Sunday, July 15, 2012

Greetings from the Montclair Farmers' Market!

My favorite weekly ritual is shopping at the Montclair Farmers’ Market on Saturday mornings from June through October.  Located at the Walnut St. train station in Montclair, the market offers New Jersey’s freshest and finest fruits and vegetables, cave-aged cheeses, eggs, bread, meats, fish, honey, wine and more.  

Buying locally-produced food is not only good for the local economy, but it’s also good for the planet.   Here is an example.  My local grocery store sells cherry tomatoes grown in Mexico.  Think about the costs – economic and environmental – of transporting those tomatoes from Mexico to New Jersey.  Yet, this is done every day.  Here's another example.  Fish caught off the coast of Norway are shipped to China where workers clean and filet them.  Then, they are sent back to Norway and sold in the store.  Think for a moment how much carbon dioxide is emitted while transporting those fish thousands of miles per trip.

I've wondered how many "food miles" my groceries have traveled?  After a quick search, I found a "food miles calculator" on Organic Linker, The Organic and Eco Directory.  After entering the food type, your location (country) and the country where the food was grown, this tool calculates the food miles and the CO2 emissions.  Those Mexican tomatoes from the grocery store traveled approximately 1886 miles and released 679 kilograms of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.  By contrast, local tomatoes grown and purchased in Montclair, NJ would travel 0 food miles and release zero CO2.  Even if the Jersey tomatoes were grown and transported from a farm 10 miles from Montclair, the carbon footprint would be considerably less than from those Mexican tomatoes.

The food miles calculator is not a scientific measure, as it does not consider many other factors such as the environmental cost of growing the food (pesticides, water, etc), harvesting, packaging, etc.  However, it is a great learning tool to show students the impact of our food purchases on carbon dioxide emissions, one contributor to global climate change and environmental damage.

A similar interactive lets you calculate the environmental cost in food miles for fruit purchased in the UK.  The challenge is to select fruits that would make a fruit salad with the lowest carbon footprint, which you can do  with this tool.

For the five months -- June through October --  New Jersey farmers' markets are open, it makes sense to purchase produce locally, thus reducing our food miles and carbon footprint.  Buying local is just more sustainable -- for the local economy and for the planet!

This link will help you find a NJ farmers' market in your area:

Monday, July 2, 2012

Millennials & Information Literacy

The summer quarter begins this week, and the online course I’m teaching – SOC 415 Global Social Change --  is on the information literacy curriculum map.   With the help of our college library, I have been developing a student research project to meet the information literacy outcomes for this course:

Students will keep a record of activities related to the process of information seeking, evaluating, and communication in order to reflect on past successes, failures, and alternative research strategies.

Information Literacy is “the set of skills needed to find, retrieve, analyze, and use information” (“Association of College & Research Libraries”).  One of the primary goals of information literacy is to help students learn critical thinking and research skills, for both their college years and for lifelong learning.

This is particularly important for the millennial generation.  While millennials tend to be “tech savvy”, research shows that “many students may have only limited knowledge about how to effectively evaluate online resources and use them appropriately” (Windham).

During the next eleven weeks students will research and write about global issues -- poverty, human rights, gender issues, education, population growth, health, etc. -- in their Global Research Journals.     Leslin Charles of the Berkeley College library will guide the students through researching global problems using library databases, journal articles, ebooks and websites.  During the research process, students will keep a research log where they will record their research activities, evaluate the quality and reliability of the information they find and reflect on the progress they have made with research strategies.   

"Introduction to Information Literacy." Association of College & Research Libraries. American Library Association, n.d. Web. 1 Jul 2012.

Windham, Carrie. "Getting Past Google: Perspectives on Information Literacy From The Millennial Mind." Educause Learning Initiative. Educause, 2006. Web. 1 Jul 2012.