We eat too much. And produce too much waste.

“Eat Food. Not Too Much. Mostly Plants.” – Michael Pollan

I have started to practice thinking about everything, all the time. It’s great fun!

Cause and Effect

I practice thinking about the consequences of how all my actions, decisions and choices impact everything – literally from start to finish (from inception to decomposition). It seems a little odd to announce this doesn’t it? Especially since it should be a commonly practiced characteristic. Sadly, somewhere along the way of improving and making life easier we have been hypnotized by fast food (including healthy fast food!) and convenience merchandizers to believe that we are just too busy to think for ourselves…they want to think for us – and they have been. The result has been a disservice to our health and planet. Using the power of subliminal messaging via visual media and sound bites, we are being convinced of what we want and need.

From real product labels:

“Knowing the busy lifestyle of today’s families and the difficulty to make confident healthy food choices, [name withheld] brings these READY-TO-USE cooking stocks to Canada.”

It is so easy to make homemade stock which don’t require single-use disposable packaging.

“I know it can sometimes be challenging to eat right, especially when you’re on the go. That’s why I’ve created my line of healthy foods – so you can enjoy wholesome, tasty snacks even with your busy lifestyle…”

That come in single-use disposable plastic packages.

Thinking about cause and effect – from start to finish.

It seems to me that when we do something or create something, for the sake of our planet and for the benefit of all inhabitants that we need to consider in detail, from inception to decomposition the consequences of our actions.

Wind Turbines

For example: The incredible wind turbines. 537,000 Birds died at wind farms last year (including 83,000 raptors) in the U.S. alone and additionally it is estimated 888,000 bats were killed.

Were the details from start to finish properly or efficiently taken into account when designing these wind turbines? Perhaps the only consideration was how to create natural energy.  Producing clean power is fantastic, but causing hundreds of thousand deaths in the process is like blood energy.  How to create clean power without blades? Perhaps someone should ask James Dyson.

James Dyson

Yogurt fiasco? Whey Too Much: Greek Yogurt’s Dark Side

Greek yogurt’s acid whey by-product that is toxic to the environment and kills aquatic life has nowhere to go. Large-scale manufacturers are shipping it to farmers who feed it to their cattle (though the cattle can only tolerate a certain amount in their feed). Maybe we need to rethink the necessity of this yogurt rather than working on ways to turn the by-product into something else to ingest. Do we really need another sweetener syrup and would you really want to feed your baby infant formula made from this?

Cooks make meals from real food. Food scientists make ingestible substances disguised as food from by-products. By-products are the waste generated from processing. Think about what you are eating. Choose breast milk for babies. Choose naturally grown produce and if you eat meat, eat it in moderation from farmers who don’t feed their animals by-products! Grocery aisles with more meat than will be bought covered in plastic just for our convenience. We need to fix this.

I think of Marcella Hazan whenever I walk through the meat section at the grocery store. She was a self-taught American-Italian cook who having grown up in Italy had never stepped foot in a grocery store and prepared farm fresh poultry. When in American supermarkets, she came across chicken wrapped in plastic; she said it was unnatural, like they were in a coffin.

So many questions surface from such simple inquiry. Simple things such as buying milled flour, packaged in plastic.

flours in plastic

  • How does the plastic negatively affect the flour that I will be consuming?
  • How is the plastic package made in the first place?
  • What is the environmental impact that goes into making the plastic?
  • Where does the plastic wrapper go once I’ve used up the flour? Landfill? Waterways and ocean?
  • Where does the plastic wrapper go if I choose to recycle it with other plastic bags?
  • How much energy and water does it take to recycle plastic in the first place?
  • What does recycled plastic get turned into?
  • Isn’t turning recycled plastic into more plastic pointless?
  • I think I’d rather mill my own flour or buy from local farmers who package their flour in paper.
  • Paper packaging uses a lot of natural resources too, but it’s a step in the right direction.
  • Maybe I should re-think what I need flour for?
  • Am I eating more food than my body requires for optimum health?
  • Do I really need to make this much food?
  • Do I really need a treat? Especially every single day?

And so on…

I am trying to live a more Proactive Life. Being proactive is defined as: creating or controlling a situation by causing something to happen rather than responding to it after it has happened.


 It is easier to prevent disease than it is to cure disease.

This example would apply to both human and environmental disease.

These are some questions I have started to ask myself daily about everything in which I come into contact (not just flour!). I think about clothes, shoes, cars, bicycles, athletic gear, art, dishes, appliances and the list goes on.  How these items are manufactured and what will go into maintaining these items? Dry cleaning? Can the items be repaired when broken? How long will the items last? Where will these items end up when either they break or I don’t need them anymore? And yes, at times thinking like this has a somber effect on me, which is all the better, because that’s when I know that I can change. That’s when I wake up a little more and become more aware of my actions. The sadness I feel when I come to the realization: “What have I done? And “What am I contributing to?” This daily activity towards becoming proactive has helped me to come up with more constructive answers, which sit better with the person I effort to become.

“Do no harm & leave the world a better place than you found it.”

– Patricia Cornwell

I think about where my food comes from. Do you eat foods that are processed, which require opening a factory sealed bag or container to eat or cook with it?

I think about buying products from local farmers. But I take into account how those local farmers relate to the land; are they practicing sustainable agriculture? Do they practice food safety, equitable employment? Do they consider their environmental imprint from start to finish? How is their product delivered to store shelves? What’s the point in buying organic produce if it is covered in plastic?

Simultaneously, I think about how I cook the food that I buy. What kind of waste do I create in the process of making meals? How much aluminum foil do I use? I’ve read that cooking with foil at certain temperatures is not safe because the aluminum leaches into the food! I have cut down on re-heating food in the microwave and never use it for cooking.

“Think, think, think.”

– Winnie-the-Pooh


Eat Food.

Not Processed or By-Products. Not Packaged.

-Kathryn Palumbo

Note: I wrote to Bob’s Red Mill asking if they would consider repackaging their products in paper. In the meantime I am buying local flours that come in paper or from bulk.

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11 thoughts on “We eat too much. And produce too much waste.

  1. connie curtis November 4, 2013 at 11:57 am Reply

    I do think about these things. Solutions that is what is needed. I have food allergies and I can only buy nut flours. These arent made by local farmers where I live? Any suggestions? I have the same problems with nuts. I cant buy them in bulk because of cross contamination is so high for me and I have to buy them in bags. Maybe we need a petition to package the flour in something different. That seems to put pressure on them. If they get consumers will go to other companies.


    • You As A Machine November 7, 2013 at 7:16 pm Reply

      Hi Connie,

      The cross contamination from bulk flours to bulk nuts is something I hadn’t really thought about. Boy we sure live in a complicated world. I do understand how the dust from the flours can get into the air and be problematic for individuals with celiac, but with narrowing my focus on the problem with plastic and trying to use less I overlooked this other element. See? There is SO MUCH to think about and consider ALL of the time!
      Right now I’m all consumed with finding the right reusable cotton bulk bags! I will think on your dilemma and let you know if I come across anything that might be useful to you.


  2. Elle Black November 4, 2013 at 2:11 am Reply

    I do sometimes think like that, but often it drives me too crazy to think like that all the time. I often think about the people & companies who create these products and it’s usually the health food products that irritate me the most. Why wouldn’t they want to design something better in terms of packaging? Why do items need to be double wrapped? Surely it would be more profitable for them to reduce their packaging? I just want someone to tell my why they can’t do things better!

    • You As A Machine November 4, 2013 at 7:57 am Reply

      I would like to know too. I can only guess that it is mixture of indifference and ignorance. They don’t know that they don’t know, that what they are doing is wrong and could be done better…perhaps?
      I’d like to hope that it isn’t intentional.

  3. Amy Daniels November 3, 2013 at 7:12 pm Reply

    I think like that too…but sadly, the rest of my family, including my partner, does not. I feel overwhelmed and I get discouraged at their inability to consider the effects of what they do. If I cannot convince even the people closest to me to reconsider everything they buy and consume, what hope is there of convincing anyone?

    • You As A Machine November 3, 2013 at 8:47 pm Reply

      Hi Amy,
      Trying to convince others can be unproductive. People have got to want to make change. All you/ we can do is share information. Either it hits home or it doesn’t. My husband isn’t as into making all the changes that I am, but as he watches me muddle my way through, he is becoming more aware that the little daily details do add up. I prepare the garbage and recycling and he takes it out. He has commented lately how what I am doing is working because our garbage and recycling has shrunk to half of what is was previously. It was very encouraging to know that he noticed and to learn that my efforts were working. I have noticed that he has been making his own small changes too.
      It took me a long time to actually start implementing a lot of the changes I talk about. For a long time all I did was think about what I could do differently, because my patterns were so ingrained that I’d find myself doing what I didn’t want to do anymore just because of habit. I would have to cringe and berate myself enough times till I actually changed my patterns.

      I show my kids and husband short educational videos from time to time and then discuss with them the problems and try to come up with solutions. One solution for the kids is to remind them that using or taking a plastic straw is unnecessary.

      Beth Terry, from http://www.myplasticfreelife.com is a great role model and is a great advocate for leading by example and reminds us not to nag. 🙂

  4. Ms. Jackie of all Trades SpoolTeacher November 3, 2013 at 4:19 pm Reply

    Ms. SpoolTeacher really liked your article. Current info arranged in a unique way to induce thinking, thinking, thinking. She herself likes to grab fresh fruit/vegetables and eat as is. She’s trying to get off bread and is gonna take up your idea to buy bulk for grains she does eat. For now, she stores them in old pickle/peanut butter glass jars.

  5. Carmen Melton November 3, 2013 at 2:48 pm Reply

    Wow, when I read this I thought, this person thinks just like me! And I am so relieved to discover that. At times it does feel like I am overthinking things and become a little paralyzed to make a choice. But little by little, I have changed so many habits, that they have become just as easy to me, as all those former “conveniences”. I too mill my own flour for bread, and I buy as much as humanly possible from bulk bins using my own jars that are pre-weighed. People always ask me about the process and say “what a good idea” but I’ve yet to come across another person who does the same in the 5 or so years since I began this practice. Once you change how you think about something, the right actions simply fall in line. I’ve grown so accustomed to living without most disposable plastics now that when I do see people using produce bags and water bottles, it seems shocking, repulsive and strange. I wish for it to become so for others.

    • You As A Machine November 3, 2013 at 8:25 pm Reply

      Hi Carmen,
      I think you hit the nail on the head when you say: “I’ve grown so accustomed to living without most disposable plastics now that when I do see people using produce bags and water bottles, it seems shocking, repulsive and strange.”

      My son has had to eliminate wheat, including all gluten and all sugars from his diet for about twelve months. He is now six months into this. On Halloween at his school a lot of activities were geared around handing out candies to students, i.e. who could yell the loudest, participate the most etc. For him, now an outsider (because he has to decline candy and many other treats), not being motivated by candy, he recounted how perverse (my word, I can’t recall the word he used) it all seemed. He said it was so strange to see how the adults were manipulating the kids with candy.

      I think it is very interesting. And incredibly eye opening to hear it from an eleven year old’s point of view.

  6. Surviving and Thriving on Pennies November 3, 2013 at 2:24 pm Reply

    Bobs Red Mill sells their items in bulk at their plant. Ive been there and its amazing.

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