It was easy to be “green” in Nashville. My husband and I reaped a weekly ½ bushel share of a small, respectable organic farm. I worked part-time in a greenhouse, where I had fresh herbs, lettuce, and other produce at my fingertips. The chicken flock I tended gave me a steady supply of nutrient-dense eggs. The rest of the time I worked at Trader Joe’s, an amazing grocery store that I would happily work for again – at any point in my life. There, I purchased treats and things that I couldn’t grow or easily make at home. I enjoyed supporting a company that I knew strove to put their employees first through fair pay and outstanding health benefits. I could read their labels, and cross-reference facts on the internet. I knew where all of my food came from. Michael and I were by no means perfect, but we were committed to striving to be responsible earth citizens.
Despite our happy life in Nashville, the idea of working temporarily in another country – with all of its novelties and challenges – appealed to us both. My husband and I were excited to accept contracts as English teachers in S. Korea and moved in January of this year, with the intention of staying two or three years.
Korea was a big change for many aspects of our life, but none harder than on the food and environmental justice areas of our life. Living in a large, densely populated (and polluted) city has caused us much concern for our health. The first few weeks here were difficult as we did not know many different places to eat, and had to eat food that we were not sure where or how it had been grown. Questions and guilt plagued me. Were the workers at a certain establishment happy and treated fairly? Were those oranges imported from California or Jejudo? Was I paying a fair price for a vegetable, or was a farmer somewhere losing money?
It has been 7 months since we came to Korea, and we have learned more about Korea’s food culture and local economy. We have also learned which places that we can financially support, free of conscience. We have reliable street vendors/farmers that we buy produce from and we can now ask in Korean where the food was grown or where an item was made.
But the temptation is to stop here, to say that we are doing the best we can, and that we must wait until we are back in the States again before we attempt to better our environment through the saving of resources, composting, growing our own food, the list goes on and on.
But I do not want to stop here. I want to replenish and cultivate the land that we deplete each day. I want the money that we earn in Korea to yes, go to our loans, but also to the small farmers and businesses in our town. I want to love my neighbor. I cannot say that I love my neighbor while I rape the land and pollute the streams that they depend on to survive.
Nearly every day for the last two years – since receiving it from a good friend – I have read this prayer from Julian of Norwich:
Be a gardener. Dig a ditch,
toil and sweat, and turn the earth upside down
and seek the deepness and water the plants in time.
Continue this labor
and make sweet floods to run
and noble and abundant fruits to spring.
Take this food and drink
and carry it to God as your true worship.
To continue this labor is challenging for me right now. So that is why I started this blog. It is a challenge to my husband and I to seek new ways to live a more earth and neighbor-friendly life. Each week, I will write about a sustainable living step that we are trying to implement into our routine, an idea to live a more healthy life, or an easy, nourishing recipe that can serve as a rock for when you’re tired and feel like taking a spin through the drive-thru.
Some tips will be geared to expats like us, but most will be things that families stateside and all over can try. Certainly not all ideas or tips will be originally my own, and I will try to give credit when and where it can be traced (usually to those who came long before “sustainable” was a trendy word). I invite you to share your ideas, tips, or encouragements so that we can learn from each other.
One last thing: This blog will never be written in a spirit of condemnation or haughtiness, and therefore I pray that you will never feel shamed or angered by my words. Instead, I hope that you will be uplifted and motivated by the shared ideas on living as earth-conscious citizens. We are doing the best we can when we are striving to do better.