A while ago a friend of mine started a Facebook group where everyone shares the little things they do (or don’t do!) to be more environmentally responsible. It’s a great idea, of course: in this new political climate, where politicians ignore or even (nonsensically!) make fun of the science behind climate change, where regulations meant to protect our rivers and forests are being thrown out in the name of ‘economic progress’, where incentives towards the development of renewable energy are being removed, and the Paris Climate Accord is in danger of being thrown out altogether, it’s more important now than ever that each one of us do our part to mitigate the damage done to our world. So I applaud my friend’s efforts to bring a bunch of like-minded people together, and to share ideas on how to make a difference.
Of course, I had the best of intentions when I first joined the group (I was going to try ALL of the ideas! And I was going to implement them all RIGHT NOW!) Then, I got busy, and as, like so many of us, I tend towards the lazy, I allowed myself to forget my delusions of environmentally responsible grandeur and do, well, nothing.
After all, I’m a vegan, and that’s very environmentally helpful, right? I drive a Toyota Yaris, which uses hardly any gas at all. I buy energy efficient light bulbs. I eat only organic produce, and I even grow my own every summer. Yes, I’ve been doing all of these things for years, and really haven’t made any improvements for quite a while, but I’m pretty much good, right? Right???
Then, not long after, my yoga teacher mentioned that she makes one small change each year to her household routine that will either reduce her environmental footprint or will help someone (or society in general) in some small (or significant!) way.
One small change a year to make the world a better place. Hmmm. How could I be too lazy to do that? So feeling guilty about my lack of action, I took a closer look at the postings in that Facebook group.
One woman in the group started composting her refuse (a great idea, of course. But it seemed like it might take a lot of upkeep, and there we are, back to that lazy thing again.) Another person rides his bike to work every day. My work is thirty miles from home, and the only way there involves a lot of highway travel, so that just isn’t feasible. If I don’t pass out from exhaustion by mile 10, then surely I’ll be run over by a semi.
Then I saw it…a woman saying that she no longer buys beans in cans. Instead, she brings her own containers to the bulk food aisle, fills them up with her beans, and that’s that. That doesn’t sound too hard, I thought. Surely I can do that!
Then I started to think about the logistics. How does one even begin to do this? They must have to weigh the containers, right? Otherwise you’d have to pay for the weight of the container each time. But who, exactly, does the weighing? Where do I find this person? What do I say to them?
Then, once I get the beans home, well, what do I do with them? Isn’t it all very complicated to make dry, uncooked beans into something edible?
So I became intimidated, and I procrastinated, and I felt guilty. And I think, this is ridiculous. I can flip around like a monkey in an aerial yoga hammock. I ride my horse bareback and bitless in the woods. But I am scared by the bulk food aisle, and that’s the absurd truth.
Then, one day, I was in the organic food store, and having a great day. I was happy, and relatively stress-free, and, above all, feeling brave. So I thought, today is the day! I am going to conquer the bulk food aisle! Or, at least, take a little peek at it.
So I sidle into the aisle, trying to look as though I know what I’m doing. I cast sidelong glances at the bins. A few more surreptitious looks around and I spy a roll of little plastic bags, which is good, because I don’t have a container just yet.
And I think, I can do this. I grab a plastic bag. I walk over to the raw soybean bin, which is where the first trouble hits. The bin is a little, well, confusing. There’s some sort of lever at the bottom, and I have a terrible feeling that if I pull it soybeans are going to come barreling out of that bin and spew all over the floor and everyone will be giving me stink-eye and I’ll be banned from the organic market for life.
So it is with extreme trepidation that I edge a bit closer to that innocuous-looking bin full of delicious soybeans that just might take me down entirely. I put my plastic bag under what might be the mouth of the thing (this is by no means certain; who knows exactly where the soybeans are going to erupt from?) and I give the lever a little twitch.
So I pull the lever a bit harder. A few soybeans come trickling out. It is not terrible. It is not a torrent of soybeans, burying me beneath an environmentally responsible avalanche of nutritional deliciousness. I pull the lever as far as it will go, and still the soybeans come out at very reasonable pace.
When the bag is full I let go of the lever, the soybeans stop coming out, and That Was It. I’m so encouraged I repeat the process with some wheatberries, just to be crazy. Then I finish my shopping, feeling way more proud of myself than I ought to, and take my hard-earned soybeans and wheatberries home. (The next time I go to buy them I am determined to master the whole “bring-your-own-container” thing. I carry a couple of pretty little bins to the store, march up to the customer service aisle with them, and ask the lady behind the counter what to do. This time I am not nearly so nervous, because I’ve already done the first half of this, quite successfully, and so I’m pretty sure I’ve got this. The lady weighs my bins, puts a little sticker on them with their weight so the cashier knows what to subtract, and that’s it. Three minutes, tops.)
Anyway, back to my first set of soybeans and wheatberries. I’ve got them home now, so what do I do with them? I look online and see that you have to soak them overnight. Then, the next day, you simmer them in water for 3-4 hours for the soybeans, and about one hour for the wheatberries.
OK, that’s doesn’t sound too bad. I pick a day that I can stay in the house for that long, and I soak my soybeans and wheatberries the night before. I wake up, put the soybeans in a pot, and start them cooking. I come back 3 hours later and put the wheatberries in.
Really, this couldn’t be any easier.
Or so I think until the 4 hours is up. I dump them all in a colander, rinse them off, and put them in a big bowl, ready to make them into the most amazing salad.
But wait! What are these yucky-looking clear things in there? I look online, and learn that these are the husks. They come off while you boil the beans. They don’t look yummy at all. You’re meant to pick them out while you’re rinsing the beans.
So I start half-heartedly trying to fish the things out of my poor denuded soybeans. There are too many of them; I know this from the start. Who has the time to pick all these things out of there? Nobody, is the answer. Ain’t nobody got time for that. The husks are going to defeat me.
So I pick just a few of the more egregious-looking husks off the top, and think, once I put all the other stuff in, I won’t even notice the husks at all. The husks won’t kill me, will they? Will they???
Turns out they don’t. And you don’t even notice they’re there, once you cover them up with some vegan mayonnaise and mustard. I also put in chopped up peppers and radishes and onions and bok choy, and I ate it over a bed of mixed lettuce. It was delicious! And the fiber…oh the fiber! Don’t even get me started. I’m a bit obsessed with the gut biome (Google it if you’d like to develop a similar obsession, and I’ll see you in the kombucha aisle!). Anyway, my taste buds are happy, my gut biome was delighted, and there’s protein and vitamins like crazy in there, too.
So my adventures in the bulk food aisle were well worth it. I conquered a weird fear (which always feels good), introduced a ridiculously healthy meal into my diet, and saved the world (ok, just a little bit, but still!) in the process.
Not bad for a day at the grocery, huh? J