Carrots are one of those vegetables that just about all children eat. In fact, most of my kids' vegetable eating consists of raw carrots, raw red pepper, and raw green beans cut up and served naked as a crunchy side. On bad work nights, my husband and I partake in the crudite-as-side-dish trick. I'm always shocked at how quickly we go through raw carrots.
Like most people, I have always bought carrots in baby, plastic enshrouded form for convenience. But as my life slowly evolves to be more waste-conscious, health-conscious, consumer-conscious, and, um, taste-conscious, I decided to lay my last baby carrot bag over the funeral pyre.
I'm going stone cold, green-stem-flowing, real carrot
It's not even the chlorine thing, which people have gotten into a panic about. Yes, apparently there is a bit of chlorine in your baby carrot bags to fight bacteria, which is generally accepted as safe. (As are, corporations assure us, all the multitudes of other chemicals flung out daily at our endocrine systems.) But I look at things differently now, and the philosophy of having someone sand your carrot skin off, package it in a bag, in a factory, and insert small amounts of whatever "safe" chemical inside, produced in another factory ... it all seems sort of overwrought to me.
All of us overworked people with no time to spare are sold convenience in so many ways that we don't think about it at all. Therein lies the real problem ... approaching life so automatically that you would never take a moment to see what it would be like to buy normal carrots, peel them, cut them up and put them in a jar. This is how we have ended up in a world full of garbage, with oceans full of plastic and a sky full of carbon.
I don't mean to demonize baby carrots or judge whatsoever anyone who uses them — as I did up until, like, last week. Baby carrots have single-handedly gotten millions of people to eat carrots in this country, including kids, and that's a marvelous thing. Baby carrots are neutral. But they represent my thoughtless convenience habit, which I'm trying to dismantle, one baby carrot at a time.
It's a small thing, but it has bigger implications for living on Earth
Small changes, one at a time — that's the best known way to form new habits. So I tried buying normal carrots, peeling them, throwing the skins in the veggie soon-to-be broth bag in my freezer, cutting them up and putting the in a jar. It was pretty easy, folks.
And if I'm being perfectly honest, the initial impulse to do this was a series of baby carrots that just seemed kind of gross and not tasting so good to me lately. These tasted better. And cutting a grown-up carrot for soup or other recipes is easier than cutting baby carrots, which was usually all I had on hand. (How many different carrot populations can a working mom be responsible for stocking?)
Old timey carrots also offered our family a chance to have an important talk ... about Bugs Bunny. And to discuss how my children should be watching Looney Tunes. We realized this talk was urgently needed after asking my kids if they knew who says "What's up Doc?" only to be met with lost, perplexed looks and a response of "...uh, Spider Man?"
So is this a huge ecological win, in the grand scheme of life?
Not really. Its no biking instead of driving or farmers market shopping instead of plastic clamshell food, or even voting, but it is one small habit broken. And that right there — making a new habit — is the building block for fixing life in every conceivable way.
At the very least, each bunch of regular carrots I buy is:
- One less plastic bag
- One less factory emission C
- Carrot peels, which will become vegetable broth
- Better-tasting carrots
- Children who know who Bugs Bunny is.
Linda McCarthy is the force behind Brooklyn Bread, where this story first appeared. She's a working mother who's always looking for ways to bring sanity and peace to the urban working-family existence. She's serious about making sure her kids are able to enjoy plenty of nature and that her family lives as sustainably and thoughtfully as possible. With small changes, they are doing better every day.