I went to college in south Louisiana and Mardi Gras was an opportunity to visit New Orleans and celebrate. Mardi Gras was, and still is, a school holiday. Celebration parades occur throughout the city and they are free to attend. If you haven’t experienced Mardi Gras in New Orleans, you should put this on your bucket list.
Historically, Mardi Gras (aka Fat Tuesday) was a time for excesses and debauchery as a prelude to Lent, the 40 days of fasting and penance between Ash Wednesday (the day after Fat Tuesday) and Easter. Faith observers recognize Lent as a time for reflecting on the way we should live our lives, periodic fasting, and giving up something as a sacrifice.
When I was in college, I had little knowledge of the religious significance of Mardi Gras… for me it was simply “party time”. But as I’ve matured, I’ve grown to understand the significance of the holiday in the context of preparation and sacrifice in advance of Easter. It is a nice time to reflect.
This year for Lent, I’ve decided to give up consumption of all alcohol. If you’ve read any of my prior blog posts, you know “I like beer” and I also enjoy wine and cocktails. So for the next 40 days – I’ll abstain – and as a result, there will be fewer glass bottles and aluminum cans to recycle.
In addition to alcohol, Lent offers me a reminder regarding consumption, particularly regarding food. For our planet, the idea of consuming less offers so many positive environmental benefits since, in theory, less consumption translates into less demand, and less produced. Less produced translates, in theory, less energy expended – translated into less fossil fuel extracted from the earth. Now I realize there are a lot of “in theory” inserts but this can be significant if more people consumed less. And my doctor suggests to me at every annual checkup that I lose 10 pounds (unless I can figure out a way to grow taller).
Some strategies to consume less: (1) prepare less. That is, when preparing a meal, assume everyone will eat a moderate amount – not a “Thanksgiving” portion. Read labels for recommended serving sizes; they will amaze you. (2) Serve meals on smaller plates. My daughter is a master of this. And it works. (3) Eat more slowly. Many strategies on this include chewing more slowly, putting your fork down between bites, and enjoying the company of your dining companions by engaging in conversation and (4) savoring each bite.
“Savoring each bite” is the part I like best; the idea of enjoying a meal so much that you want it to last…. to savor it. (Most easily accomplished if you make stuff that is really good to eat.)
In the U.S. a lot of food is wasted. The Department of Agriculture estimates 30-40% of all food produced in the U.S. is wasted. In a 2015 report, USDA stated:
· Wasted food that could have helped feed families in need is sent to landfills.
· The land, water, labor, energy and other inputs used in producing, processing, transporting, preparing, storing, and disposing of discarded food are pulled away from uses that may have been more beneficial to society – and generate impacts on the environment that may endanger the long-run health of the planet.
· Food waste, which is the single largest component going into municipal landfills, quickly generates methane, helping to make landfills the third largest source of methane in the United States.
So what can I do? (1) Stop over buying. Buy quantities that will be used and not tossed due to going bad – think vegetables and fruit. (2) Stop over preparing. Prepare meals to satisfy diners; not to stuff them. And as a result, (3) Stop wasting food! My ongoing objective here is to minimize waste going to the land fill.
I’ve learned over the years I’m much more likely to keep my resolutions if I announce them to others…. otherwise, I may feel it is ok to slide (who will know?). So this year, by this “announcement” to resolve to abstain from alcohol during Lent, and also to adopt better food consumption habits, I’ll be more likely to succeed. Followers of this blog, wish me luck!