Green Food (Literally and Figuratively)

There are few places in the U.S. where as many things are imported as in Hawaii. We get nearly everything we have from the mainland and that means nearly everything gets in a boat or a plane and travels the 2400+ miles from the mainland states (western coastal states, mind you) to get to our supermarkets, big box stores or gas stations. Thus, our carbon footprint is astronomical. As gas continues to go up, so do the prices for nearly everything else. Don't get me wrong, I know it's happening everywhere else too...it's just that we're already paying $6.99 for our eggs and $6.49 for our half-gallons of milk and living off the same salaries we would have if we lived anywhere else, so we're feeling the pinch. I'm not complaining (anymore) and I've come to terms with how much things cost here, but if you think of the miles our food is traveling and the amount of gas, pollution and carbon we're wracking up, as people who care about the environment, we've got our work cut out for us.

Hawaii is a relatively small chain of islands - so small, in fact, that it cannot support a commercial industry for things like chicken (neither organic nor conventional). While we do have "Island Fresh" eggs that are locally produced and commercially distributed, there isn't enough land to support enough chickens to make enough money for a farmer to survive on selling poultry alone. That said, we're lucky that we live on Oahu and actually have a grass-fed beef company here, the North Shore Cattle Company, as well as many other local food suppliers for things like pig (nobody calls it pork here, and nearly 85% of it is still imported), tofu, tropical fruits, many international and ethnic foods (Thai watermelon, Okinawan sweet potatoes and saimin noodles to name a few), and there are even specialty items like figs (yay! picking up my first basket this weekend!), flavored salt and ginger syrup.

Worse than the food supply (maybe), very few things can be recycled most of the year. We can only recycle white and colored paper (no glossies, including magazines), newspaper, aluminum cans, glass bottles and corrogated cardboard. Only #1 and #2 plastics can be recycled, which cuts out just about everything from yogurt containers to most of the packaging materials that food comes in here. This was a big change from Eugene where nearly everything was recycled - and we composted (which we're not sure how to do here yet because of the massive cockroach problem, but we're working on figuring that out) - leaving us with only 1 bag of trash between 3 people, every 2 weeks. Amazing, really.

LB and I now generate nearly 3 - 4 bags of garbage per week, while recycling as much as possible. It actually hurts to throw away so many things, and I hope we never become immune to that. That said, the communities are trying to bring in curbside recycling this Fall and it will be great to see if it will be possible to add a bit more to the recyclable list. Unfortunately, no matter what gets recycled, most of it has to make the trek back to the mainland to be recycled there. Again, upping the stakes and leaving me wondering how much good it does in the long run. Well, we try.

To do our part to support the local economy and reduce our carbon footprint, we've been buying as much local food as possible, including shopping primarily at the various farmer's markets, picking out "Island Fresh" logos from the supermarkets (and Costco!) and joining the one and only Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) group here on Oahu. The CSA is called "Just Add Water" and it's run by Kimberly Clark, who has been running it for nearly 15 years. Better still, it's organic, which is a huge bonus here. We pay $25 a week for the mid-sized box, which is just about right for two as long as you like to cook and cook mostly vegetarian.

Everything we get from Kimberly is beautiful, healthy and crisp - so long as I can get over to the pick up site before 5 pm to pick it up (it gets delivered at 2 in Kaneohe, which makes it rough if you've got a 9-5 job). Trust me, that's a huge bonus as much of the supermarket produce is extremely sad-looking and limp. And you can't beat the price around here, as we would be paying at least twice that for the amount of organic produce we're getting. So, just what do we get? The picture below shows the standard fare, and by that, I mean standard. We get essentially the same produce every single week, and we have now been members for almost 3 months. But that's okay with me - I love everything we get and it forces me to get creative. LB, on the other hand is not such a big fan of cooking greens and we get a big (at least 2 meals worth, cooked down) bag of chard, kale and collards every week. I'm determined to show him the light with greens and have found a few recipes that he'll eat, but I'll write more about that later ;)

While the beautiful nasturtiums are gone now (maybe they were only in our welcome box!), we always get: a head of romaine lettuce, a bag of mixed greens (which includes some great herbs like dill and some very interesting leaves I have yet to identify that smell like basil but don't look or taste like it), apple-bananas (we now have a full-on love affair with apple-bananas), a BIG bag of cooking greens (mixed chard, kale and collard greens), sunflower sprouts, daikon sprouts, sweet basil, and one or two beautifully buttery avocados. Then, we get one or two of the following, depending on the week: a small bag of green beans, cabbage (napa or purple), a lemon or lime or meyer lemon, a papaya, or a small eggplant. Most of it is green, so I supplement colored fruits and veggies from the farmer's market to make sure we're getting all the vitamins we need (eat the rainbow, right?).

The only downfall is that everything comes in a plastic bag, so I re-use them for anything I have that doesn't come in one and so far, I haven't felt the need to ask her to not put things in them (though I have debated it). Curiously, nearly everything at the farmer's market comes in bags too, prepackaged into 2 or 3 pieces and sold by the bag for a set price. It doesn't make for the prettiest pictures, which is one reason why I haven't taken any there. I guess maybe it's easier than weighing it at the market? Some things come on styrofoam platters and wrapped in plastic. I try and stay away from those. It's the same way at the supermarkets too. Why? I have no idea. We are an island after all, you'd think they'd want less trash accumulating around here - although much of it gets shipped to the mainland too. The same goes for the "plate lunch" - a Hawaiian institution consisting of one meat item, 2 scoops of white rice and a big scoop of very mayonnaise-laden macaroni salad - which for whatever reason has gone from paper plates to styrofoam boxes, regardless of whether you're eating in or eating out.

Overall, I'm a very happy CSA member and am thrilled to support Kimberly and all she's doing. I tell everyone I meet about it (which isn't too many people yet, but hopefully that will change soon!), and I've already gotten her two new members - yay! If you're living on Oahu and haven't checked her out, please do! Not only are you supporting our island economy, but helping her out financially as an individual and as an organic farmer too, something that is difficult in its own right.

And if you are here, or if you're visiting, here's a tip: these don't come in the CSA box, but she sometimes swaps with friends on other islands that have organic farms, and her Raposa mangoes are to die for. They're the best-tasting mangoes we've found here, and you can get them at her booth at either the KCC Farmer's Market or the Thursday night Kailua Farmer's Market. Just look for the organic produce vendors (there are only 3 at the KCC Market and she's the only one at the Thursday market, though one of the other vendors occasionally has organic produce). I wish I could send them to all of my friends and family, but then that wouldn't be reducing the food footprint would it...and that also means that there is more for me!

Kimberly Clark
Just Add Water (CSA)

Oahu Farmer's Market Information

13 comments from you:

genkitummy said...

hi! this is the first time i've visited your blog and i really enjoy reading about your adventures in hawaii.
i'm still a hawaii resident but have been away for a few years. i always go into culture shock when i hear about the food prices back home.
take care!

Debinhawaii said...

Hi Michelle,
Got your message on my blog--thanks for stopping by! It is nice to find fellow Hawaii blogs. I moved out from Seattle about 7 years ago but lived quite awhile in Oregon, from junior high until Seattle in the Portland area (the rest of my family is still there).

I also get a CSA box from Just Add Water weekly (its been a couple years for me). It is a lot of dark leafy greens--we'll have to exchange tips and recipes for them! It does get a bit boring but wait until you get a little bag of rambutan or some lilikois in there, that's when it gets fun!

glutenfreeforgood said...


I've been so out-of-the-loop lately with my blogging. Your blog looks wonderful! Lovely, in fact. The photos are so nice! This is such an interesting post. I never thought about the difficulty of recycling and bringing all your food in from somewhere else. I hope you are getting settled in and happy in your new land of enchantment.

Oh – and the soda bread. Wow, looks so artisan-like. And I'll have to go check out Katie's Beetroot and Chevre Salad.


Nerissa said...

Sounds like you are coming to know the ups and downs of an island life, my dear. Pity my island area is so small and relatively dirtless it wouldn't support any agricultural venture. I'd love to get weekly veggie boxes.
I really can relate to the recycling comments. A lot. For years I grimaced to throw out what I had no choice but to throw out. However, this past year we have had a budding recycing program of which I've been a part. Obviously a lot more people felt bad about throw away as I did. We've gotten to the point where it has grown far too big for a school project alone. We're trying to tempt the local council to take it on since we've proved how popular it is.

I've been perusing a book lately about "real food revival" and it had a few pages of write-up on an organic coffee farm. I thought of you when I read it. I don't know if you are familiar with it and how far away from you it is but I thought you might want to check it out www.kanalanifarm.org
I wasn't sure how local your coffee was.

Nerissa said...

PS: I'm in France now. I'd be stupid not to blog even a little. Boot received and acknowledged. ;-)

Ann said...

It must be so frustrating to have the right environmental habits and be unable to practice them...

Michelle said...

Hi Lauren, thanks for stopping by! I can tell you're from Hawaii by your blog name ;) Yummy sushi!

Hi Debbie, Thanks for coming by to say hello! I was so happy to find fellow food-bloggers in Hawaii. Yeah, I love the CSA (and greens) - LB is just learning to like them :) We should definitely exchange recipes as I'm always looking for new ways to cook them!

Hi Melissa, well I've been out of the blogosphere for a while now too, just trying to find my way back in! I missed you guys! and guess what - I've been cooking with lots of coconut oil! Katie's salad is quite delicious too!

Hi Nerissa, Good to hear (the swift kick did it's job). I'm so impressed with how wonderful you're recycling program is going (the local schools do it here too - at least that's where we take our recycling)! Good luck with the local council! I actually have that book, real food revival, but haven't gotten around to reading it yet - I"ll check out the coffee farm and let you know! Lucky us, we're the only state (or at least as far as I know) in the US that actually grows their own coffee - and it's fabulous coffee!

Ann, yes, dear, it is. But at least there is SOME recycling going on here. Maybe when we get a bit more settled we'll be able to get involved in changing things... :)

katiez said...

My s-i-l and b-i-l live on the Big Island, Kona coast, so I've heard lots about the cost of everything. They have enough land that they can grow some fruit and veg... Except now both volcanoes are going off so they can't breathe. Paradise isn't always, is it? Glad you are enjoying it, though.... so gorgeous!

Michelle said...

Katie, Nice! I like the Big Island a lot, but I don't envy them with all the vog lately! And yes, it's true, it's not always paradise (although sometimes it is!).

Julie said...

This is interesting. I've always known that Hawaii imported most of its food but I'd never considered what happened to the trash.

Styrafoam and plastic packaging makes me crazy here but thinking of it in a closed space like Hawaii seems even worse. Good luck with your recycling efforts! Living on an island really underscores how important recycling is.

Anonymous said...

Good to see you settling in. If you are getting gobs of greens you might try to cook them Ethiopian style. I am very lazy and just call it "gomen" but that is the name for a specific type of green. I bet you could use coconut oil instead of butter to make Nitter Kebbeh.

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Michelle said...

Julie, I hadn't really considered it either until we moved here. Thanks for the good luck issues - we might need it!

Ceri, Thanks for checking in on me again!! And for the suggestions. I'll try looking for recipes (unless you have some you'd share??!!) because I adore Ethiopian food!

Erica said...

Wonderful blog you have here! I'm moving back to Hawaii this summer (I lived there as a child) and am doing my research on locally produced farms to support when I arrive. Thanks for writing so much on this topic! You've given me lots of great leads. Mahalo nui loa.