Community Philosphy Blog and Library

Posts Tagged ‘local’

HOMEGROWN Life: Back-to-School in HOMEGROWN Style

Wednesday, September 7th, 2011






Remember the days of sticky pleather school bus seats, mystery meat Mondays in the cafeteria, and field trips to the same museum year after year? September is back-to-school season! Whether you’re back in the classroom yourself, or sending your little ones off on the bus, there are many ways to live homegrown this school year.  Wholesome peanut butter and berry-wiches? Yum! Waste-free lunch kits? Genius. After-school canning with kids? Piece of cake. Try some of these ideas for a homegrown school year for you and your kids.

Photo by Lynn S.

School Lunches

Whether lunch comes in a brown bag or on a school lunch tray, think about ways to make your meals more homegrown.

  • The movement to change school lunch menus through Farm to School programs is changing the face of the cafeteria.  Farm to School “connects schools (K-12) and local farms with the objectives of serving healthy meals in school cafeterias, improving student nutrition, providing agriculture, health and nutrition education opportunities, and supporting local and regional farmers.” Join the movement and get involved – it’s good for the farmers and good for your family! Farm Aid’s Farm to School Toolkit is chock full of  great information to expand your school lunch programs and revitalize cafeteria food.
  • We all got sick of the weekly chicken patties as kids pretty quickly, and so are some teachers! Fed Up With Lunch a blog written by the anonymous “Mrs. Q.” tells one teacher’s story of eating lunch in the cafeteria every day for a year with her students.  She digs deepers into the school lunch system, provides her two-cents from a teacher’s standpoint on current education issues, and shares new resources for teachers, parents, and students.

Photo by Lynda

Take a family field trip to your local farmers’ market (Local Harvest can point you in the right direction), and stock up on the season’s bounty for your lunchbox.  Then, take those ingredients and check out some great recipes from and Whole Foods Market to make a local lunch!

What do you pack all of these homegrown lunches in? Try to reduce, reuse, and recycle your containers, utensils, bottles, and napkins.

  • One mom sends waste-free lunches for her son. It may sound like a lot of extra work when you’re busy getting those kids off to school on time, but check out her 5-Steps to a Waste-Free Lunch, adapted from

The 5 Steps to a Waste-free Lunch

  1. Replace paper bags with reusable lunch bags.
  2. Use reusable food containers to eliminate single-serve packaging.
  3. Switch from plastic baggies to reusable snack & sandwich bags.
  4. Reusable napkins, utensils and even straws replace their disposable counterparts.
  5. Kick the bottled water and juice habit with a reusable water bottle
  •’s waste-free lunch kit saves about $371 annually.  Their site has tips on choosing the right styles, sizes, and materials for your lunch bags and containers. Join the Waste-Free Lunches in Schools Campaign, which reduces consumption on a daily basis, preserves natural resources, saves money, and encourages healthy eating habits! By committing to a waste-free lunch, you can even earn cash or prizes for your school!

School Supplies

  • Instead of buying new notebooks and pens, try upcycling, recycling, or repurposing old materials you have around the house. If you do have to purchase something new, Rodale’s Nontoxic Back-to-School Shopping Guide is full of information for parents and students about the safest school products for humans and for the environment.

Extra-Curricular Activities

How do you teach your kids to live homegrown during the school year? Get their hands dirty and grow, cook, make, and do together!


  • Take a field trip with your family to local farms, markets, and demonstrations.  Have them learn new homegrown skills at a local skillshare! Start a garden or get some livestock at your own home.
  • Get everyone involved in the growing! Cultivate a school or community garden in your district.
  • Visit the Discussions Forum for the HOMEGROWN 101’s.  These handy guides can help you with all kinds of growing, cooking, making, and doing. Lots of projects are easy to do and are family-friendly – try the butter-making! Check out the Goodies – make your own seed packets, canning jar labels, and garden plant labels! Or, if you’re feeling more adventurous, try the projects on the printable HOMEGROWN How-To Cards
  • Teach your little ones about food, the environment, and sustainability on the day-to-day.  Five tips from
  1. Grow something you all can eat
  2. Kitchen science with green products
  3. Be a detective
  4. Recycle
  5. Save water
  • Get inspired by Project Homestead: Kids where the whole family is growing, cooking, maple tapping, and enjoying the land together
  • Become a scientist in your own kitchen by canning with kids.  This blog has great recipes and concoctionx to try at home.
  • Take the Urban Land Scouts pledge and become a better citizen of the Earth by completing the 10 levels and living the values of the ULS.  Earn badges and learn about the natural world. Visit the Urban Land Scouts blog and get scouting!
  • If you’ve got a child interested in farming and agriculture, find out if there are Future Farmers of America chapters in your area.
  • 4-H is another great way to get your kids involved with science, healthy living, and citizenship.  There are many homegrown skills to be shared in 4-H chapters, and lots of fun at 4-H fairs!

While the back-to-school season can be overwhelming, living homegrown through the year doesn’t have to be.  Try a few of these ideas out, and figure out how best to live homegrown everyday. Share your thoughts, ideas, or experiences with all of us this school year!

Welcome to the “Real World”

Monday, July 11th, 2011

This summer I’m getting in touch with “reality”.  Two months ago I joined the “real world” as a proud post-graduate.  While many of my peers are searching for jobs, joining volunteer corps, or backpacking through faraway lands, I am making my first “home” in an off-campus apartment and commuting to work sleepy-eyed, fair-trade coffee in hand, with the rest of the working world every morning during rush hour.  Don’t get me wrong! I feel forever grateful to have a job in this economy, let alone to be working at an organization that lets me explore my interests, communicate with like-minded folks, and savor the goodness of homegrown living, a lifestyle I am eagerly adopting.

I’ve heard horror stories of newbie professionals eating Ramen noodles every night for dinner, living in cramped quarters, and pining away for college life.  I’ve managed to avoid all that by continuing to educate myself on all things homegrown.  From shopping for ingredients to reconstructing leftovers, recycling waste into something useful, or planting from seeds and cooking a meal with my own hands.  And (thankfully), it can all be done on a post-grad budget!


Homemade Pizza Night! Local (hydroponic) tomatoes and our own basil in the sauce, topped with locally-made mozzarella

I’ve embraced the philosophy of in my search to establish a post-graduate lifestyle that encompasses all of my interests and values.  I want to know where my food comes from.  I want to eat healthfully and enjoy the bounty of each season.  I want to sharpen my culinary skills.  I want to consume less and waste less.  I want to learn to make a home, rather than just live in limbo in apartments from month-to-month.  I want to learn from and teach others the importance of living HOMEGROWN.



Digesting (with music) after our local-foods 4th of July "picnic"

So, how successful has this mission been?  Well, so far, I’ve dedicated two nights a week to feasting with friends, sourcing local ingredients and creating healthy meals together that we can enjoy as leftovers for the rest of the week.  I’ve been composting when I can, recycling everything (thanks to single-stream recycling!), and making smarter purchasing decisions when I need some retail therapy.  I’m paying more attention to where and how my clothes, shoes, cosmetics, and food are made, aiming for local, sustainable, and chemical-free products.  I am maneuvering a refurbished bike around my neighborhood, and walking and taking public transportation wherever I need to go.  I am trying my green thumb at container gardening in my apartment.  I am reading more about the way I want to live, and practicing experiential learning in the process.  Lots of my new skills are ones gleaned from reading YOUR posts on, and from the wide array of blogs, websites, and books at my fingertips. Keep the information flowing!






Fun with food - local parsnip and radish lobster, complete with a native mussel garnish for a centerpiece!

While most college kids and recent post-grads think they are “know-it-alls,” I consider myself a “know-nothing”.  I’m a blank slate ready to complement my schoolhouse skills with real-life know-how.  I’ll let you know how it goes…For now, here’s a peek at my life and what I’ve been up to in my first summer out of school.  Welcome to reality!


Mussels and Beer from New England!


Local Kale!



Massachusetts native beets, parsnips, carrots, and radishes make for a mean meal!

It’s shop local week!

Wednesday, December 3rd, 2008

In the face of continuing economic woes, we have the power to create wealth and community by buying goods and services from our neighbors. The organization BALLE has declared December 1-7 “Shop Local Week” – an idea we can support year-round!

From their press release:

“Local, independent businesses and banks of Main Street are the economic drivers that have carried our communities for generations,” says Doug Hammond, executive director of BALLE. “They create the real wealth that sustains the places we call home.”

Another recent study drives home the potential impact of shopping at locally owned stores, whatever the season: The San Francisco Retail Diversity Study found that a slight shift in San Francisco consumer purchasing behavior – diverting just 10% of purchases from national chain stores to locally owned businesses – would, each year, create 1,300 new jobs and yield nearly $200 million in incremental economic activity.

Another study from hard-hit West Michigan echoes these findings:

  • Nearly $140 Million in new economic activity.
  • Over 1600 new jobs.
  • Providing over $50 Million in new wages.

All these benefits may be captured for the people of Kent County with a small change in habits. Just one time out of ten, before heading to a chain store or restaurant, take that business to a local. We believe quality, service, and value for the dollar will be their own reward, but that small act will strengthen the local economy and build a better, more sustainable Greater Grand Rapids.

Learn more about Buy Local organizations, and to find out how to start your own Local First chapter, visit The Business Alliance For Local Economies (BALLE).