Archive for the ‘in.gredients to me’ Category
Hey everybody! Jessica here. I haven’t posted in a few days because I have been busy coordinating with some of our future suppliers (i.e. folks whose products we’ll be carrying in the store when we open). Though I’ve missed blogging, I have to say, I’m super excited to keep finding out about the abundance of locally-made and locally-sourced foods and products (with pure ingredients!) available right here in Austin. Isn’t it great that in one city you can find anything from cucumbers to kombucha?!
(image: Boggy Creek Farm, 1.5 mi from in.gredients, via Greening Austin Daily)
Brian’s an Austin native with a passion for intelligent city design and sustainability. When he’s not busy helping in.gredients get off the launchpad, he loves cycling, drawing maps, and great conversations!
I walked into my co-working space yesterday with a sack lunch – that is, a reusable bag filled with a ceramic plate, a cutting board, a fork and knife, and three glass containers full of leftovers. I didn’t bring my espresso machine. If it fit in the bag, though, I would have…
Some insist there’s a level of social appropriateness I may not be reaching by carting half my kitchen into a small workspace every day. The important thing, I contend, is that I’m not wasting anything – no paper bags, no packets of black pepper, no foil, no plastic cutlery, no nothing. All it took was a little change in thinking.
When the Brothers Lane and I began planning in.gredients over a year ago, we knew we’d be challenging norms and proposing changes in behavior even we’ve had to spend time adjusting to. For example, in the past year my wife and I have switched to hankies and cleaning rags in our house – eliminating tissues and paper towels in order to cut down on household waste. For the first few weeks, it wasn’t easy! I remember having guests over to the house and thinking “wait… we’ll have to give special instructions about where to put used hankies,” and later spilling something (I always do) in the kitchen and instinctively looking for the paper towels.
In terms of packaging waste, up until recently we’ve had the “ignorance is(was) bliss” experience. After becoming aware of the facts about how much packaging is wasted in the US – and how much of it’s actually unnecessary for product quality and safety – we could no longer walk into a store without thinking “there’s packaging… everywhere… just imagine the… oh my…” We’ve discovered the simple brilliance of reusing containers at the store – and how much needless consumption it saves. Sure, packaging that’s not necessary for product integrity can be convenient for customers for the purpose of portability and portion size, and can also serve rightfully as marketing space for the manufacturer – but at what (and whose) cost?
This was our eventual epiphany: a majority of the waste we generate makes our lives really, really convenient. Putting individual bags of chips that may or may not be recyclable in kids’ lunch boxes makes getting out the door in the morning a whole lot easier. And grabbing a paper towel, wiping, and tossing makes cleaning a breeze! But we realized that as great as these things are, we were making our lives easier at the expense of the environment. And when we thought further, that expense was actually billed to us in two ways: (1) in taxes, since the more waste we generate, the more our local government has to tax its citizens for waste management services, and (2) as a negative health impact, since we can’t get away with storing mass waste on the earth without it impacting the air we breathe, the soil our food grows in, or the water that sustains life.
In short, we realized we can’t just think about us. We’ve got to think about the collective health and prosperity of our community. The studies done on consumer waste are overwhelmingly clear: as a society, we have a waste problem, and it’s got to stop. I’m excited in.gredients can take this on as a business and not only make it easier for folks like us to avoid excess waste and make changes to our lifestyles… but to show other businesses that minimizing waste as a retailer is completely possible, and educate the public on how easy it can be to live sustainably.
That’s in.gredients to me.
Jessica’s an Austin native with a passion for environmental issues and an unshakable commitment to improving sustainability. When she’s not busy blogging for in.gredients, she loves studying ecology, thrift store shopping, bees, and riding bicycles!
Hello! I’m Jessica Malsky, the newest member of the in.gredients team. One of the things I’ve become most excited about in anticipation of the in.gredients store opening: it’ll be so much easier to eat seasonal, local, organic/natural, produce. Let me clarify – it’ll be easier to eat it because it’ll be easier to find it! As I’m an eco-friendly kind of gal, it’s been a personal goal of mine for some time to go local and organic, but it’s been tough going.
I think we’re all too familiar with the fact that the vast majority of produce available at most grocery stores isn’t locally sourced (in part due to the constant consumer demand for non-seasonal produce) – something that kind of gets me down. What’s more, I’ve found that even my favorite small, local grocery stores don’t have a great selection of local and organic produce. Farmers’ markets seem to be the best bet in the hunt for seasonal/local/organic. And while I adore farmers’ markets, more often than not my schedule isn’t compatible with market days and times (unfortunately). Can anyone relate?
So naturally, I’m really excited about the fact that when in.gredients debuts, it’ll be like having a supplementary farmers’ market on call 7 days a week. No joke! In fact, some of the farms with booths at Central Texas farmers’ markets are the ones whose produce we’ll be carrying. But the window of opportunity to get at these farm-fresh goodies will be significantly wider, so no fret if you can’t make it to market day. Phew!
You could think of it this way: every day will be market day at in.gredients!
Intro from in.gredients
While it’s easy to be vegan in some areas, in others, it’s not. Vegan-friendliness depends on many factors: grocery store selection, restaurant choices, and most importantly, societal awareness. We’ve enjoyed meeting many of you in the last month and learning about your varying diets and nutritional goals – which ranged from “none” to gluten-free, paleo to vegan, and in a few cases, “just eat the colors of the rainbow.” Those we spoke with included Cassandra Johnson, who was excited to write this guest post for us!
In the post, Cassandra talks about her experience being vegan in Austin. While some claim Austin lacks in vegan alternatives – the subject of an Austin Monthly editorial this month – Cassandra’s perspective offers a sunnier outlook.
Cassandra has lived in Austin for over two-thirds of her life, and has been vegan for less than one-third of that time. She bakes, crafts, and occasionally karaokes (much to her dog’s chagrin) in South Austin.
Cassandra on being vegan in ATX
I’ve tried to escape Austin a few times. Once after high school and once after college, but this city keeps pulling me back. I’ve lived in Austin for a good chunk of time and though I’ve lived in and visited other cities around the world, I can’t really imagine living anywhere else. Well, maybe Amsterdam, but that might take some work.
I became vegan after college. Many of the friends in my feminist group in college, Alliance for a Feminist Option, were vegan, and many people assumed that I was vegan before I even went vegetarian. I tried going vegetarian or vegan a few times while in college, but that never really stuck. Once graduated and moved out of my parent’s house for good, I was able to fully commit to being vegetarian. While researching information about nutrition and reasons to stay vegetarian, I stumbled upon Vegan Freak radio. They gave some compelling arguments and great tips on how to maintain a vegan lifestyle. I decided, conveniently before Thanksgiving, to make the leap to veganism. I was only able to do so with the patience and support of my aforementioned vegan friends on speed dial.
Now that I’m vegan (six years, woot!), I have a renewed fondness for the city. In addition to having plenty of great things to do or see, there are so many vegan friendly businesses here. Eating out is a breeze. More than that, a good number of these places offer healthful options and are knowledgeable about where their food is grown. Often, if they don’t know, the waiters are willing to find out.
This made my transition from a mainly meat diet to a vegan diet much smoother. With the help of my friends on speed dial and helpful wait staff, I was able to ease into vegetarianism and, later, into veganism without some of the trials that vegans in other cities experienced. Austinites at these businesses were friendly to down right supportive.
It can sometimes be a challenge to find good options outside of the city. In far West Texas, I find myself wondering if the waiter is really telling the truth when they say that the beans have neither cheese nor lard nor hunk of bacon. In East Texas, I wonder if the rib joint I end up at has anything besides white bread for me to eat. Usually, I just take my own energy bars or smoothie mix.
While many major metropolitan areas now have a few restaurants that have veggie options, it can take some creativity. I find myself having to say no. A lot. I ask for a salad with no chicken, no cheese, no croutons, and no dressing. The resulting dish is not exactly a balanced or satisfying meal.
However, when I’m in Austin, I can go out with friends and say “yes!” Yes, I would like vegan chorizo (Kerbey Lane). Yes, I would like vegan queso (Guero’s). And, yes, I would like a Celeste’s Best vegan cupcake…thanks for asking!
I have a few favorite places (as you can see above) and some that I have yet to visit…including in.gredients, which I’m looking forward to. I’m always looking for a new gem, so tell me: what’s your favorite vegan place to eat?
Carolyne Kauser-Abbott has a corporate real estate and financial background, but now is happily soaking up the slow life in France and Calgary. You can follow her travels on her own blog, Ginger and Nutmeg (she’s “Nutmeg”), or her monthly articles on My French Life, where she’s a contributor.
“Because – make no mistake – good meat is expensive. Especially if you buy the premium cuts. The French know that. The Italians, too. And the Spanish, Mexicans. In fact, anyone with a strong food culture. But in Britain, as in America, we know the price of everything and the value of nothing.”
Raising the Steaks by Tom Parker Bowles, Esquire, June 2011, p. 118
An interesting quote to start a guest blog post – a clear gauge of modern society’s ills. My husband and I live in Alberta, Canada, a place of undeniable beauty. There are majestic mountains, big open skies, and expansive rolling foothills, which lend themselves to enormous ranches that are home to free range cattle and wildlife. However, the city we live in – its culture and the seemingly endless land gobbled up – has led to a vast urban sprawl, and (shamefully) a society that’s tied to their cars.
I grew up in Eastern Canada, in Montréal, and my family spent many years in the beautiful state of Vermont. My mother was dedicated to recycling long before it was fashionable. We spent many a Saturday morning at the Stowe dump sorting out our plastic waste based on the tiny number in the triangle. She made her own granola to avoid packaging and preservatives. There was even a period when we had sourdough brewing in the kitchen. I think my brother may have “killed” it after one too many sourdough muffins.
My belief is that Tom Parker Bowles has it right. In North America, culturally, we allow ourselves to take the easy route way too often, without processing the impact. Yes, we can buy prepared packed dinners, leaving immeasurable amounts of protective packaging waste and horribly deficient nutritional value. We can purchase raspberries from Chile in January. Lettuce is available all year long thanks to the fields in California, and the transport trucks that bring it north. But at what expense?
While spending twelve glorious months in the south of France, my husband and I have visited numerous food markets and monuments, and made some fantastic new friends. However, the most enlightening thing for the two of us is being closer to the food we eat. Fresh fruit, vegetables, and meats are grown outside our back door, with local farms supplying fresh food markets daily.
We had no idea what a “Dover Sole” fish (it’s perhaps not the friendliest of sea creatures) really looked like before it arrived on our plate with lemon butter sauce. We consciously bought only the fruit and vegetables that were in season. We sampled fresh figs and walnuts directly from the trees. Our choices were mainly based on where the food came from – in France, everything’s labeled to tell you where it originated.
However, our food purchasing priorities have changed during our sojourn: we now look to what is the freshest, and what the merchant recommends as being local and top quality. We’ve come to realize the French people will not tolerate inferior quality food, and demand food that consistently tastes good!
The French are immensely proud of their Appellation d’Origine Controlee (AOC), originally started for winemakers in 1935, to control the quality of product. Today, there are AOCs in France for everything from chestnuts to lentils, with good reason the quality is superior. From the markets to grocery stores, food is expected to be of exceptional grade and ready for the table.
It’s with somewhat heavy hearts that we return to Canada for the start of winter. However, we’ve made a conscious decision to continue to reduce the “global footprint” in our food choices and, where possible, avoid or minimize packaging. Personally, I’m thrilled by the concept of in.gredients‘ zero-waste grocery store. Not only is it possible – it makes sense, and I can hardly wait until there’s one in Calgary. In the meantime, we’ll be shopping with the same idea in mind. Because!
in.gredients‘ summer intern; photojournalism student at UT.
Hi there! I don’t know if we’ve been properly introduced. My name’s Kae Wang and I’m a photojournalism student at UT – that’s me (top left) with my handy reusable water bottle. For the last two months, I’ve helped get the store off the ground by piloting our Twitter, Facebook, and blog handles. It’s been great to have experienced the initial response to our store. I’ve watched you faithful fans help us hit our IndieGoGo Goal (with 9 days to spare!) and read every single one of your encouraging bits of feedback. All I can say is WOW.
This is my last post for in.gredients, and I want to give you each a big hug and thank you for following!
Before I bid you adieu, I’ll share some fun things I learned and a few behind-the-scenes secrets:
- Sometimes ideas for my Facebook “curious” questions came from the most unlikely places. Example: My roommate was cleaning out our pantry and our apartment was literally filled with cereal boxes.
- The most facebook “like” we received was from one of our readers’ clever quote on tomatoes:
Oops, mistakes happen…did you catch me?
- Once I tweeted how we were $5 away from $13,000, but we were really $555 away. Guess it’s a good thing I’m a journalism major and not a math major.
- Sometimes I would forget to link pictures in my tweets including this one: Solution to bringing home groceries when biking http://tiny.cc/06dps <woohoo, I was able to to it properly this time
A sampling of the things I learned:
- The guys behind in.gredients work non-stop. It’s a small, dedicated team working round the clock to get the store up and running.
- We have the best fans ever. You want in.gredients to happen, and you have supported us from the start.
- Always carry a reusable water bottle. If you’re like me and guzzle water like a camel, all those plastic cups you use eating out really adds up.
- Reusable grocery bags aren’t just for grocery shopping!
- Working towards a zero-waste lifestyle means “refusing” as much as you can. No more accepting random free stuff from college tabling.
- Taking the time to shop, cook, and sit down to eat is an important habit to build NOW… yes, I mean it, right now, please start. In this fast-paced world, we need to slow down and teach our children and friends that organic, healthy eating needs to be a priority.
- We only wear 20% of what’s in our closets. What a waste. When I moved into my new place I made sure to donate everything I didn’t wear to Goodwill. Here’s a tip: my friends and I like to do a clothes swap twice a year. I also resell my clothes to Buffalo Exchange. If you refuse a bag, they will give you a 5 cent token to donate to a local organization. Great concept!
In case you missed it:
My first entry on the blog: Zero-Waste Home
My favorite tweet: Toilet Paper Roll Art
Before working at in.gredients, I thought I was pretty health-conscious and environmentally aware. But boy was I wrong. During my internship I learned more than I ever thought I would about healthy eating and real food – emphasis on the word “real” – and how important it is to reduce waste. I remember when I walked into the grocery store a few weeks into my internship, I was completely floored by the packaging. In the past when I went to the store, I just thought, “hmm… where’s the milk… I need grapes,” but now all I see is how much unnecessary packaging there is in the store, and how much it contributes to waste streams!
This internship’s been great, even when I gave up shampoo/conditioner ;) Thank you again. Look out for me, I’ll be the first one at the door when the store opens.
Great news! We’re bringing back the massage prize bonus. Donate $100 and you’ll not only receive an in.gredients T-shirt – you’ll win a one-hour, full-body massage from Bright Side Body Therapy session! No better way to help us reach our $15,000 fundraising goal…
Congrats to Vincent for being our first winner. There’s just four left – grab one now!
Sam Friedman is a musician, writer, filmmaker and photographer exploring the art of happiness in Los Angeles, CA. To discover and explore his work, visit http://www.about.me/samfriedman.
At some point after I moved to Los Angeles two months ago, a switch flipped inside me. It’s hard to say when, exactly. Maybe it was at the LAMC Farmers’ Market at Barnsdall Art Park. Or while I was sticking my hands into the soil of a local vegetable garden. All I know is that as soon as the switch was flipped, my vegetarian brain became obsessed with cooking. Which is confusing, considering I was already cooking all my meals.
I didn’t start listening to cooking blogs, or take classes. In fact I still have only followed a handful of recipes in my entire life. But in the past eight weeks, I’ve experienced a personal Renaissance in the exploration of food in my kitchen. I have delighted my taste buds daily (repulsing them occasionally), spending hours preparing meals, exploring my ingredients with the diligence and fortitude of an early European explorer, and experimenting with flavors and quantities like a mad scientist. I’ve taken photos of my mint, cilantro, basil, tomatoes and sweet banana peppers with the reverence of a new parent.
Going to the farmers’ market weekly now, I spend very little time in the supermarket. I know the people who grow my food, or their children, or their friends. I know some of their stories. And at least once a week, I buy as much fresh food as I can carry. This intimate connection to my food makes me excited about eating. But more importantly, it makes me feel good about my food. I’m eating even healthier than I already was, and I’m supporting a system that has a positive effect on my environment – both socially and environmentally.
The first time I plucked leaves from my own basil plant last month, I was moved emotionally in a way that caught me off-guard. Harvesting my own food was an experience I’d never had before. It reminded me that we often forget what’s truly important. Food is unique in that it is one of the few things on this planet that we all need; it unites us at a core level. And because it is so crucial, food (along with its producers and distributors) has the ability to completely reform our landscape as humans, both literally and figuratively. This is something that the folks of in.gredients seem to understand intrinsically, which is part of what makes their venture so exciting. The joy I feel now on a daily basis I owe not just to myself for the choices I’ve made, but to people like them who provide me with a healthy, affordable way to nourish my body and mind.
When I related the story of trimming my basil to my friend Pam of Slow Food USA, she said “if only more people felt more gratitude and humility toward the food that sustains them, we’d be in a much better place.” in.gredients understands that, and it’s what will make them truly magical.
Geologist, gardener, epicurean, homesteader, scholar, problem solver
Nitrogen (N2) is an essential nutrient for all living organisms, and it’s one of the most important nutrients needed for plant growth. Without it, plants are unable to produce complex organic molecules like amino acids, proteins, and nucleic acids. For something that comprises 78% of the Earth’s atmosphere – and is so critical to living organisms – one would think plants and animals wouldn’t have a problem obtaining nitrogen. However, it turns out life can only absorb nitrogen once it’s “fixed” – meaning, confusingly, “broken apart” – and bonded to another element.
It’s almost miraculous that we have life at all on Earth, because nitrogen fixation can only occur two ways: lightning and bacteria. The energy from the lightning has the ability to rip N2 apart, allowing the freed nitrogen to bond to oxygen molecules and form NO3- (nitrate) which then rains down on plant life.
Particular types of bacteria in the soil can fixate nitrogen via respiration (energy production). One of the easiest ways farmers facilitate this process is by planting legumes, which have a special symbiotic relationship with the bacteria Rhizobium. Tiny microorganisms can do the same thing as lightning – how cool is that?
The nitrogen absorbed by the plants is passed through the food chain to animal life, and then put back into the soil and atmosphere through animal waste and the decomposition of plant and animal matter – this is totally that Circle of Life Mufasa was talking about.
Nitrogen is also an import element in fertilization for farmers, because nitrogen speeds up plant growth and increases production. Due to the complicated process I described above, you can imagine that it was very difficult to have large scale farming operations before the 20th century. In 1909, the German chemist Fritz Haber discovered how to fix atmospheric nitrogen in the lab. He then worked with Carl Bosch, another German chemist, to fix nitrogen on an industrial scale and created the Haber-Bosch process. This was HUGE. It was such a feat of science that they won the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1918.
Haber and Bosch didn’t know it at the time, but they completely revolutionized agriculture. Man was no longer reliant on natural phenomena to grow crops, and with the population boom of the industrialized revolution, we now had a solution to feed a growing, hungry population: nitrogen-based fertilizers.
As with most scientific advancement, it’s difficult to determine the long term effects of a new technology, but we now know that it probably wasn’t the best idea for man to mess with the Nitrogen Cycle via the Haber-Bosch process.
We’re relying on a finite resource to feed our nation: To fix nitrogen in an industrial lab, you combine atmospheric nitrogen and hydrogen to form anhydrous ammonium a.k.a ammonia – the foundation for all synthetic nitrogen fertilizers. The hydrogen used for this process is extracted from fossil fuels, mainly natural gas. Natural gas is very difficult to transport, so the fertilizer is typically produced near the natural gas source. Since it’s less expensive to purchase fertilizers overseas, the United States imports over half the nitrogen-based fertilizer it needs, thus consuming even more fossil fuels in the process. Not only is our price of food now dependent on the price of oil and gas, but what will we do when we’ve drilled that last well?
Damage to Human Health and the Environment: The overuse of nitrogen-based fertilizers has already caused a significant amount of damage. Synthetic fertilizers destroy the delicate nutrient-producing ecosystem in the soil, so farmers have to fertilize more frequently. Not all of the nitrates are absorbed by the plants, and these particular nitrates are purposely highly soluble in water, so the excess nitrates easily wash into various water bodies, then into the oceans, and can cause monstrous algae blooms in coastal waters.
These algae bloom draw-down oxygen from the water and create dead zones. These dead zones can fluctuate by thousands of miles, leaving little time for sea-life to swim away before they suffocate – often leading to massive fish kills. Largely due to all the nitrogen-based fertilizer run-off in the Mississippi, the Gulf of Mexico has the largest dead zone in the world.
Additionally, we also have problems with nitrogen-based fertilizer affecting our drinking water and air. Elevated levels of nitrate in drinking water has been linked to thyroid cancer in adults; however, it’s particularly dangerous for infants. Infants are highly susceptible to nitrate poisoning which causes methemoglobinemia, commonly known as “blue baby syndrome.” There are even studies linking elevated nitrates in water to increases in sudden infant death syndrome cases. Nitrogen-based fertilizers also contribute to particulate matter air pollution, which is linked to respiratory illnesses and cancer.
So are nitrogen-based fertilizers really needed to feed a growing population? According to a 30-year study done by the Rodale Institute – no. When compared to conventional crops, organic crops had the same, if not higher yields of produce and outperformed conventional crops environmentally and economically. The United Nations also released a report this past spring, stating that by using agroecological processes (relying on the natural environment, such as beneficial trees, plants, animals and insects to fertilize and protect crops) global food production could double in the next 10 years.
A lack of available nutrients for crop production is not the problem – it’s our current agricultural system that needs to change. By utilizing new and old technologies, scientists and farmers have found ways to organically produce high-yielding crops that can feed a rapidly growing population. It’s now up to us to implement agroecological methods in our agricultural system. Of course this is more easily said than done, but you as a citizen and consumer can make a difference. Contact your representatives and inform them of this issue, elect officials that are mindful of the environment, and most effectively – use your purchasing power. Every time you are at the register you are casting a vote. The more consumers opt to buy local, organic, naturally and sustainably grown food, the less incentive industry has to use synthetic agrochemicals, GMO seeds, and utilize unsustainable farming methods. Consumers have the power to build and destroy entire industries – keep this in mind the next time you’re debating whether to pay a little more for local, organic produce. Those $0.99 conventional peaches cost more than you may think.
Matt is a massage therapist devoted to supporting the sustainability community through bodywork, volunteering, and spreading the word (see: Bright Side Body Therapy. In his practice he works with people who want to make changes in the world, using massage to help them make changes in themselves first.
In some way, we’ve all noticed the waves that occur in popular culture. How many times have you heard that the 50’s, 60’s, 70’s, 80’s, or 90’s are coming back? This mechanism must be some part of the way we evolve culturally, reaching out to the extreme of a whim, and then snapping back like a rubber band – it’s a great way to learn the boundaries of possibilities.
We seem to be in the midst of at least a few snap-backs just now. We’re exploring what feels like an extreme of technological and economic possibilities. While new ways of exploiting fossil fuels, microsurgery, hormone therapy, etc expand to more and more people, young, educated folks are catching on to old stand-by’s like canning, producing their own food, caring for their bodies consciously, and considering the long term effects of their decisions. It’s like the industrial revolution is swelling and swelling, and the first frothy lip is forming at the crest – and the best part is it’s not a step backwards! We’re taking the lessons of industry, of its might and its plight, with us.
Right now it’s very possible to have a future where it’s common practice to maintain your inner and outer well-being by practicing conscious body mechanics in your daily movements, good dietary choices, and regular self-maintenance like massage, acupuncture, yoga, strength training, cardio work outs, etc and to use drastic measures like prescription drugs and surgery only when they’re absolutely necessary. It’s also likely that the motivation for sustainable practices will catch on in the world of aggregate commerce such that you could walk into a store in any country and buy any brand of vegetable oil without wondering if the way in which technology was used to produce it, package it, and distribute it could continue to be practiced indefinitely, given the finite resources and fragile ecological balance of our habitat.
We’re learning just as fast as we can what industry can do for us, and it’s up to those who know enough to care to make it clear what to carry over to the next wave, and what to let slough off the back.