Sustainable . . . soybeans?

Sustainability is a hard concept to pin down, and usually we  don’t associate it with the huge farms in the midwest that grow soybeans and corn to be turned into processed foods. I mean, a monoculture–a corn field, or a bean field, or a lawn, for that matter–is, by definition, not sustainable.  So since everyone in the developed world isn’t going to start cultivating little vegetable plots and living off the land, how do we make our food supply more sustainable? It’s a big question, and it’s why a lot of people today buy their vegetables from CSAs or local farm markets and try to avoid processed food.

It seems that the CEO of Unilever, a huge industrial producer of food and household products (think Hellman’s mayonnaise, Lipton tea, Maille mustard, several brands of detergent), decided several years ago to make the company sustainable. Today’s NY Times has an article about his efforts and about many of the different aspects that go into sustainability. The title says it all: “Unilever Finds that Shrinking Its Footprint Is a Giant Task.” Among other topics, it touches on energy, packaging, farming practices, law, international agreements. If, like me, you think you understand what “sustainability” means, I encourage you to read the article. You’ll begin to comprehend just how complicated it is to simplify our highly industrialized world.

[By the way, the CSA I’ve belonged to for the past five years is Hesperides Organica in Waldwick, NY. Check out their website. Tomorrow is the day to pick up the end-of-season Thanksgiving or Harvest share. More vegetables than you every expected to see in your life. They’ll last us through most of the winter.]

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