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Eating green

Educate your way to a greener life

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Eating green has awareness and education at its core. To some, eating green means growing fresh herbs in a personal garden rather than driving to a store and purchasing a dried version in a plastic container delivered by semi-truck from a dozen states away. To others, it's volunteering with the fledgling Pierce County Gleaning Project, a group whose website describes its goal as "to provide more fresh food in county food banks, to reduce the amount of produce wasted in our community, and to build community."

From start to finish, eating green can feel like an overwhelming challenge. Food growing and harvesting methods, packaging and transportation, preparation and preservation all come into play - and that's just a start.

Also true: Some people may fully embrace new ideas that result in immediate and sweeping lifestyle changes, while others may need to make small modifications that then lead to those big changes down the road. Any of the ideas below would make a great first step; combine them all and you'll truly be eating green.

Think local

Become a locavore, prowling weekly farmers markets. Educate yourself and aim to eat only food grown and raised near home. For more than 20 years Charley Haney, manager of the Olympia Farmers Market, has advocated for social, environmental and economic education. The hugely popular farmers market showcases sustainable growing and harvesting practices. Haney hopes to expose market-goers to the importance of where and how food is sourced and methods of organic growing through face-to-face contact with farmers and vendors.

With a goal to connect likeminded folks, organizations such as FoodCamp (253) are springing up as people take a stronger interest in what affects their community. At a recent FoodCamp event held at Urban Grace Church, Brent Cleary from the Tacoma Farmers Market shared how raising community awareness of what's available at farmers markets will help increase success. Supporting local, independent butcher shops like Dave's Meats & Produce in Tacoma (1312 N. I St.) can result in better meats supplied by regional livestock farmers alongside those fresh veggies on the table at home.

Dining out

When dining out, selecting restaurants focused on fresh and local products requires planning and knowledge. Restaurants like Sumner's Windmill Bistro (16009 60th St. E.), Tacoma's Primo Grill (601 S. Pine St. #102) and Gig Harbor's Green.House (4793 Pt. Fosdick Dr. NW) fit the bill. Co-owner of Primo Grill and Crown Bar, Charlie McManus's strong belief in sustainable food production has forged a solid connection to local farms. At his restaurants McManus creates dishes packed with the lush bounty of the Pacific Northwest: meats, seafood and produce in season. Cooking classes are held at Primo Grill to educate the public on recreating some of those dishes using produce that could even be grown at home.

Going the extra mile, The Mark in Olympia (407 Columbia St. SW) has been serving organic products since 2001. One of few certified organic restaurants in Washington, owner and Executive Chef Lisa Scott Owen achieved this enviable distinction in 2009. On April 21, The Mark hosts the third annual Local Farm to Table Aperitivo, a get-to-know-your-farmer event featuring at least seven organic farms and more.

Grow something eatable

Growing your own vegetables, fruits and herbs is a fantastically satisfying way to be self-sustaining and reconnect with the earth. Avoid big box stores - procure plants and starts from area nurseries that specialize in varieties that can flourish in your care. Once harvest time arrives, wash produce thoroughly before eating. Pesticides aside, slugs and bugs can make for one sick human. GardenSphere in Tacoma's Proctor District (3310 N. Proctor St.) offers instruction, advice and even classes on natural growing techniques, and will host the first ever Tacoma Urban Coop Tour for those dying to try their hand at raising chickens within city limits.

Increasing education is key not only for eating, but also to living green. Whether purchasing, dining out or growing your own, good phrases to remember are "from field and tree" and "farm to table."

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