Last November, Rev. Nate Walker, the minister of the First Unitarian Church of Philadelphia, wrote a sermon that was an open letter to Monsanto, voicing concerns based on his research about the company. He Fed-Exed a copy to Hugh Grant, the CEO of Monsanto, a multinational agricultural biotechnology corporation. What followed was a series of ongoing conversations and visits between Rev. Nate and Monsanto. Rev. Nate would like to see this company adopt an oath to “do no harm” and play a leadership role in getting the entire field of biotechnology to adopt a similar oath. This process led to a dialogue this past Thursday evening at the First Unitarian Church of Philadelphia, between two senior directors of Monsanto, about a dozen leaders within the congregation and a few others like me, who are particularly interested in and knowledgeable about food issues and environmental justice. We came from a range of backgrounds, including an organic chemist and a ministerial candidate who focuses on issues of food justice.
Meg: Cutting Out Cane Sugar
I made it! I learned a lot about how I use sugar to overcome exhaustion–ironic because of course it wears me out! Now the trick is to keep myself from reverting to old, bad habits. Interesting that I don’t crave sugar now –I hope I can keep it that way!
Orelia: Local/Sustainable Meat
This weekend, even though the experiment was almost over, I was camping and succumbed to my meat cravings a couple of times. I was pretty sure that this meat was not locally or sustainably raised. I wasn’t wracked with guilt, but I was a little disappointed at my own lack of resolve and how easy it was for to justify the slip ups to myself. I think there’s a lesson here about falling off the proverbial wagon. I heard this lesson again in a yoga class I took while camping. The teacher kept repeating, “It’s not how many times you stop, but how many times you start again.” So at the moment, I’m just working on observing myself and my inclinations and desires, including my wish to live a life that is authentic and sustainable and satisfying. I’m grateful for the start that 40/40/40 has given me, and I am looking forward to continually starting again.
Rob: Fair Trade Coffee
What stands out as I reflect on my 40/40/40 commitment is the “pregnant pause” that came after I asked a business or friend if their coffee was fair trade. In that brief moment, it felt like everyone (including me) was evaluating the extent to which my request was legitimate and the extent to which it was annoying. I will continue to reflect on this dynamic, and especially how asking for justice can often seem “impolite”. There’s a place for decorum, of course, but perhaps I need to be more comfortable with creating tension for the right reasons.
Rowan: Saying Grace
It was fascinating to see how this played out for me–the messaging I told myself, the time it takes, and the effects of eating with others, and the impact it had on my buying habits. When I focused on gratitude for everything that brought me the food, taking the time was much more enjoyable. It was hard to enjoy my food when I was outraged about everything that I don’t know about the growing methods and how the workers were treated, or the fact that my banana coming from South America cost less than my apple from New England. I found myself paying more close attention in the supermarket about my food choices and growing methods. Sometimes, in a rush, I would think a grace to myself while preparing my food or running around, and I sometimes found it more challenging than I would have expected. Saying grace was a practice I most appreciated when sharing food with friends–good food and good company. I’ve learned that it’s only as powerful as the mindfulness I bring to it.
Susan: No Red Meat
My family gave up red meat for the 40-40-40 campaign. To tell you the truth I felt a bit guilty as I thought we were picking something very easy since we rarely eat it and even more rarely cook it at home. We were surprised to learn that the occasional times we have bacon with our eggs or decide to grab a steak sub rather than cook at all some nights were more frequent than we realized. The capper came when we were attending the local annual May Fair and decided not to get the Indian food we often get that contains red meat. Instead we went to the organic green food both and got falafel salads where we saw among posted factoids the statement that a vegetarian driving a hummer has a smaller carbon foot print than the meat-eating Prius driver. Well I went on the web to learn more about that and found out that particular fact is inaccurate but my research headed me towards a lot of other great perspectives. Here is one I’d like to share http://www.mnn.com/earth-matters/energy/blogs/the-prius-driving-vegan-vs-the-meat-eating-bicyclist-who-is-the-better. My family can’t claim to be vegan bicyclists yet but the spiritual practice and mindfulness of participating in the 40-40-40 with other members of our congregation (First Parish Cambridge) led us to start being mindful in a lot of different ways about our environmental impact. We’re all biking even more and saying no thanks to the hamburgers!
Eric: Intentional Gardening
I’m off to a slow start to my 40/40/40 commitment because of some traveling. This past weekend was my actually my first chance to have some quality time in the garden. I was able to be in a good spiritual place when I entered and exited, feeling gratitude and hope. And, most of the time that I was digging, weeding and planting I felt “present”. In the couple days since then the seedlings have needed some care to avoid frost, and that felt spiritually nurturing. On the down-side, I’ve got some of the typical aches and pains that come from gardening and I’m trying to understand them in spiritual context. So, its just the beginning for me, but it feels like I’m off to a good start.
Rob: Fair Trade Coffee
Since none of the coffee shops closest to the office brew fair trade, I found myself asking: how far would I have to go? The good news is: not far. With help from the locator tool from Transfair, I discovered that the national chain Caribou Coffee (with a location two blocks away) will brew cups of fair trade. The somewhat significant catch is that it’s french press style (taking 8 minutes) and costs $3 for a large cup. Thus the award for the closest, cheapest cup of fair trade coffee goes to Bruegger’s Bagels, who offer fair trade (in French Roast and Peach varieties) as part of their regular line up. I’ve never heard of peach coffee, but sometime soon I’ll go have a cup on principle.
Meg: Eliminating Processed Refined Sugars
Halfway through and I’m learning a lot about myself. I had thought I might suffer physical withdrawal from sugar but in fact I’ve seen that it’s much more likely that I want sugar for emotional support, not because it’s a physical addiction. I have learned that alternative sugars (I don’t do the sorbitol route) like syrup or honey make products incredibly more expensive, and a lot of them don’t taste that good either. I’ve realized that making my own stuff is the best way to guarantee that I know what’s in them, so my old college-days health food cookbooks have been out a few times. It’s been fun to bake. Interesting to see the correlation between eating sugar and moving quickly and mindlessly, vs. cutting it out and being more conscious and slowing down.
The real question is: What about when the 40/40/40 challenge is over? Will I stay mindful? So far, I’m ambivalent! It really helps to know that so many other people are challenging themselves during these 40 days.
Orelia: Sustainably and Humanely Farmed Meats and Animal Products
As my venture into eating more sustainably and humanely farmed meats and animal products continues, I find myself often feeling ambivalent and opting to just eat vegetarian rather than expending the effort to get out to the farmers’ market. I really have no excuse. There are several markets throughout the week in the D.C. area, many of which are convenient for me to get to, but I still find it easier to eat and prepare vegetarian food. At the same time, if I’m around other people who are eating meat that doesn’t meet my criteria, I feel like I’m depriving myself and start craving it. I’ve only slipped once, at a communal meal that I was grateful I hadn’t needed to prepare anything for. I think I have a general apathy towards shopping and cooking lately. It doesn’t help that I injured my knee and ankle over the past couple of weeks, and it’s been hard just to get around on foot and bicycle like I usually do. I know I’ll feel better when I actively work to plan make meals that I’m excited about, and when I can get more exercise in general. I’m thinking a lot lately about how food, activity and mood are all connected for me and what really drives my inclinations to make sustainable and healthy choices, and how far I’m willing and able to go to support those choices. And this weekend will surely include one or more trips to a market somewhere in town.
Rowan: Saying Grace before Eating
Now that I’ve been doing this for three weeks, it has become much easier to remember to pause before I eat. I’m finding that the more that I think about where my food comes from and everything that it took to get it to me, I am appreciating my food so much more and eating more slowly. I find that when I’m in a rush and don’t think as much about it, I wolf down my food without the same gratitude.
As I’ve explored different topics for grace–the labor, the geographic source, and now the growing methods, I’m finding that like anything, the framing of my intentionality makes a huge difference. When I expressed gratitude for all the people involved, I enjoy my food so much more than when I spend my moment wondering where my food came from and how it was grown. The latter is pushing me to eat foods with simpler ingredients (less questions left unanswered!) and to go to the Farmers Market. The fresh produce is inspiring my cooking once again. I am reminded both of how little is easily known about most foods found in the grocery store–or a restaurant–and how much actually thinking about these questions regularly can help me align my behavior with my ideals, though it’s not always perfect.
As part of the 40/40/40 for the Earth campaign, I’ve resolved to drink only fairly traded coffee for 40 days. Admittedly, I knew it would not a be huge stretch since most of the places I frequently drink coffee already use or offer fair trade options: the office (we use Equal Exchange) , my school (Wesley Theological Seminary’s Dining Services Company, Meriwether-Godsey, has great fair/local/green commitments), and my home (we buy from Zeke’s, a Baltimore-based company owned by an old family friend that produces amazing coffee).
Feeling adventuresome, I took my ceramic, it’s-reusable-but-it-looks-like-a-to-go cup for a survey tour of the four coffee shops within one block of our office. None of the options (two national chains, one regional chain, and one independent shop) sold cups of fair trade coffee, although Starbucks sold bags of fairly-traded beans. Disappointing, but not surprising.
The real challenge for me has come whilst eating breakfast in cafes and diners, which happens to be one of the things I enjoy most in this world. The two places I go regularly are small, independent restaurants staffed by friendly people. I was not looking forward to the dynamic of being “that guy” who asks about the coffee. Nonetheless, I wanted to make good on my pledge–and I wanted caffeine–so I asked one of the cafe’s co-owners about their coffee. “Our coffee is 100% Columbian” he responded. “We don’t do fair trade.”
I could have entered my lobbying phase, but I chose to leave it at that. My sense is that the question expressed my desire well enough, and that any additional advocacy would simply have been annoying. Maybe I’ll bring it up again in the future, after we’ve both had time to think about it.
In the interest of full disclosure, I did drink a cup of their coffee that morning–but it was the small cup of hot coffee that came free with my meal, rather than the large iced coffee I actually wanted. Since it was already an extremely hot and humid day, the hot cup did feel like somewhat of a penalty. For the rest of my 40 days, however, I will not buy or drink any java there. Even if they decide to give away large iced coffees. –Rob
We’re just over a week into our 40-day focus on Ethical Eating. Many of us have picked specific actions to take for these forty days. Here are some of our reflections:
Rob: Drinking Fair Trade Coffee
At the bagel shop this morning–which did not have fair trade coffee–I was thankful that I had already drank a cup of fair trade joe before I left home. I need to keep that in mind for the future if i’m going to eat somewhere else for breakfast. Fair trade coffee: don’t leave home without it!
Rowan: Saying Grace/Taking time to reflect on where my food comes from
The first couple days were really challenging for me. Five bites into eating, or worse–after I finished, I’d realize that I had forgotten to stop and gratefully reflect. I’d put down my fork and try and think about my food and where it came from. Though I’m passionate about food and food issues and could talk to you for an hour about bananas, the urgency of the moment made it difficult to think of anything meaningful. I decided to pick weekly themes to help me focus on different aspects of Ethical Eating, starting with a focus on labor.
I’ve gotten better at remembering to stop before I start eating, and the theme is really helping me focus. I can’t believe how many people it took to get me my breakfast cereal! All the people involved in saving and planting the seeds, growing/harvesting/storing the crops, processing/packaging/marketing the cereal, shipping/storage/selling the product, and not to mention all the people involved in making the packaging, logging the trees, designing the font, mining the materials to make the machinery, the fuel, etc. I’m done with my bowl of cereal before I could possibly think of everyone it took to get me this cereal (and the bowl, milk, and spoon). For their work, I am grateful. This increased awareness is pushing me toward buying simpler ingredients, in which I can know more about each step of the process.
Meg: Eliminating Cane Sugar
I’m doing it. The hardest was being at a long conference where all snacks involved sugar—luckily there was usually fruit, too. I’m proud of myself! It feels positive to do something with others. And I just made rhubarb with maple syrup—yum!
Nicole: Eating locally in Boston, MA
So, in that Murphy’s Law kind of way, I’ve found my first week difficult, but not unsuccessful overall. One issue has been that the official farmer’s market season doesn’t start till mid-May here in Boston; my first shipment of Boston Organics arrives only today, and I opted for the “Dogma Box,” which promises at least 8 locally-grown items in it (excitement!). But in the meantime it’s been hummus (local), some more fiddlehead ferns (not sure if I love or loathe them), locally made bread, eggs, butter, and locally grown tomatoes. And accidentally, some food at a restaurant that was not local (I’m becoming such a pain in the butt to my friends).
The other (personal-life issue) has been that I’ve been bumbling around with a herniated disc for almost week, making cooking, shopping, standing, and often-times consciousness kind of a bummer. I think I’ve had Ben & Jerry’s every single day since it started (it’s from Vermont, that’s within my challenge constraints at least).
Life on the go and/or life temporarily impaired/immobilized, makes it really tough to have convenience, variety, and locally produced foodstuffs in this challenge; can’t have it all, I suppose. Lugging around bags of food like a hermit crab (because they lug around bags of food, of course) is also a tough one. I’m seeing that my lifestyle choices (some by necessity, though) definitely impact the way I eat, and make this challenge all the more…challenging. At least it has me thinking (constantly).
Orelia: Humane & Sustainably-raised Meat
My resolution was to only eat meat that is locally produced and sustainably farmed. I got some great sausage at the farmers’ market last week, and I found myself talking to the vendors more than I would have otherwise about their animals and their farms. I’m privileged to live in an area where there are many farmers’ markets, and when I want to buy meat and can afford it, I have a lot of options.
I’m finding that in social situations, when I’m eating at an event or potluck, it feels uncomfortable to ask people where they got the meat that they used to prepare their dishes. In these situations, I will probably just tell people that I’m a vegetarian and deal with their confusion if and when they ever see me eating meat. Sometimes it works to share my resolution with people, and sometimes it feels less awkward if I keep it to myself. I know that I’m not doing this so that I can shout it from the mountaintops, I’m doing it because I think it’s a way that I can live sustainably that makes sense for me. My decision might not work for someone else whose geographic, health or economic situation differs from mine. After the past week, I feel more aware of the fact that others might have their own ways of living sustainably that are equally valid and meaningful for them.
Alida: Saying Grace
At the dinner table we now follow our routine moment of silence with spoken observations about the sources of our food, the workers who helped bring it to our table and the animals whose lives have been sacrificed for us. Last night we observed the cultural influences in the particular foods. Our 9 year old son is way into it. We give thanks for the “efforts and sacrifices that have made this food available for us”. It has really made us more aware and grateful. Good new practice!
Written on April 22, 2010.
That’s a mean plant, my Granny explained to me when I was ten, pointing out the car window as we drove through North Carolina. It’s mean to the folks who try to grow it and sell it. It’s mean to the folks who use it. And it’s mean to the earth.
She was talking about commercially grown tobacco, but it could have been sugar as well. I’ve read enough to know that many of the people growing cane sugar and corn are slaves to the corporations who are mass producing these foods. And I can tell you firsthand that sugar is no friend to me, one of its most devoted users.
But I only suspected that sugar was also not a friend of the earth when I decided to give it up for 40 days as part of the UUA’s 40/40/40 campaign. Preliminary research tells me I was right.
I’m thinking of 40/40/40 as a kind of UU lent. After all, while we honor many theologies and spiritual paths, all of us who are committed to deeds, not creeds, understand that life is lived on a home planet—that would be earth. And we honor that we are part of that planet’s life. As environmentalist John Seed once said, “If you don’t think you are part of the ecosystem, hold your breath right now and see how long you last.”
When the staff in the Washington DC office began to envision what it might mean to commit to a personal change in eating for 40/40/40, I blurted out, “I am going to stop eating processed sugars” before I could stop myself. The earth did not stop spinning on its axis. Even the meeting didn’t slow down. My commitment was simply noted along with others.
As I listened to someone else talk about only eating local and organic meats, which I mostly already do and could without suffering commit myself to doing more, I heard a scream inside my head responding to what I had just said out loud. The scream said, and I quote, “NOOOOOOOOO!” I blurted out, interrupting someone else’s commitment, “That does NOT include local maple syrup and unpasteurized honey, by the way!” People were kind when I said this, but I could tell they were a little bewildered and annoyed, too. Like, sure, whatever, Meg, but stop interrupting! They could not hear that scream, obviously—it was mine.
In the week between making that commitment and now, I have been preparing myself for this journey. No, not by deep reflection and learning about how sugar production impacts the earth. Not by looking up recipes for healthful alternatives, nor by purchasing them at the local co-op. Nope, I’ve been preparing by overeating processed sugar. I think you get my drift. I’m a junkie. I’m scared to admit how challenging this is going to be, and what a wimp I feel like having my soul co-sponsored by something as infantile as Good and Plenty.
I’ll keep you posted on this one. I’m grateful for the opportunity to match my behavior with my values, even though I’m afraid about it. I am grateful for the staff in the Washington Office for being a support system. And I’m grateful that I’ve got enough courage and life-force to be willing to tackle this sugar monster.
It’s interesting how much my fear re-affirms that I am part of the ecosystem. What is not good for me is also not good for the rest of the planet. Allowing myself to know this opens up the support of the earth as I face my fear. When I do that, I become excited to take these next steps towards affirmation of life!
Guest post from Nicole McConvery, from the International Office.
I, admittedly naively, have decided to commit myself to foraging for local food only, over the next 40 days. This was inspired by the realization that almost everything I eat comes from pretty far away; I’d never really pondered that fact until now. Much of this food has seen more of the world than I have, traversing the globe via planes, trains, and automobiles, leaving quite the carbon trail in its wake. I’m not so sure I can continue to consume blindly without committing some cognitive energy, and a little conscientious action, towards making decisions that are a little easier on the planet.
On the eve of my personal challenge, I realized with comical dread that I hadn’t yet purchased anything to feed myself over the next couple of days. (The weekend is a much easier time to visit local farms/farmstands). So, I decided to hit up the local Whole Foods. As I roamed the immaculately kept aisles, my eyes darted up to the tops of every food sign, which mark the origin of each product. I kind of balked at the dearth of local produce; all I could find in the veggie area were a bunch of run-down looking fiddlehead ferns, which don’t sound particularly edible. Ever the crusader of comestibles, I grabbed a modest bunch despite my reservations. We don’t grow carrots here (in MA)? Cucumbers? Lettuce? What’s with that?! — I know that’s not true, but wow, it’s really that much cheaper to ship food from the other side of the planet than to grow some of it here?
I was equally disheartened to find only locally-made apple cider available in the fruit aisle. Everything that I would normally gravitate towards seemed to come from California (note to self). That set the tone for my purposeful ambling; I didn’t come across much that would fulfill the constraints of my personal challenge and still provide for my dietary restrictions, but what I did find fit the bill for the next few days: locally made hummus, wraps, eggs, cheese, and those crazy ferns.
My inner monologue was pretty amusing as I examined packaging and started to question everything when I realized food distributors are not necessarily where the food/ingredients originate. I kept arguing with myself about how I was defining “local.” Whole Foods seemed to define it as MA, NH, VT, and ME. That’s fine with me. I was astonished, though, to see that the local products often cost significantly more than their from-far-away counterparts. I decided to keep pushing the issue with myself, and widened my “local” net to include CT and NY, only if I had to. At least the pricing forced me to keep asking myself do I really need this?
However, I needed to be honest about any exceptions I had to make with this challenge (so far): soy/tofu, spices (that I already have in my kitchen), and rice (though I will try to cut back). I am really reliant on soy as I don’t eat much meat; luckily local fish isn’t too hard to come by. I can’t stand milk but I am big on yogurt and cheese; thankfully Cabot and Stonyfield fall within my regional constraints. Fruit juice I can do without (I tend towards water anyways). I don’t drink coffee (don’t look at me that way!), but sometimes tea. And spices! For me, essential. But what about all that wonderful ethnic food I love to eat? By default, most of it breaches my personal contract. How long can I go without kimchi, soba, wakame, curry, boba? Time will tell.
I have to be completely forthcoming about one particular fact: I will need to break out the Asian sauces every so often. To that end, I’m grateful for the discovery of Chef Myron’s delicious, locally made ponzu and szechuan. The need for these flavors does call into question the origin of ingredients in some of these locally made products; though the sauces are assembled here in MA, I know full-well that sake and cane juice are not indigenous to this part of the country (correct me if I’m wrong?). I’ve decided to not torture myself too much about this and will evaluate items on a case-by-case basis.
Next up: getting set up with a Boston Organics account. Whole Foods will work in a pinch (sort of), but if I’m really going to succeed with this challenge, I’ll need to dig deeper.
Unitarian Universalists across the continent are expanding Earth Day’s 40th anniversary on April 22, 2010 to last 40 days. They are committing to small and large daily actions over the 40 days for the sake of the Earth and all who live here. We eat every day, giving us a new opportunity, time and time again, both to shape the lives of the those who grow, process, and transport our food and to determine how the world’s natural resources are used. Our personal choices affect many aspects of global environmental justice.
Several of us at from Advocacy and Witness and the Washington Center have decided to take on the challenge and will report back throughout the 40 days about our experiences.
Please join us! Write your comments at the end of this post with your own commitments, or log into Facebook and search for the “40/40/40 For the Earth!” group “40/40/40 For the Earth!” group. Learn more information about the 40/40/40 Campaign.
I’ve decided (gulp!) to give up refined sugar for 40 days. First of all, because it doesn’t benefit me in any way. But, more importantly, I’ve read enough about the conditions of sugarcane workers to know that neither they, nor the land where sugars are mass produced, are getting a bit of sweetness from its production. I’m going to blog about this as I go, and I’ll share more with you as I learn more.
For the next forty days, and hopefully for the rest of my life, I will only eat meat that comes from farms with sustainable and humane practices, preferably located near where I live. I want to know exactly where my meat is coming from and be assured that the animals I’m eating have not been pumped full of antibiotics and chemicals or lived under the conditions of factory farming, which is inhumane not only to the animals but also the workers involved. Sometime during or after the forty days, I will probably expand these criteria to all animal products that I consume, but for now, I’ll start with meat.
Rowan Van Ness
I’m going to say grace before each meal and be more mindful about and grateful for my food and the journey it takes from field to the table. I’m curious to see how taking a few moments each day to recognize all of the people; the sun, rain, and soil; the spirit of life—all involved in getting me the food I eat every day—changes my relationship with food and decisions around what I eat.
My Earth Day commitment is to 40 days of “intentional gardening”. Every year in mid-April, like many people, I’m excited to be getting my hands dirty in the soil that will nurture the most delicious food I’ll eat this summer. But, every year after the initial excitement has worn off… caring for the plants and seedlings often starts to feel like a chore. Over the next 40 days I’m committing to only entering the garden prayerfully and with joy and not leaving the garden until I’m centered and at peace (to some degree). I hope that this will have a positive impact on my relationship to the food I eat.
I am going to only drinking fair trade coffee. I think that will be challenging but not too challenging!
I’m taking on the challenge of eating only local food, defining “local” as food grown in MA, VT, NH, and RI. Rather than eating food imported from elsewhere (realizing all the energy – human, chemical – involved), I want to subsist on food that essentially has a lower carbon footprint, when traveling from the field to my mouth. I want to see how challenging it is to eat only food I can buy at farmer’s markets and local grocers and am interested in the impact on: my health and eating decisions, my relationship with my community, and the effect on regional industry.
We usually begin our family dinner with a moment of silence. For the 40 days we will verbalize our gratitude and name the sources of our food and give thanks for the efforts and sacrifices that have brought it to our table.
I commit to not eating a meal in front of a TV or computer monitor in the room for 40 days so that I can pay more attention to the food.
As congregations have been registering their Earth Day events, I have become totally inspired by the great work Unitarian Universalists are doing right now!
Plans for lifting up and celebrating Ethical Eating this Earth Day are underway in at least 14 states. The Second Unitarian Church of Omaha in Nebraska will have a booth at a community Earth Day event, giving away shopping and gardening tips, seed packets with church info on them, and are selling fair trade coffee and teas. The UU Congregation at Rock Tavern in New York will clean up trash in local wetlands, including a portion which flows through one of the few remaining dairy farms in the region which produces and sells milk locally. The Accotink UU Church in Virginia will follow their Earth Day Service with tastings from the “Cooking—All Things Considered” class and plan to kick off the 40/40/40 Campaign, getting 40 members to commit to an Ethical Eating action for 40 days in honor of the 40th anniversary of Earth Day. See a list of events planned (PDF), as of March 30th.
Join the movement!
Information and suggestions on issues ranging from the field to the table, with links to congregational stories, worship materials, ideas for actions in your own community are available on the UUMFE Earth Day website. Go a step further by participating in the 40/40/40 Campaign, and get 40 people from your congregation (or 40%) to commit to take action. Register your Earth Day event to be included in a national press release and the final count of participating UU congregations, and check out resources on media and messaging to share your message beyond church walls. If you register your congregation’s event, you will be entered in a raffle to win a $50 gift certificate to the UUA Bookstore. Share the story of your event afterward to be entered a second time!
A Salad Bar of Worship Ideas
Here are a number of activities you can do in a smaller group worship setting, whether it’s an RE class, a covenant group, a circle worship, or for a group meeting specifically for the event. Feel free to pick and choose from these resources.
For additional resources around faith and ethical eating, please check out the Ethical Eating Supplemental Worship Resources page:
- Select some quotes related to ethical eating. Pick quotes from a variety of sources, such as Wendell Berry, Michael Pollan, the Bible, and Thich Nhat Hanh. Have people select a quote that appeals to them. Go around the circle and have people read the quotes aloud and share their reactions to the quotes.
- Lead a ritual to wash away the things that are preventing us for eating more ethically. Have each person silently think of something that is blocking them from focusing on their faith or from making mindful decisions around food. Have them write it on a dish with a washable marker. Provide a pitcher and bowl for people to silently wash away these barriers to action.
- Lead a guided meditation on tangerines (or some other food). Thich Nhat Hanh has a short essay on this in his book, Peace in Every Step, which discusses this more. Have people think about the origins of the fruit and all the people and natural resources involved in getting the tangerine to them. Engage each of the senses in the fruit, one at a time. Finish each bite before starting the next. Truly focus on the fruit and be aware of the gift it is to us.
- Have people write down what they ate in a recent meal. Pose questions for people to think about, as they reflect on that meal. Ask them to take notes, and to especially note questions to which they don’t know the answers. Some examples of questions might be: Where did the food come from? Were pesticides and fertilizers used in the production of the foods? Were the workers paid fair wages? How far away did it come from? Discuss the answers. How might we move forward from here? Can we turn any of the “I don’t knows” into things we are aware of? Being aware of how our food is produced reduces the chances that living beings are being exploited.
- Give people an opportunity to meditate and consider what they’ve learned about ethical eating and food justice. Have little containers filled with soil and seeds and let people plant seeds as they share a commitment to one change, big or small, they’d like to make in their lives, on their journey toward ethical eating.
If you walk into an average supermarket these days, you’ll find thousands of choices of things to eat. Some things may be grown or produced in low-impact ways at a nearby farm, but chances are that many items for sale contain ingredients whose production has negatively impacted the Earth and her people. As Unitarian Universalists, we are committed to living in ways that respect the inherent worth and dignity of all people as well as the interdependent web of life of which we are a part. With so many choices, how can we find ways to eat ethically?
Fortunately, people all over the United States are thinking about just this right now. Several best-selling books have been written about authors’ deliberations about what to eat, and UU congregations have been engaging in the current Congregational Study/Action Issue, “Ethical Eating: Food and Environmental Justice.” For the 40th anniversary of Earth Day this year, the UU Ministry For Earth (UUMFE) is asking members of all congregations to think about what they eat and what food choices are available to those in their communities. While Earth Day isn’t until Thursday, April 22nd, resources for planning your Earth Day events are already available on the UUMFE website to help you plan both worship and social justice projects. Check them out!