Paul Potyen: Beyond paper or plastic

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— Have you ever thought about all the packaging that you have to deal with after you've brought your food home from the local grocery store and opened it to prepare your meals?

I have. What's up with that indestructible metallic stuff that's inside the cardboard box that seals and protects my puffed corn peppercheese zorches? Or what about that transparent plastic box that my organic salad mix comes in? How much energy does it take for the manufacturers to make this stuff and then ship it a couple of thousand miles so that I can eat the contents? (The average bite of American food travels 1,400 miles.)

I can't burn this stuff in my woodstove. At least I can recycle the plastic thingy, but there's so much other packaging material that ends up as my contribution to the local landfill. And how much of the price I pay for this food is really a transportation and packaging tariff? There must be another way.

Fortunately, another way is imminent. In Routt County - and across the country - people are coming up with other scenarios for putting healthy food on their table without a lot of packaging and transportation costs. And, as you might expect, the food tastes better and is more healthful.

Deep Roots (http://deeprootsco.org) is a newly created local nonprofit group that is working to bring more locally produced food to local tables. One focus of the group is in providing events, programs and projects that raise public awareness about the value of Northwest Colorado's food system. One such event happened Saturday night: The Community Alliance of Yampa Valley hosted its third Annual New Pioneers Dinner at Olympian Hall, where guests enjoyed a locally grown, prepared festive harvest meal, presented in collaboration with Deep Roots.

Many locals are growing food in their own gardens and greenhouses - some of them right through the winter. And for those who can't afford the time or don't want to "grow their own," there are other choices available. Locally owned markets provide organic foods, including some that are grown in Colorado. Or you could look into a member-supported farm program, called CSA (community-supported agriculture) that brings consumers into direct contact with the farmer who grew the food.

Another option is for a group of people to form a buying club. A club can identify foods that aren't available locally, then order larger quantities to be divided among the club members. This is a way to reduce the shipping cost and the amount of packaging that is used.

So, if you have started to bring your own reusable bags with you when you shop for food, that's great, but there's a lot more you can do to minimize your carbon footprint by way of eating locally.

All of the above food options described here require comparatively little in terms of packaging and transportation costs.

And if you've ever tasted fresh, locally grown strawberries in the middle of winter, you already know about the really great benefits of these healthful food opportunities.

On Thursday, chances are good you'll be giving thanks for the food that's on your table. Now is a good time to think about what you might do to make that food fresh, tasty, nutritious and locally grown or produced.

You'll be supporting the local economy and helping the environment! For more information, visit http://deeprootsco.org and click on "resources."

Happy Thanksgiving!

Paul Potyen lives near Steamboat Springs with his wife, Cate, and their poodle, Quincy Jones, in an off-grid strawbale house that they built before they knew there was an energy crisis.

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