| Ford Church

Eating Ecologically

The Community Adventure Program (CAP) is a class offered at New Vista
High School through the Cottonwood Institute that combines outdoor
education with environmental stewardship. A large aspect of the class
is spent creating a student-directed Action Project concerning a local
environmental issue. The students must design a project that will
educate people about the issue and create a positive impact in the
community. This quarter, our CAP class chose to focus on the
environmental effects of the food industry and we titled our project
‘Eating Ecologically’. Our goal was to educate the students at our high
school about how to eat ecologically by buying local and organic food
to reduce their environmental footprint. We also wanted to collect data
from local restaurants in order to educate the public about which
businesses are doing the most to be ‘green’.

We chose this project as a class because we feel that it is
important that people know about the food that they are eating, where
it comes from, and what goes into it. We soon found that there are
other organizations that have the same concerns we do. Michael Brownlee
from Boulder County Going Local came in to speak to our class about his
organization. Further research into our topic revealed that a similar
action is being taken at the University of Colorado where student Lilia
Justman has created a group called CU Going Local. She too came in to
speak with us about the importance of buying local. Speaking to both
Michael and Lilia really helped motivated us to get out into the
community and start educating!

We began researching different aspects of what goes into making a
‘green’ business and an eco-friendly restaurant. We then created five
categories that made a ‘green’ menu, inlcuding: local food, organic
food, meat and seafood, waste practices, and energy consumption. We
gathered resources on why these topics are important for businesses and
for the environment. We then took the data and organized it into an
informational pamphlet for the public.

Every year at New Vista High School there is a week called Four Days
in May that is dedicated to spending time helping the community. For
our CAP class this week served as a great way for us to focus on our
action project. We planned each day to help us execute our project as
effectively as possible. We wanted to learn what others were doing in
order to reduce their environmental footprint before taking what we had
learned to educate the community.

began the week by going to local restaurants to ask them questions
about their ecological practices. We asked how they reduce their waste
and energy consumption as well as what percentage of their products are
local and organic. We found that many restaurants are doing a lot to
move towards being green. Some are completely wind powered and buy all
of their produce locally when it is in season, while others use energy
efficient light bulbs and serve organic meat and produce. A lot of the
businesses that we visited did a fantastic job recycling and composting
as well. As a result of these interviews, we gained a new respect for
many of the businesses in Boulder that are working hard to be conscious
of their environmental impact. We also gained a new understanding of
how simple actions can have an immense impact on our environment. After
we collected all of our information, we compiled the data and created a
rating system for local restaurants in Boulder.

In order to increase the success of our action project and educate
ourselves about local opportunities to grow organically, we spent three
of the Four Days in May volunteering at local farms. This experience
gave us all a unique perspective about what goes into our food. Our
work with Growing Gardens provided a wonderful opportunity to explore
our community gardens and participate in growing local. We spent two
days with Abbondanza Organic Seeds and Produce learning about the
importance of creating balanced soil and open pollinated seed
cultivation. The first day we spent planting over half an acre of
potatoes, and the second day we spent transporting perennials. This
experience helped us realize how much time and effort it actually takes
to plant, grow, and process the food that we eat. A huge portion of the
local infrastructure is reliant on agriculture. This is easy to forget
and we seem to have forgotten our roots.

As a result of this project all of us have gained a new
understanding of how we can help to reduce our environmental footprint
through something a simple as consciously choosing what we eat. Many of
us were not previously aware of the economic benefits of buying local
and organic. Not only does it benefit our planet, but being aware of
what we are eating can also help us develop a sense of community around
our food. Too often we don’t think about what we eat or where it comes
from, most of the food that we eat travels over 1,500 miles to get to
us. Our class became aware of the need to educate as many people as
possible about the destruction that we are causing our planet because
of this ignorance. We each walked away with a new understanding of what
it means to eat healthily and ‘be green’.

For more information about the Cottonwood Institute and the
Community Adventure Program, please visit: www.CottonwoodInstitute.org

Categories: Action Projects

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