Friday, July 3, 2015

simple food - sugar, sugar

Sugar. It may be sweet... but it packs a real punch to the Earth!

As I become more aware of all the food products I use and their environmental impact, I'm looking for ways to bring as much as I can down to a local level. We grow a lot of things in Washington state, but sugar cane isn't one of them! So what's an environmentally conscious baker to do? Look for a better alternative, of course!

I'm not naive enough to think that I can source every item I use or consume locally. There will be a some things I can't find (or find suitable replacements for) locally and for those items, I'll be attempting to find those with the least impact possible. Reading about the clearing of forests to accommodate sugar crops eliminating wildlife habitat, the extreme water consumption from growing the crops as well as from the refining process and the pollution again from the growing and processing, I knew I needed to find an alternative to cane sugar.

One thing we don't have a shortage of here in the Pacific Northwest is honey bees. With so many farms and orchards in need of pollination, hives are abundantly located among the same farms where I'm gathering my produce. Unlike cane sugar, raw honey requires only straining out the wax and no further processing, keeping all the nutritional value intact. Some say the pollen present in raw honey helps with allergies, but for me it's the local, minimally processed nature that draws me. I'm using less sweetener overall these days, but when I do reach for a sweetener, I'll be reaching for a honey jar. =)

If you're looking to switch from cane sugar to honey, try to find a local source of raw honey. Most honey available in stores is pasteurized and filtered and can be a combination of honey from all over the world so the product may have been shipped overseas, often comes packaged in plastic bottles (we all know the cute little honey bear), then must be shipped to the stores. The local honey I purchased came packaged in glass jars (something easily reused later) and can be purchased from the farms where the hives are kept. A few local stores carry this raw honey as well so read labels if you don't have access to the farms or a farmers' market.

Check out this article on the environmental impact of sugar cane for more information. 

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