When I heard that this month’s theme of Meeta’s Monthly Mingle was “Earth Food”  I smiled. You see, I have been interested in the preservation of the environment from a very young age. Where I got this passion for conservation I’m not quite sure, but I attribute some of it to Charlie.
Who is Charlie you ask?
Well he was a cartoon mascot in the early 1980’s for the Solid Waste Management Company  here in Trinidad and Tobago. Charlie was a bit of a unattractive slob and his face was emblazoned on trashcans everywhere. TV and radio spots transmitted the message (if I remember correctly) ‘chase Charlie away’ and there was even a children’s newspaper pullout on how you (as a kid) could help that I held on to for years. Charlie also promoted recycling, and once a month my mom and I would put all our used glass bottles for that period into the back of the car and she would take them to one of many ‘drop off centers’. As I heard the sound of glass tumbling on to glass I would get a warm feeling inside. The kind that comes from knowing that you’re contributing to something much larger than yourself.
You would think that with the passing of over 20 years things would be even more advanced now however it seems that in the intervening years we have regressed as a society. Charlie was retired decades ago, and public trash cans are now few and far between. Many think nothing of dropping their litter on the road and walking on. Every rainy season societal indifference is repaid with epic flooding as the trash rises and clogs the public waterways. Glass recycling too was ended and even though battery and paper recycling are available battery recycling involves one personally delivering ones batteries to the Solid Waste Management headquarters and paper recycling is only offered to corporate clients. Public education and awareness likewise are no longer priorities. It’s all very disheartening. Disheartening but fortunately there is a glimmer of hope.
There is a burgeoning network of concerned citizens, many in my generation and younger who are, in their own way, trying to turn things around. Two that come to mind are The Green Light Network  and Mystic Hemp .
The Green Light Network
From their blog : We are a group of people from all walks of life, based in Trinidad & Tobago. We act on behalf of our Environment by identifying problems, developing creative solutions and initiating action to ensure that our responsibility towards Nature is fulfilled. Our outer Environment is a reflection of our inner Environments. Create. Educate. Raise Awareness. Heal and empower Self and Others. If you are an individual or organisation with similar goals, we invite you to join our network. Our collective energies give us greater strength for our common purpose.
Right now they are looking for volunteers for their next project, a concert in September. To learn more click here .
From their Facebook Group : Mystic Hemp is Trinidad’s only Hemp/Roots store and prides itself on original, conscious clothing with LOVE. For those souls that are interested in helping Mystic Hemp spread the Love, beach clean-ups, good vibes and just interested in making a difference.
So far they have organised several beach clean-ups around the island, the next of which is scheduled for this Sunday. For more information send them a message through their Facebook group  or their website .
Meeta asked us to share one way that we have personally changed our lives to be more environmentally friendly. There are two that I would like to share. The first is connected to the recipe I have chosen. All of the ingredients were purchased at the Port of Spain General Market. Buying produce from your local farmers market is so earth-friendly. Here are just a few reasons why.
Adapted from 10 reasons to buy local food :
• Locally grown food tastes and looks better. The crops are picked at their peak. Food imported from far away is older and has traveled on trucks or planes, and sat in warehouses before it gets to you.
• Local food is better for you. The shorter the time between the farm and your table, the less likely it is that nutrients will be lost from fresh food.
• Local food preserves genetic diversity. In the modern agricultural system, plant varieties are chosen for their ability to ripen uniformly, withstand harvesting, survive packing and last a long time on the shelf, so there is limited genetic diversity in large-scale production. Smaller local farms, in contrast, often grow many different varieties to provide a long harvest season, an array of colors, and the best flavors.
• Local food supports local families. The wholesale prices that farmers get for their products are low, often near the cost of production. Local farmers who sell direct to consumers cut out the middleman and get full retail price for their food – which helps farm families stay on the land.
• Local food builds community. When you buy direct from a farmer, you’re engaging in a time-honored connection between eater and grower. Knowing farmers gives you insight into the seasons, the land, and your food.
• Local food preserves open space. When farmers get paid more for their products by marketing locally, they’re less likely to sell farmland for development. When you buy locally grown food, you’re doing something proactive to preserve our agricultural landscape.
• Local food is an investment in the future. By supporting local farmers today, you are helping to ensure that there will be farms in your community tomorrow.
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Living here in Trinidad I can add another reason why shopping from the farmer’s market helps the environment. It allows me to shop with a reusable canvas bag. From shows on American TV I get the impression that people are allowed to shop in supermarkets with their own bags. I don’t remember that being done when I lived there, is this a new phenomenon? If so, it still hasn’t reached over here. And, as none of the supermarkets here have those security arches at the doorways to prevent shoplifting I doubt they ever will. Still I would like to see what can be done. There was a time when one could choose between paper and plastic bags but now, even the paper option is gone. True the plastic bags are of the kind that disintegrates and claims to be 100% biodegradable but I really would prefer to use my own canvas shopping tote  and sidestep the clutter that all these bags create. One of these days I’m gonna walk in anyway and see what they say at the checkout. I’m still working up the nerve 😉 Who wants to join me?
On the home front, in addition to shopping as much as possible from local farmers, we have also replaced 1/2 our light bulbs with compact flourescent bulbs . They are a bit costly so we’ve been phasing them in slowly. Still each bulb you replace -does- make a difference and the lifespan of the bulbs and the reduced energy they consume means that in the end they pay for themselves.
Excerpted from FastCompany.com :
Compact fluorescents emit the same light as classic incandescents but use 75% or 80% less electricity… Swirl bulbs don’t just work, they pay for themselves. They use so little power compared with old reliable bulbs, a $3 swirl pays for itself in lower electric bills in about five months. Screw one in, turn it on, and it’s not just lighting your living room, it’s dropping quarters in your pocket. The advantages pile up in a way to almost make one giddy. Compact fluorescents, even in heavy use, last 5, 7, 10 years. Years. Install one on your 30th birthday; it may be around to help illuminate your 40th.
I hope that these tips give you ideas about how you too can be more ‘green’ in your daily life. In closing, here is the recipe for my Spicy Ochro Melee, a simple dish that comes together in minutes and was made (as initially mentioned) with ingredients bought from local farmers
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Sarina’s Spicy Ochro Melee
Makes 4 servings
2 tbsps. vegetable oil
3 cloves, garlic minced
1 tomato, chopped
1 tablespoon grated ginger
10 okra, cut into 3/4″ disks
1 scotch bonnet pepper, chopped
¼ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons cilantro, chopped (more or less, to taste)
1. Sautée garlic, ginger, and pepper over medium heat until garlic turns golden.
2. Add tomato and cook for a minute.
3. Add ochro and mix well.
4. Simmer, covered, for 6 or 7 minutes.
5. Stir in salt.
6. Just before serving sprinkle with cilantro (chadon beni).
This recipe is an exclusive TriniGourmet original. Please do not share it or post it to your site without crediting TriniGourmet.com . A link back to our site is not necessary but always appreciated
This post was originally published August 6, 2007. It has been updated twice since then.