Many of us are setting out on road trips to wrap up summer or planning trips for the upcoming holiday season. I recently planned my own. Traveling 900 miles stretching from where I sit now in Oxnard, California to Santa Fe New Mexico. It takes about 15 hours and three meals to get there.
The roads that lead us from here to there regardless of where are dotted with fast food joints. They serve food that is not the best for water, you can even argue fast food chains represent some of the worst foods for water, as the food relies on big corporate farms whose concern is not to grow wellbeing but to grow big yields and big profits.
But there you are on your road trip, starving, with few options. Believe me I’ve been there. And will likely find myself there again. But when I do just a little planning on the front end, I don’t find myself stranded along the road with nothing good to eat.
The difference in my body when I eat either all of my food from home or a combination of both home food and out versus just eating whatever is close to the gas station where we stop is night and day. Use these tips to plan your next trip and make the best choices for you body and the planet.
Breakfast is easiest, whip up a smoothie or meal replacement shake, grab a piece of fruit and you're ready to hit the road. This can be done for lunch as well, you can make sandwiches or wraps that can be kept in a cooler until you're ready to stop and eat.
Shop the deli aisle of grocery stores along your route. You'll find delicious pre-made salads, sandwiches, and even sushi. You can also grab healthier side options like organic apples, yogurt, or cheese sticks.
We love Chipotle, but there are others like, SaladWorks, Cava, or Honeygrow. While these restaurants may not be all organic, they have fresh made items that will treat your body better.
When I buy chocolate, whether it is a bar, powder, in a dessert like the chocolate gelato I'm enjoying in the picture from Sanders & Sons in Ojai, California, I look for the following:
1. organic chocolate
2. direct or fair trade, also called bean to bar, and
3. made with no palm oil.
All of these actions have immeasurable impacts on local and world water systems.
I will break down the first two action tips below and will dedicate a future blog post on palm oil and why it's important to skip this popular ingredient.
In my book I wrote a chapter on chocolate, featuring Taza Chocolate located in Boston. My tour guide into the world of chocolate was Alex Whitmore, the co-founder of the brand. Alex said something to me that helped me to connect the dots between chocolate, water, and the small cacao farmer. He said, "the communities where we purchase our cacao, use their river for everything to swim, bathe, and drink. So when companies like TAZA chocolate pay a premium for organic cacao. The farmers don't need to make a difficult decision between polluting their rivers. And making a living."
Chemicals in water make people sick. It is estimated that 70% of chemicals applied to cacao are retained in the soil and washed into streams and rivers.
Cacao for 2000 years has grown under the canopy of the rainforest. It's meant to be shade-grown (like the coffee tree), but in the 20th century, the cacao tree was brought out of the shade and into the full sun because it was discovered it could produce twice as many pods. But the scientist and farmers who made this discovery warned of the consequences resulting from the lack of shade, such as the invasion of weeds, the degradation of soil, and new pest. But the farmers were seduced by the promise of higher yields and in the following decades they cleared away the rainforest.
Absent shade, the yields did in fact increase. But so too has the use of agrochemicals. For example, in West Africa, the top grower of cacao, pesticide use doubled in the three years between 2007 and 2010. And chemicals are not as effective. Cacao farmers are now losing 30-40% of their annual yields. Overall the way the industry is dealing with the loss of yields is to apply more chemicals keeping them trapped in this cycle.
But when WE buy chocolate that is certified organic we are growing well-being for these farmers.
Buy socially responsible labeled chocolate like direct-trade, fair-trade certified, and rainforest alliance.
These certifications negotiate a price directly from the cacao farmer or cooperative, empowering small farmers to move away from chemicals. When the farmer has the security of a negotiated price they can invest in the farm. They can afford to purchase shade trees and pay the higher cost of hand weeding and tree trimming necessary in organic agriculture.
Remember, cacao is a traded commodity, like oil, so in these direct trade relationships the cacao farmer can walk away from the dependence on chemicals because they have certainty of price not available to them in a volatile stock market.
The socially responsible trade programs also ensure that there are no labor abuses. Unfortunately, cacao has a long history of child labor abuses including the human trafficking of children to work on the farms. These trade programs, prohibit child labor and require fair wages.
When I reach for chocolate off the shelf I look for a social responsible label next to the organic symbol.
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