The People’s Food Co-op

Last week I visited the People’s Food Co-op! There are really diverse, expansive arrays of organic, local food products.

Such as this one:

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There was plenty of fresh produce in a section connecting the cafe and the store. The cafe was pretty packed.

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Also in the connector passage between the cafe and the shop is a salad/soup self-serve bar. Everything looked fresh and delicious – and it tasted great too! There were free samples; the one I tried was wild rice with autumn squash.

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The shelves of the store were stocked with items of all kinds: dry pasta noodles, packets of tea, fruit preserves, various types of flour, homemade peanut butter, and more. The store was filled with only natural, healthy products free of chemical alterations, pervading a sense of wholesome goodness throughout. They were having a special on holiday flavored tea – 2 for $5 – so naturally I spent the remaining $5 in my wallet:

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The People’s Food Co-op was a generally uplifting place to be; even if I didn’t buy anything, it was worth the walk to take a look around the store/cafe.

Edit: I can’t figure out how to make the text the same size. </3

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Class Analysis

Every week I looked forward to going to class, not just because I was interested in the topic of sustainability, but because every class I learned new ways to make my life more sustainable and in accordance to permaculture principles.  Through this class I was able to greatly expand my knowledge on how much of a difference I can make by doing seemingly small things.  For example, through our walks through the Arb I learned the various ways to use local produce to its full extent, and also through our waste journal and the subsequent tours of the campus farm I learned how important it is to use everything to its potential.  At the campus farms I found it amazing how little space they were using to produce and cultivate so many different varieties of plants and herbs.  This really reinforced the principles of stacking functions and maximizing the potential of local plants that I found so interesting in Holmgren’s text and in the class.  I feel that in the other environmental classes I have taken they have been focussed too much on the ‘big picture’ and how large corporations are screwing up our ecosystem beyond repair, and something that I loved about this class is how it focused specifically on what we can do and what we still can change, and in that way it gave me such an optimistic view about all the small things that I have started to do that will truly make a difference.  So many of the principles that Madeline taught us are very applicable to daily life, and I felt that this class went beyond the classroom and taught us to discover the spaces and nature that exists around us at this University and the vast amount of resources that we have at our disposal.  Not only are permaculture principles relevant for our ecosystem but many principles like stacking functions and using our resources to the full extent were really great for me to hear because as a freshman at this university it can sometimes feel very overwhelming, and it is nice to have a direction as to how I can really start to take advantage of the great opportunities that being at Michigan gives me.   I really enjoyed going to the campus farms and visiting areas of campus that I would not have seen otherwise, so I definitely would have kept that the same, the one thing that I might have changed was I really would have enjoyed working more hands on with the campus farms, and it might have been cool to be able to do our own sustainability ‘project’ and be able to plant some vegetables or plants local to Michigan and see how they grow and change through the course, applying sustainability concepts to how we grow them along the way.

I also elected to search for an internship, and that process is going well so far. I had a meeting with the career center a couple weeks ago to get me started on that process and have identified the way that I want to go about looking for an internship, most likely through the career center and using the resources of the University.  I am really excited to highlight a specific field and pick a company to work with, but I am not yet decided on the specific field of work that I want to apply for this summer, most likely I will apply for a broad range of different areas and then see which one suits me best!  I had a great experience with this course and am excited for the rest of my experience as a student at the University of Michigan!

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Waste Journal

For me, waste was anything I threw into the trash can or recycling bin.

Thursday, November 28th (Thanksgiving):

-a few noodles

-one apple core

-two small ribs

-two styrofoam plates

-one plastic cup

-three plastic forks

-one paper cup

-two napkins

-plastic wrapping on a tube of lipstick

-one bag of popcorn; empty

-one bag of popcorn; burnt popcorn still inside

-one plastic Ice Mountain water bottle, 16.9 oz

-one square of toilet paper (used to wipe off make-up)

Friday, November 29th:

-two styrofoam plates

-four styrofoam bowls

-five plastic forks

-one plastic spoon

-two napkins

-cake frosting

-a small, squished piece of pumpkin pie

-one can of Sierra Mist; empty

-one bag of popcorn; empty

-shavings from an eyeliner pencil

-one square of toilet paper

Saturday, November 30th:

-the box to a Marie Callender’s chocolate cream pie

-the box to a Michelina’s microwavable chicken fettucine alfredo meal

-two plastic cups

-two styrofoam plates

-two napkins

-three plastic forks

-Hershey’s cookies and cream chocolate bar wrapper

-half of a Chinese pastry

-two bags of popcorn; empty

These results were obtained over Thanksgiving break, during which I went to many people’s houses to dine and therefore used much more plastic ware than usual. (Additionally I had the luxury of hibernating pretty much the whole day during break so that resulted in less consumption and waste on my part.) Generally my plastic/food waste is low when I eat at the dining halls at Umich, and most of my waste comes from snack food wrappers, such as Fiber 1 bars or popcorn (I really should eat less popcorn), the tissues I use to wipe my fingers of the oily junk food, and the toilet paper I use to wipe off make-up. I can definitely cut down on the snacking – it would reduce waste and be sooo much better for my health.

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Course Evaluation

Unfortunately, our wonderful semester of permaculture has come to an end.  I don’t think, though, that it’s principles and practices will be forgotten by the five of us as we continue to define our lifestyles and decide how we want to eat, use energy, waste, buy products, and interact with the world.  We were a small class, and that gave us the opportunity to experience some really neat, hands-on activities and discussions.  

How the permaculture principles were modeled within the structure of the course:

  • Each week we read one or two of Holmgren’s principles, and then we focused on those during our class period.
  • For example, after reading Principle One: Observe and Interact, we went for a walk through the Arboretum and actually practiced observing and interacting.  It was neat to watch our textbook’s ideas in the real world, which is something we don’t always get in other classes.
  • The week that we read Principle Six: Produce No Waste, we conducted Holmgren’s Self Audit to see what waste (of time, energy, or money) we were producing.  It was interesting and made me evaluate what I spent my time doing.  It was neat to hear how others in the class had actually made significant changes (like dropping calc!) based on their audit.
  • As we walked through the campus farm’s herb spiral or talked with permaculture business owners or visited the honey bees, we talked about what made these things different – how, specifically, they applied the permaculture principles.  Even talking about school work or our future plans, it was amazing how relevant the principles were!

Changes to course structure that I would recommend:

  • Overall, I liked the structure.  My favorite part was that we were rarely in the classroom – I loved visiting the campus farm and the Arb.  Even on the days we were in the classroom, we had guest speakers, never just lecture.  I think this kept us more engaged.
  • I think that maybe the blogging, reading, magazines, and out-of-class assignments were a bit too much.  I really enjoyed the out-of-class assignments (Farmers Market, Food Co-op) and didn’t mind blogging, so I would keep these two.  But personally, I found the textbook to not be engaging.  This might have just been me, but I had trouble getting through each principle and kind of zoned out as I read.  What about a one-page summary handout of each principle on CTools?  These would be easy to read and easy to refer back to.

Wrapping things up:

  • think all of my blogs are in. Please let me know if I’m missing one!
  • Not as my final assignment, but I’m also looking into internships for this summer. I’ve found two that I really like (though I’m looking for more!), attended an info session, emailed the director, and plan to apply over winter break.
  • I’m about to eat lunch with friends (to eat and socialize and provide a break from homework and plan a club project we have coming up), and later I’m going to run to my committee meeting at the Union so I get there faster and get my workout in.  Yay for stacking functions!
  • And finally, here’s some tea I made with the herbs we picked at the campus farm (this is a really unappealing picture, but I promise it was delicious!!):

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Waste Journal

Thursday

  • snicker doodle box (recycle)
  • q-tip x 4
  • chicken biscuits box (recycle)
  • gum wrappers and gum x 3
  • toilet paper
  • apple core

Friday

  • paper towel x 2
  • noodle package (recycle)
  • tissue x 16
  • toilet paper
  • gum wrappers and gum x 2
  • gum wrapper x 6
  • apple core
  • q-tips x 2
  • candy wrapper
  • paper cup
  • pipe cleaner
  • lots of dust and hair (from the vacuum)
  • plastic ziplock bag (recycle)
  • sticky notes x 5
  • leaves of paper x 14 (recycle)
  • empty milk carton (recycle)
  • tea bag
  • fabric softener sheet
  • package boxes x 2

Saturday

  • paper towel
  • toilet paper x 3

The general trend I’ve observed is that the more I’m outside of my dorm room, the less waste I tend to directly create. Perhaps it’s because I am always snacking when I’m at my dorm. It was interesting though, because I ended up wasting less than I thought I would (except on Friday when I cleaned the room)! Perhaps I missed some things and left stuff laying around instead of throwing it out right away. On Saturday, I was out of my dorm for almost the whole day and avoided creating too much waste so that I did not have to find a trashcan nearby. But I may have also missed recording some waste because I did not always have my notepad with me. I could change my snacking habits or snack in more environmentally friendly ways to reduce some of this waste.

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Farmer’s Market

I met two stand owners at the Kerrytown Farmer’s Market~

Walking through the market was nice and relaxing! The bustle of people there reminded me of the farmer’s market back at home, and it was a great trip to get off campus and see people other than the students and professors on campus.

The first one was Debbie Marx, who made all the jewelry herself! I asked her where she found her materials and she said that she’s had a fascination with gems ever since she was five so that’s when she started collecting beautiful stones. She goes to gem shows, and buys them from places, and finds them, and basically gets her materials from anywhere–there is no specific one place.

She gave me a sheet with a short autobiography to make my assignment easier and she told me that all students get a dollar off whatever they buy! Wow! Overall, speaking to her was a fun experience and she was a really friendly person.

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The second one seemed to be in a rush because I did go to the market sort of late, but she sells purses and wallets that she had made herself. Her name is Diana and she gets her materials from distributors. She’s been doing this for 40 years! Holy cow!

I didn’t get to take a picture though, sadly, because she seemed so hurried and busy. Maybe next time.

I wish the Farmer’s Market was a little bit closer to campus; I love the atmosphere and definitely would visit more often!

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My Ecological Footprint

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According to the footprint calculator, if the world populace adopted my lifestyle, at least 3.7 planets would be required to sustain everybody. I was actually surprised by these results, since after measuring my waste recently I realized how wasteful I really am, and expected the number of planets to be higher. 

For this questionnaire I went back in time and treated it as if I were living in my senior year of high school because I figured trying to estimate my energy usage here would be too difficult and inaccurate, whereas I have a pretty good idea of my house’s energy bills this past year. For me/my family, the main source of impact on the earth was in the services category, which I’m assuming encompasses heating, running water, and electricity services. Next came food, which was not at all surprising to me. While my meat consumption is relatively low, I have an unfortunate addiction to packaged foods which probably skyrocketed my waste/energy levels, considering there are numerous steps to the final product.

I don’t want to take the results from this footprint calculator too seriously, though. Since I used data from my household last year, it was hard to distinguish between how much of the impact on the earth was from solely me, and what was from my family collectively. Additionally, since my lifestyle has changed drastically now that I’ve moved to college, I’m sure I’m at least a little eco-friendlier this year. I walk everywhere now, I recycle more, and I keep my electricity usage as low as possible. There’s definitely room for me to improve, such as eating locally grown food and less packaged junk food; hopefully this year will see an execution of these changes to my lifestyle.

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