown in from overseas. You would still be contributing to precarious labour conditions where the workers suffer from illnesses due to constant handling of chemicals. One of the ways you can help go against this mass industrialization of produce is by growing your own garden.
I spoke to Olivia Ly of EnviroWestern’s Gardening Club who gave useful tips about how to make a big impact on the environment by implementing small changes into your life. Small changes can come in the form of keeping a little herb garden in your house. “Keep it small because watering can become a lot of work. Do your research – you need to know how much nutrients and water and sunlight the plants need so that when you’re starting, you actually experience success. I think that’s key for continuing on and feeling that gardening is worth your time and effort.” Once you’ve mastered the herb garden, you can move on to vegetables such as beans and tomatoes which grow very easily, even in small containers.
This way you will grow food and grow mentally as well. Gardening has many psychological benefits – it is rewarding to see tangible results from your hard work, monitoring, and care. Try it out this summer and you might be surprised at how much the taste of your meals improve, and how easy it is to rebel against the capitalist produce system.