FOOD AND PRODUCTS
While we as individuals don’t directly pay for the energy required to produce our
food and consumer products, the cost of that energy is directly embedded in the
cost of those products. The easy availability of fossil fuels is a huge driver of why
our agriculture and manufacturing systems are so centralized, long-distance, and
unsustainable. Natural gas and petroleum are the base ingredients of chemical
fertilizers and pesticides that make mono-crop agriculture possible, and energy-
guzzling machinery and long-distance fossil-fuel based transportation are central
to industrializing agriculture on a massive scale. Similarly, production of other
consumer goods often uses petroleum-based rubber and plastic, or uses energy-
intensive metal or wood extraction and processing in addition to long-distance
transportation. You won’t necessarily see an immediate cost reduction from
saving energy in these ways, but many actions you can take can reduce costs and
improve health and happiness even as they build demand for broader solutions.
This section includes a few basic principles for what you can do in this area:
Be a creator, not just a consumer. Make your own and repair when
possible. Grow some of your own food, and make some of the things you
need yourself. This can take a bit more time, but usually saves money and
can be a fun and creative activity with family, friends, and neighbors.
Turn your “waste” into resources. Compost food and yard waste to
create soil for your own food growing or a neighbors. Reuse disposable
bags, containers, and other materials, and use worn out clothes, rags, or
construction materials as rags, patches, or raw materials for new products. If
you don’t know what to do with it, ask around to find if someone can.
Find community-based ventures that are producing food and local products
at an accessible cost and maximize the proportions of getting your basic needs
from them. If you have a skill for producing something, consider starting your
own enterprise. Particularly in food production, a number of urban farmers are
providing low-cost healthy food locally. You probably won’t be able to source
everything you want from local production, but you can often find deals where
supporting these micro-enterprises is similar or less cost than buying centrally
from large distributors.
Finally, most simply, if you don’t need a physical product, or can share it with
neighbors, don’t buy it. A more vibrant local economy that uses less energy will
circulate less stuff that is difficult to produce and circulate more services/ shared
assets where people can create value by helping each other out and meeting each
others needs. Neighborhood tool-libraries, time banks, and other mechanisms for
sharing work can help build value while de-materializing and reducing the energy
needs of sustaining our economy.