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Planting for a Sustainable Future

By Irazu Hernandez

Irazu Hernandez, one of our AMP volunteers, discusses how she and her family contribute to a more sustainable food system: gardening. 

“Do you ever wonder where your food comes from? Well, most of the fruits and veggies you eat have to travel hundreds or even thousands of miles before they arrive at your local supermarket. This means that trucks are continuously using gallons of gas, resulting in large expulsions of exhaust and an unhappy Mother Earth. 

Now, imagine the time that would be needed to collect fruits or vegetables that grow on a small tree in your home. This would not require nearly as much travel, nor result in as many greenhouse gas emissions.

Recently, my family and I planted a lemon tree in our garden as a first step in reducing our environmental impact. We realized that this seemingly overwhelming process was much simpler than it was perceived to be, and that the results would lead to a healthier lifestyle for both the environment and ourselves. 
The organic growing of lemons, which does not involve the use of any herbicides or pesticides, leads to less air and water pollution. In addition, being able to walk just outside my home in order to collect my lemons greatly reduces the contamination of the environment. It limits the use of the fossil fuels that are needed to transport fresh produce from around the globe to your local grocery store. 

An additional benefit that came along with gardening was that this experience brought my family together in ways unlike ever before. We were each given different responsibilities that allowed for our “young child” to grow and prosper, and we all felt an immense surge of pride and accomplishment when our tree grew its first, tiny lemon. Also, having our own lemon tree led to fewer instances of food waste in our house, as we are less inclined to throw away a lemon that we witnessed grow. Putting in the effort to see a plant bloom ensures that you will be less likely to take it for granted, and more likely to eat it before it goes to waste.

Gardening is also meaningful outdoor activity that gives you time to de-stress, relax, and soak in some vitamin D. Growing your own food can be one of the most purposeful things you will ever do. It nourishes your family, improves your health, and helps you blossom just as your plant would. Planting this lemon tree was an incredibly fun experience and has motivated me to look into planting other fruits and vegetables.  

If my family continues gardening, we may be able to shorten our grocery list and save money while enjoying higher quality, tastier food. If your produce tastes better, you will be more inclined to eat it and give your body the healthy nutrients it needs. Not to mention that eating homegrown food requires less concern for food safety and offers bragging rights (your food did not have to travel thousands of miles before reaching your plate).

In sharing this story, I’d like to encourage you all that no matter how small an activity might seem, you can still play an important role in reducing your ecological footprint. So, go ahead, find some community gardens near you or start shopping at your local farmers’ market instead of your supermarket. Even if you live in a city, you can start a small garden on a rooftop or balcony. I highly encourage all of you to plant your own fruits or vegetables; all you need is a little time, a water source, and some outdoor space.

Plus, trust me when I say that there is no better feeling than enjoying fresh lemonade made from lemons grown in your own home!”  

About Toni O'Boyle

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