Harry Johansing is one of my personal heroes. As the founder of EcoPaper, Harry is easily identified as an environmentalist and a passionate protector of trees. But he’s also a wise businessman, who knows that the way to build a sustainable business is ultimately to live in a sustainable society on a sustainable planet. Harry wrote the following letter to his friends and supporters of EcoPaper. I asked his permission to reprint it here, as it bears a message too few of us are aware of. I invite you to read and ponder Harry’s message. ~Julia Wasson, Publisher
Recently, I took a road trip up to Oregon with my family to enjoy the outdoors and visit some of the oldest and biggest trees of the western coast. I enjoyed visiting with my family and sharing knowledge about the trees, such as the type of tree, its age, and the breathtaking feelings that come to me when I am amongst these giant ancient forests. Many of these trees are over a thousand years old and have managed to survive thoughtless deforestation!
Along with all of the spectacular rivers, mountains, wildlife, and scenery, I saw a few telltale signs of man’s greed impacting our Earth.
One thing I noticed on my recent trip was a decreased number of lumber mills from similar trips that started in 1990. We are led to believe that lumber mills are closing down due to environmental concerns. If that were true, then we could logically assume that we are not continuing the destruction of forests in our country and are managing our natural resources better. However, this is not the case!
There’s another reason lumber mills are closing, but it’s probably not what you think. What I saw — and have photographed — is large ocean freighters being loaded with our lumber and shipped off to China. There, the raw lumber is manufactured into goods, then shipped back to us. The most disturbing part is that we have not only increased logging, we have, at the same time, decreased the manufacturing of wood products here in the USA. This means fewer jobs domestically and more waste, increased carbons released in the atmosphere, and natural resources being used inefficiently.
I understand industry, although I wish that it were more responsible and practiced more sustainable methods. If I could have it my way, we would not cut trees at all, but I have to be realistic about using wood. If we are going to cut trees, the wood should be used for beautiful and comfortable furniture and cozy homes. There is no logical reason why paper should come from trees for any use at all.
Upon my return home, I was channel surfing and saw a commercial for a show called “American Loggers” and another called “Ax Men.” The entire premise of the reality shows is to follow loggers around while they cut and transport our forests to ports where the clear-cut trees are then shipped out to China and back to us. This part, you do not see in the TV series.
It’s no surprise that a good amount of what’s on television is garbage trying to sell something truly unsustainable, polluting our minds with subliminal messages about inconsequential consumerism. Just as violence has been integrated into entertainment and has desensitized viewers, these shows are creating a detachment from our emotions and natural connections to our Earth.
The shows accomplish this by putting a personality behind a chainsaw. Instead, why not put a personality behind the unique trees, which should be recognized as heroes? My point is that we should be re-enforcing positive ideas and beliefs about taking care of our planet, not about destroying it to make profit.
Yes, people have to work to survive, but there are jobs and careers that don’t involve harming Earth’s natural resources. There are even jobs that help the environment.
I ask you to honestly think about the message that these types of shows are sending to not only our youth but also to the rest of the world. In some places, trees are sacred and are celebrated as unique living beings that only enhance human interaction with the natural world.
As I finished this letter, I thought of a quote, which is my favorite poster in my office. It reads:
When the last tree is cut down, the last fish eaten, and the last stream poisoned, we will realize that money cannot be eaten.
— Saying of the Cree Indians
Ecopreneur Harry Johansing is the founder and CEO of EcoPaper, Inc./ a.k.a. Costa Rica Natural Paper Co. Harry’s passion for trees and the environment led him to develop a way to use discarded banana stalks and other agricultural waste to make paper. Find out more at www.ecopaper.com Related Posts Ecopreneur Makes Paper in Paradise My 5: Harry Johansing, Costa Rica Natural and EcoPaper
A country full of people
I will never meet.
Some are farmers, others politicians
for the communist government.
Your rivers and lakes
run like sewers
from the west into the ocean,
and can’t be drunk from, nor swum in.
The desert creeps farther
over the workable soil.
Each year there’s less lumber,
but more children to figure.
It’s just a trend we all
have been following.
Population boom without a bust
in a universe we’re told is infinite.
Maybe not for us, though,
maybe not for us.
We’re just another species,
a homo-sapien virus.
We made up laws
that we think matter,
but true laws can’t be disobeyed.
We’ll soon be overpopulated.
When there are no more forests,
no more rivers, no fish or deer,
we’ll have to kill ourselves.
In fact, we’ve already started.
February 3, 2009 by Chef Matthew J.G.
Filed under Australia, Blog, China, Cooking, Ecopreneurs, Environment, Front Page, GMOs, Green Cuisine, Green Living, Organic, Organic Food, Restaurants, Sustainability
When Chef Matthew J. Goudge says that a green cuisine is as delicious as it is good for you, you’ll be wise to listen. Chef Matthew is widely known and respected as a talented organic chef and an industry leader. Having cooked professionally in St. Lucia, Malaysia, China, Austria, Australia, and England, Chef Matthew’s view is that the world is an interconnected place where all should benefit from each other’s knowledge. In his blog, ProChef360, he invites professional chefs from around the world to join in an open forum, sharing their ideas, their tips, their wisdom, their food photos, and their frustrations. We’re pleased to carry on that tradition by sharing Chef Matthew’s thoughts on organic foods and natural cooking.
Although there are many reasons why people should opt for organic foods and natural cooking, there is no better reason than the fact that a “green cuisine” is healthier. Generally, the term organic refers to foods that are free from chemical fertilizers, herbicides, pesticides, or any other artificial additives. Organic foods are packed with vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients that are vital to your health. Using organic foods with natural cooking methods ensures that your body will receive all the nutrients it needs to stay strong and healthy.
And let’s not forget that organic foods are free of chemical additives and sprays, which can distort foods’ natural flavors as well as harm your health. When you consider the benefits of preparing and cooking meals that are packed with nutrients, you definitely have nothing to lose with a green cuisine.
In order to be assured about the authenticity of your organic purchases, it is important to check that they are labeled “certified organic.” This means that the products you buy were grown in accordance with the standards set by appropriate government agencies. This is especially important if you are buying meat. By getting certified meat, you are assured that you won’t be eating meat from animals that have been fed genetically modified feed.
And when you choose organically produced meat and dairy products, you won’t be eating meats exposed to antibiotics or growth hormones. Children are especially vulnerable to the effects of the milk produced from dairy cows injected with bovine growth hormone (BGH), a practice that has raised health questions for both cows and humans. Use of the hormone has been banned in Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and the European Union.
But even growers of organic foods occasionally need to use chemicals. It might be necessary to use a pesticide to save a crop from an infestation of insects, for example. Taking this into consideration, it may be more appropriate to describe organic foods as foods grown and marketed without substantial use of the chemicals traditionally used in large-scale food production. This being said, the use of chemicals is tightly regulated for certified organic farmland.
To be absolutely sure your foods are organic, you can opt to grow them yourself. If you have a large space where you can grow your own vegetable and herb garden, you may even discover you have “green fingers” [a.k.a. “a green thumb,” in the U.S.]. In truth, you don’t need a huge space. Even people living in apartments may find a small, sunny spot where they can naturally grow organic herbs, spices, and vegetables. And if your fingers aren’t so green? There’s an abundance of articles, books and online resources to guide you.
BUYING ORGANIC FOODS HELPS THE ENVIRONMENT
Organic farming is sustainable agriculture, because organic farmers take care to ensure that they do not strip the soil of its natural nutrients. When you opt for organic foods, you help conserve the soil by keeping it from being depleted through commercial farming practices. Older people may recall how dark the soil used to be, and how alive it once was with microorganisms and worms. But the soil on much of today’s farmland is virtually dead, its lifeblood poisoned by years of harmful chemical additives.
Another way organic farmers replenish the soil is by growing a variety of crops, rather than just one or two year after year. This diversity helps in maintaining the health of the soil. Farming organically also helps protect the waterways from harmful chemical runoff, preventing yet another environmental hazard.
When you ask for organically grown foods, you help raise environmental awareness in your community. And you help promote green living and the benefits of a green cuisine.
SHOPPING FOR ORGANIC INGREDIENTS
When shopping for organic foods, be conscious of your choices. Although imported organic foods are now available at many grocery stores, consider buying from local organic farmers. Many communities have food co-ops and farmers’ markets, which make it easy to shop locally. And buying local organic foods helps promote your community’s economy.
While it may be interesting and fun to try out organic and exotic products imported from Asian or South American countries, you will help the environment more if you support growers in your local area. Buying locally reduces gas emissions and fuel consumption during transportation over long distances. And when you get your organic ingredients from local farmers, you will have access to the freshest food choices and a menu that changes with the seasons.
It’s always best to check with your local organic farmers first before buying organic ingredients and products elsewhere. Yet, there will be times when you need to resort to other organic food sources. If your local organic resources are lacking or out of season, you can turn to the Internet for the ingredients you need.
Online shopping has made access to specific organic ingredients relatively easy. You only have to key the name of the ingredients into your favorite search engine, such as Google or Yahoo, and you’ll likely get thousands of hits in seconds. You can type in “buy organic cooking herbs” or “buy organic spices,” and you’ll end up with numerous online stores. Just make sure that you carefully choose your online store and are comfortable with their return policy before you purchase anything.
Although organic foods are essential to a green cuisine, natural cooking is not just about the ingredients you use. A truly green cuisine refers to cooking in a sustainable way. It’s about adopting “conservative” and “preservative” methods. For instance, choosing to use leftover broths as a soup base is a conservative method of cooking. Delegating unused vegetable scraps to the compost pile or to a vermiculture bin are ways to conserve food by keeping it out of the landfill and cooperating with nature’s processes. And the result provides organic soil for your flower gardens.
Natural cooking is also about adopting conservative methods in the kitchen and the dining room. Choose recyclable kitchen materials. Buy foods with minimal or recyclable packaging. Reuse or recycle empty glass or plastic bottles. Use cloth, rather than disposable napkins, and make other sustainable choices as you serve your delicious and healthful green cuisine.
TIPS FOR EASY ORGANIC AND NATURAL COOKING
Here are some tips to help you make the transition to a green cuisine:
- Iodized salt is good, but it’s not organic. It has been processed. Natural sea salt is definitely the better choice, though you will notice a distinct difference in flavor.
- Have a small garden at hand. You can reuse old dish tubs, buckets, or other leak-proof castoffs to create planters for small herb gardens. Not only will you be able to save on your grocery bill, you will also have ready access to delicious organic herbs for flavoring your food.
- Go all-out-organic with your ingredients. This includes the herbs, spices, flour, butter, oil and practically everything you use in cooking meals. There is a huge difference in taste between processed butter and milk and their organic counterparts. Cows that produce organic dairy products are BGH-free and eat only organic grass.
- When buying organic products and ingredients, do not rely on the packaging stating that the product is “organic.” Look for a certification seal from a reputable certifying agency. This means that the organic food product passed the standards set by the appropriate regulating agency.
- Adopt traditional cooking methods (stove top and oven) as much as you can. Avoid using the microwave. Traditional methods of cooking do a much better job of retaining the natural taste of organic foods.
- Use only healthy preservatives. Avoid using preservatives at all, if you can. But when you have to preserve jams or other foods for future use, make sure that you use healthier natural food preservation methods.
- A true organic kitchen requires nearly all organic ingredients. Don’t let the enormity of the task overwhelm you. It’s a target to aim for, but every change makes a difference, no matter how small.
- When eating organically, there is no longer any need to buy expensive liquids (often called “veggie wash”) to try to clean off the unwanted toxins before feeling it’s safe to eat those fresh fruits and vegetables.
- Be prepared for a little more effort. For a truly green cuisine, you’ll have to avoid the luxury of using cheaper, prepared, artificially preserved ingredients.
GREENING THE CUISINE IN YOUR RESTAURANT
Organic cooking is a worthwhile endeavor but, for chefs and restaurant owners, there are some additional considerations before adopting natural cooking methods and serving organic foods:
- If you are going to run an organic restaurant, 95 percent of the food you are going to serve must be organic. This includes the herbs, spices, flour, butter, oil and practically everything you use in cooking meals.
- As much as you would like to turn organic, it can be difficult if you don’t have sufficient budget. Organic ingredients can be a bit more expensive than regular ingredients. If you own your kitchen or restaurant, you can adjust your budget accordingly. It’s a different story, however, if you are working for someone else. The cost of ingredients may increase by about 30–50 percent, a significant concern for a traditional restaurant. This won’t be a problem, though, if your restaurant already is an organic one; customers wanting an organic menu understand the additional costs of providing a green cuisine.
- Pastry chefs can also adopt natural cooking in their baking methods. If you need to prepare pastries in small quantities, you don’t have to use a large oven to bake them. This is why it is advisable that you have smaller ovens where you can bake a small quantity of breads, cakes, and pastries. In fact, you can even bake small items using your toaster oven.
- Be prepared to give a sales pitch about your menu and methods to your customers. Not everyone understands the terms organic and natural cooking or green cuisine. Some may initially relate organic food or green cuisine to vegetarianism, or they may think of organic foods as dull and tasteless. You may need to be persuasive at first and adopt efficient marketing methods to sell your organic meals. But soon your menu will win over your customers with the superior quality and taste of organic foods and natural cooking methods.
Admittedly, organic foods are a bit more expensive and take more planning and effort than what we have come to expect from “normal” (processed, preserved, packaged, prepared, and fast) foods. But it’s a small price to pay in return for natural and healthy foods, and the delicious experience of eating a green cuisine.
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