Meet Mark

Let me introduce myself. My name is Mark Sisson. I’m 63 years young. I live and work in Malibu, California. In a past life I was a professional marathoner and triathlete. Now my life goal is to help 100 million people get healthy. I started this blog in 2006 to empower people to take full responsibility for their own health and enjoyment of life by investigating, discussing, and critically rethinking everything we’ve assumed to be true about health and wellness...

Tell Me More
Stay Connected
October 03, 2008

Is Living Primal Good for the Environment?

By Worker Bee
25 Comments

Thanks for the great topic suggestion, Son of Grok. It is interesting that as we rid our body of waste, we seem to do the same for the planet. Funny how that works out. The reduction of artificial wastes and packaging materials is probably the most tangible benefit to the environment, but following the Primal Blueprint to a tee can be incredibly green-conscious in many other ways.


Buying Organic

Most Neo-Primals already buy organic whenever possible. We mostly do this to emulate the type of food Grok (your father) would have eaten: wild, raw, and packed full of nutrients. Like the produce from 10,000 years ago, certified organic food today is free of pesticides and hormones. Plus, it just tastes really, really good (if you let her, nature has a pretty impressive green thumb).

But these days, environmental consciousness is paramount. No longer the bastion of the “wacky leftists,” green living has become a universal issue. Nearly everyone agrees that we humans have been doing quite a number on the planet and that it needs to stop. So you have people bringing their own bags to the grocery store, taking the recycling out, shopping for hybrid cars, and paying lip service to alternative energy in stump speeches (how’d that get in there?). These are all good, relatively simple ways the average person can reduce his or her carbon footprint. As Primal Blueprinters, however, I think we can take it a few steps further.

Commercial Farming Kills

Mass commercial farming destroys environments. Pesticides run off into rivers, excess farming and tilling damages the soil for future generations and erodes the land. Organic farmers rotate crops, preserve biodiversity, and use natural manure and fertilizer that enrich the soil. When we buy organic, we’re supporting these environmental efforts (and getting healthier, tastier food). And, as more people opt for the organic (maybe even Primal) lifestyle, we hope organic produce becomes the norm, rather than the outlier.

Large-scale commercial meat farming hits the land pretty hard, too. You’ve got waste management issues (waste runoff, the awful smell) as well as methane emissions. Yes, loyal readers: animal farts release an incredible amount of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. As you all know, of course, eating the wrong foods (too much dairy, for example) can cause our finely-tuned Primal insides to emit terrible odors; the same is true for cows. Organic grass-fed cows emit 40% less greenhouse gases and use 85% less energy than do cows on commercial, concentrated feed made from soy and corn.

Buy Local

Even better – buy locally when you can. Meat or produce shipped from overseas (besides being of potentially questionable quality) is, well, shipped from overseas. Trans-continental transportation uses massive amounts of oil, and we’re running out of it. That traditional, corn/soy/etc-fed steak you’re about to bite into? Besides being a bastardization of the type of bovine meat Grok would have eaten, that steak probably traveled thousands of miles to reach your plate, leaving a carbon footprint the size of Bigfoot’s in its wake. And if the steak is grass-fed and organic, the planet is still better served if you find a closer source. Unless you’re getting your steaks delivered via pigeon or glider, try to look for organic, local sources.

Shop local. Go to your co-op or farmers’ market and find out where the food originates. Talk to the farmers. Ask about their farming practices. Chances are, they’ll be happy to oblige (you’ll find that most organic farmers are pretty passionate about their craft). Heck, go straight to the source and make a trip to the local farm! Buying directly from the farmer doesn’t just get you the freshest meat and produce possible; you could also get reduced, wholesale prices by pooling your money with a few like-minded friends. Buy a few pounds of berries, a quarter grass-fed cow, six dozen pasture-raised eggs, and divvy it up. You’ll be getting Whole Foods quality at a fraction of the cost. I suppose you could always go it alone, but you better have a big enough freezer.

A really cool resource is Fallen Fruit. Started in LA, Fallen Fruit is a collection of maps indexing the public fruit trees all over the United States. The fruit here is completely public, mostly organic, and the maps are – for the time being – focused on LA. Oh, and the most important part: this fruit is completely free.

Grow it Alone

Of course, the absolutely optimal way to live both Primal and green is to produce your own food. Whether that means living on a sustainable organic farm, building a chicken coop in your backyard, or even just growing herbs on the windowsill of your studio apartment, any step you take will reduce your negative impact on the world. We all have different incomes and living arrangements; we can’t all live completely off the fat of the land. But planting a couple tomato plants in your yard is an easy option that will give you delicious, organic food whose only carbon footprint was the gas you expelled when bending over to pick it.

No room to grow? Investigate the local community garden scene. High schools often rent out small plots of land for the public to use for gardening. For a usually nominal fee, you’ll have access to unlimited water, maybe 10 square feet (or more!) of good soil, and the timeless wisdom of the lifetime gardeners who share the plot (and who are – like those meatheads at the gym – very liberal with their advice). Even if you have to drive a few miles to get to the garden, growing your own fruits and vegetables is decidedly Primal and green.

Sustainability

What if the entire world were to eat Primally? I mean, wasn’t agriculture a response to rapidly dwindling food supplies for a growing population, making the mass production of energy-dense grains and starches a necessity? At our current population levels, there isn’t enough organic produce and pasture-raised livestock to go around for absolutely everyone, but that doesn’t mean we should forgo our health and simply continue the downward spiral. It means we should support our local farms so they can flourish. Buy organic. Abstain from buying apples from Chile or having wild Alaskan salmon delivered overnight to your door, and you can rest assured that you’re going about things the right way – Primal and green.

There are many facets and nuances to this issue. We’d love to hear your take, so hit us up with a comment in the comment boards.

halcyonsting, cafemama, Peti Deuxmont, ianturton, catchesthelight Flickr Photos (CC)

Further Reading:

10 Ways to “Eat Green”

Community Supported Agriculture

Dear Mark: Best Fruit Choices

If you like this post please share it with StumbleUpon.

Subscribe to Mark’s Daily Apple for FREE updates via RSS or email.

Subscribe to the Newsletter

If you'd like to add an avatar to all of your comments click here!

Leave a Reply

22 Comments on "Is Living Primal Good for the Environment?"

avatar

Sort by:   newest | oldest
Apurva Mehta
8 years 2 months ago
That was a nice article, but the very last sentence reallly caught my eye: “Abstain from … having wild Alaskan salmon delivered overnight to your door, and you can rest assured that you’re going about things the right way – Primal and green.” Just last week there was a recommendation on MDA to buy wild alaskan salmon in the interests of being primal. And, as far as health concerns go, I can understand why that recommendation was made. So the statement above does confuse me. Is the recommendation being made purely so that we reduce our ‘carbon footprint’? (which to… Read more »
Donna
Donna
8 years 2 months ago

Since all the recent outbreaks of different vegetable salmonella now more stores out here where i live are advertising that they’re selling local fresh produce. The salmonella scare has caused decrease in sales and supermarkets have done something about it and have picked sales back up. It’s also easy now to find more and more fresh markets. You just can’t beat the taste of fresh produce and know it came from a good place from people who care enough to grow produce the right way.

Aaron
8 years 2 months ago

Great points, Apurva. The previous wild Alaskan salmon recommendation is made purely from a health perspective, which is what this blog is all about. We leave it up to readers to manage other implications like cost and environmental factors. The fact is, wild Alaskan salmon may be the best choice for your body, but not the best choice for the earth or your pocket book.

Additionally, the comment refers to having it delivered overnight. Buying wild Alaskan salmon that is shipped in bulk is somewhat different than having a single fish flown in from thousands of miles away.

Son of Grok
Son of Grok
8 years 2 months ago

One of the major things that i have noticed since going primal is my trash can. It used to be overflowing every week when I took it out. I used to always have to worry about when trash day was because i would be in deep doo doo if i missed a day. Way too much trash. Now I often forget trash day because I hardly ever have any! Very noticable difference in paper and plastic waste when you buy fresh pruduce and meat instead of the old packaged snacks and dinners.

Bradford
Bradford
8 years 2 months ago

I’m in total agreement with Son of Grok. Much less garbage now that I’ve gone Primal than when I relied on prepackaged microwavable meals and frozen taquitos. These days most of what I buy at the grocery store actually ends up in my belly. Though, the cuts of meat I buy from the meat counter usually come in saran wrap atop those little Styrofoam trays. Anyone know of any eco-friendly alternatives to those? Something to petition Ralph’s/Gelson’s/Albertson’s to switch to?

Robin
5 years 10 months ago

When you buy from your local butcher it comes wrapped in paper. Even the meat department at the grocery store will wrap your meat in paper when you buy from the display case, you might even be able to request that option for the all your meat. I found I was bogged down with those little trays until I started going to the butcher.

Methuselah - Pay Now Live Later
At our current population levels, there isn’t enough organic produce and pasture-raised livestock to go around for absolutely everyone, but that doesn’t mean we should forgo our health and simply continue the downward spiral I think this is at the heart of the matter. I often see people dismissing the primal/paleo ideology as ultimately selfish and unsustainable on a worldwide basis. But the fact that current population levels would not allow the whole world to go paleo is a theoretical problem, not a real one. As you say, we cannot forego our health because of a theoretical resource shortage. There… Read more »
Mia
Mia
8 years 2 months ago

On PBS a few weeks ago I heard a piece about bottled water and the insane amount of crude oil used to produce the plastic used in disposable water bottles (very un-primal). Ironically, there’s a giant electric billboard near my house advertising a “Carbon Negative” bottled water. Really? More carbon negative than tap water? What about all the electricity the billboard uses to tell me it’s carbon negative. The unnecessary packaging on foods might be a major drain on the environment, but the unnecessary marketing is doing a pretty good job wasting energy too.

Mia
Mia
8 years 2 months ago

And by PBS I meant NPR.

Son of Grok
Son of Grok
8 years 2 months ago

Bradford, we get our meat wrapped in butcher paper which usually means less volume and it can be recycled.

Son of Grok
Son of Grok
8 years 2 months ago

P.S. I am STILL going to eat my Wild Alaskan Salmon! If we wanted to go local on fish, our options would be very very limited. But I have gone local on things like eggs and fruits and veggies that grow around here. The wife and my personal favorite… Green Chile… is ALWAYS local 😉

Robert M.
Robert M.
8 years 2 months ago
Meat is definitely a tricky thing from an environmental perspective. Large mammals raised for meat (e.g. cow) require a great deal of food energy to produce a unit of meat. In general that means more soil erosion, more water lifted out of aquifers, more fertilizer, etc. Now one can buy sustainable meat that’s ranched but if all of our population did that there wouldn’t be enough land. The truth is, like oil consumption, there’s not enough arable land to feed 6 billion people a pound of meat a day. I think we’re due to live through some ‘interesting times’ as… Read more »
Anna
8 years 2 months ago
Robert, Raising meat doesn’t have to be environmentally degrading and depleting of natural resources, like intensive CAFO and over-grazed herds are. Read Joel Salatin’s writings, especially his two books, Holy Cows and Hog Heaven and Everything I Want To Do Is Illegal: War Stories from the Local Food Front. He describes himself as more of a grass farmer, because his animals do something very efficiently without spoiling anything; they convert sunlight into protein, without the environmental degradation and massive energy consumption that industrial grain production requires. Joel Salatin is the owner/farmer/environmental activist of Polyface, a biodynamic farm in Virginia that… Read more »
Anna
8 years 2 months ago
Methuselah - Pay Now Live Later

Also, check out http://www.themeatrix.com

60 in 3 - Health and Fitness
8 years 2 months ago
Anna, I completely agree IF we’re talking about sustainably grown meat. I’ve read Joel’s books as well as Omnivore’s dilemma and a few others. They all pretty much say the same thing. Organic meat farming can and is good for the environment. However, most people don’t eat that kind of meat. The majority of meat consumption is factory raised meat and that’s actually more dangerous than mass produced plant crops. Those CAFO’s pollute a lot on their own AND they consume a massive amount of industrially produced corn which also pollutes and destroys the environment. So by all means, enjoy… Read more »
Anna
8 years 2 months ago
Gal, Yes, it’s the big IF that is critical; I just like to make the point that not all meat production has to have negative consequences, because too few are aware of the better ways meat can be produced, though most by now are aware of “factory meat”. But part of the barriers hindering sustainable meat production (and less “factory” meat) is the excessive and out of proportion regulation. This particularly is the issue with processing facilities. There just aren’t enough local facilities anymore, and that’s critical for making sustainable, local meat more available and more affordable. The regulations are… Read more »
new_me
new_me
8 years 2 months ago

…just a couple comments on some of the comments:

first: plastics are made from BY-PRODUCTS

new_me
new_me
8 years 2 months ago
ooops hit a wrong button! I’ll start again…. A couple comments about some of the comments: 1. Plastics are made from BY-PRODUCTS of the oil/gas industry. Oil is not actually brought to surface just for the purpose of making plastic. (I live near a plant that manufactures plastics and my husband works in the oil field.) 2. I think that world population DISTRIBUTION and food DISTRIBUTION are more of the problem than is “over population” or lack of space to grow “green” food. Have you ever been to Canada? Most people have no concept of the space we have up… Read more »
Anna
8 years 2 months ago
new_me’s comment prompted another thought. Lots of places in the world (“developing” nations) struggle now as they try to compete on the global ag commodities markets, but used to be able to feed themselves. But the WTO and their govts decide that instead of producing native foods to feed local populations, they should grow cash crops to make money instead (either to pay back big WB loans or to make their elite rulers rich). Then tax-subsidized surplus crops from huge industrial-ag nations are dumped on the global market, dropping the commodity prices even further, ruining the attempts of the farmers… Read more »
Eric
Eric
8 years 2 months ago
Methusela and others have touched on a very important point indeed: the struggle in finding the balance between optimal health (which will vary according to different experts; I, like other readers of this blog, personally choose to believe that the research out there done on the benefits of a paleolithic lifestyle have become undeniable) and optimal care of our environment and the way we interact with it. As you mention, yes, an agriculturist way of life CAN theoretically feed more people, but at what cost? More “unhealthy people”, taking up more arable land in order to feed even more people,… Read more »
scarpe adidas
5 years 6 months ago

I guess you have made a few rather interesting points. Not too many people would actually think about this the way you just did. I am really impressed that there is so much about this subject that has been uncovered and you made it so nicely, with so considerably class. Outstanding one, man! Truly special things right here.

wpDiscuz