The real cost of “I can’t afford it”

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The comment I hear the most when discussing organic food is "Oh, I can't afford it."

This is actually not a factual statement as much as it is a dismissal statement. And it's one we all use when we can't be bothered with, don't have a priority for, or aren't really interested in the topic at hand.

I have witnessed many, many a person using this exact phrase to side step everything from exercising, to eating right, to how & why they shop and what they buy, to what entertainment they engage in.

My education in this form of 'excuse dismissal' began in college. A close friend of mine, who's family was very well off (fine, wealthy!), would often use the line: "Oh I can't afford that..." as she sat in her brand new, top of the line, fancy sports car, or pulled fresh smoked salmon from Alaska out the decent sized fridge in her dorm room, that was decorated with all the latest from a high end 'home collection' store. I marveled at how easily people accepted her excuse time after time. Did they not see what I saw? A consistent pattern of using the phrase "Oh I can't afford it" whenever she didn't want to do what everyone else wanted to do?

Fast forward 30 years and it's the same. We all use the phrase "Oh I can't afford it" when we aren't interested in doing it, buying it, going to it, seeing it, having it or partaking of it. How do I know this phrase is an excuse? Because, while there are plenty of people in our country who are struggling just to get by, that is not the majority of Americans. And the people I encounter on a day to day basis are not destitute. They drive decent cars, live in decent homes, have decent jobs, and consume a decent amount of 'stuff.'

The 'Oh I can't afford it" phrase is not born of not being able to afford it for these folks, it's that we don't want it enough to actually spend our money on it.

Case in point. I am world traveler and one of the most common comments I get is:
"Must be nice to be able to travel like that...I wish I could".
I follow this comment with: "You can."
Which is always met with: "Oh I can't afford it."

The truth is, if they really wanted to travel they could. They either don't really want to travel or don't care enough about it to make it a priority. And that's really what this all comes down to, what we want to spend our money on.

Now I know some of you are protesting that if you had more money you would travel, and that 'I can't afford it" is not an excuse. The truth is, if you really wanted to travel, money would not be an issue. Plenty of people travel the world on very little money. The bigger truth is, you don't want to travel the world in the way you believe you can afford. And there's nothing wrong with that belief...however, you're not actually being honest when you say "Oh I can't afford it", it's still an excuse. The truth would be: "I will travel the world when I have the kind of money I need to travel in the style I want" or "I'm not interested in traveling the world on a tight budget." or "Saving money for traveling is not a priority for me, but if I won the lotto, I'd totally book a trip."

So why don't we just say that?

Probably because we fear it makes us look lazy, uninteresting, or just plain stupid. And now you ask, if people can afford to do the things they say they can't, are they lying about what they can afford? Not at all. This is all about perception.

We currently have 1 kid in college and 1 kid finishing up high school & off to college next year. The most common phrase you will hear me say is: "I can't afford that, I'm on a tight budget because we've got 1 kid in college and 1 on the way to college." And that is my truth...which also gives the perception that we can't afford things.  However, we are not broke or destitute, not even close. We are middle class and we can afford a decent home, decent car, decent consumerism..and this is where perception & truth meet.

Ok, so I think you've got the gist of what I'm saying here, now onto the topic at hand. What is the true cost of "Oh I can't afford it"?

I have been a sustainable food advocate for awhile now, fully understanding that how I source my food and what I spend my food dollars on, has a direct impact on me, my family, my community, the animals, plants, soil, air, water and ultimately the planet. I know that my priority is to save our planet and I'm doing that by sourcing and buying food that promotes sustainability through a variety of methods working together: farming, harvesting, producing, packaging, marketing, etc. I know that better quality, sustainable food costs more money then conventional food, so I make my food dollars my priority and things like new tv's, game consoles, iPhones, cars, & furniture are all off the budget, while clothes & household necessities are on a tight budget.

I have been calling myself a 'conscious, budget-driven consumer.' Translation: I'm a consumer who sticks to her budget, making the best use of my money while benefiting me and my interests, like planet sustainability.

Ironically, after watching the movie "The True Cost", followed by "Poverty, Inc", it dawned on me that I was indeed making budget choices in my consumerism, but not actually making choices that benefited the whole system. I too...'gasp!...was doing the "Oh I can't afford it."

Not on my food purchases...but on my clothing purchases.

I am a big fan of cheap clothes, it's one of the many ways I have cut my budget. And after watching these documentaries, I realized that the "vote with your food dollars" I am championing in sustainable food advocacy, is the very thing I'm NOT doing in how I spend my clothing dollars. My 'fast fashion' cheap clothing purchases directly impacts the system...with many negative outcomes, not just for people around the world, but also my beloved planet.

If I am a conscious consumer who is an advocate for sustainability, should I not be looking at the bigger picture of sustainability? Shouldn't I be a conscious consumer in ALL of my consuming, not just food. The same ways that conventional food production is polluting our health and well being and that of our planet, so is clothing production...and obviously it would continue on that ALL consuming has a direct affect on our world. Which means I need to really rethink how I perceive myself and act as a 'consumer'. And that's when it hit me, I don't want to be a 'conscious budget-driven consumer', I want to be a 'budget driven, sustainable impact consumer'. A person who is a budget driven consumer, who makes buying choices based on the product's & production's impact on the entire system.

And right now this whole thing feels very overwhelming...many of the ways we produce products for our consumption, are not sustainable. And much of it is in fact, long term destructive. So what's the answer? Stop consuming? Move to the wilderness and live off grid? Become homesteaders void of modern conveniences?

Hah! Not even...unless of course that is what your heart desires and would make you happy, then by all means, have at it.

What I'm saying here is, how you source your consumables and what you choose to spend your money on, has a direct impact on you, me, us, them, and everything on the planet, because it is all connected. So we need to change shit up.

We are brilliant. We have evolved humans and society to a place in history that few could have dreamed possible. And now it's time to take the next step and evolve from the industrial, polluting, consuming behaviors that have put our very existence in question, and become the generation that catapults eco-friendly, green, long term sustainable, impact consuming behaviors to new heights, making it the 'norm' for modern society.

And all you have to do is take one step at a time. Start simple. Sustainably tweak your grocery list. Once you're comfortable with that, tweak your clothing list. Got that down? Excellent, how about tweaking your water or electricity consumption (putting solar panels on our home has been a great money saver, especially as electricity rates have gone up over the years) Good with that? Great!

You get what I'm championing here, right? Don't feel overwhelmed, don't change who you are, don't sell everything you own and become a hermit. Simply start making small, effective, sustainable, impact sourcing and buying purchases, that's it. And one by one, person by person, day by day, we can evolve from the brink of no return, to the thriving of modern impact driven consumerism. We got this.

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Staying true to your North Star

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Yesterday I had a friend question my use of the word  'slaughter' in one of my blogs. The concern was that it may be insensitive to folks who don't eat animal or animal by products and perhaps I should use a different word...or not use it at all.

And this brings up a very important issue we need to discuss during this year of political, media circus craziness, where emotions are running high and anything and anyone is being attacked for just being present and alive. We have entered an overdrive of politically correct, sensitive areas; many legitimate, some ridiculous, and quite a few a long time how do we know the ones that need our 'mission' attention and the ones that don't?

Well that all depends on your North Star. Your purpose, direction, passion in life is often referred to as your North Star. It is what the map of your mission, will lead you to. It is what your compass points to whenever there is doubt or questions about the right direction to go. When you're clear about your North Star, your path will unfold like a red carpet being laid out at the Oscars. Sure it may take a few people and some labor to maneuver the carpet roll into position, but once it gets rolling it's magic, swishing into place, leading from the busy, noisy curb to the entrance of the dazzling venue.

Your North Star will tell you which issues you need to address and which ones you can set aside. If your North Star is about raising awareness to end killing wild Elephants for their ivory, you are going to focus on the path that leads you in that direction. While promoting your Elephant movement, you may have people who question you as to why you only care about the Elephants? And they may be forceful, seemingly interrogating you. "What about the Rhino being killed just for their horns? The Leopard, Lion and other big game being hunted as trophies to mount on the wall or lay across the floor?"  

Most of us feel compelled to address these questions because 1) we know these issues have genuine merit and 2) right now we're being 'attacked' and need to defend ourselves. And this is where the North Star 'reality check' steps in. You ask your 'compass': "is this 'questioning' relevant to my purpose and path? Does this further my mission? Does it improve how I fulfill my vision?"

If your mission is to save the elephants, does answering questions about why you're not doing the same for others animals further your mission? Does it improve fulfilling your vision? Is it relevant to your immediate path and purpose? Because if the answer is no, you are wasting time, energy and resources on things that are interfering with your compass and blocking your path. This is not to say you don't care about other animals. It is to say that YOUR mission is about the plight of the Elephants. 

You don't go into the Eye Doctor and ask for a colonoscopy, and you certainly don't question the Optometrist as to why they can't perform that procedure. Nor do you go to McDonalds for a 5-star meal, only to interrogate the server behind the counter as to why they don't have filet minion, with pan grilled asparagus, topped with a rich bernaise sauce.

Whatever your mission, movement, or purpose is, you stick to your specific path, just as the Optometrist does. While he or she may have to tell a misguided patient: "If you're here for an eye exam, you're in the right place. If you are here for anything else, you're in the wrong place." It doesn't mean the Optometrist don't care about colon health. It means that their area of expertise is dealing with eyes, not asses.

The Cleanivore Revolution's Vision is to promote health and well being for humanity while also creating long term planet sustainability. Our Mission is to educate and help consumers source food in ways that promote their health and well-being, as well as the health and well-being of the planet. Clean food sourcing promotes responsible, regenerative, sustainable farming practices that benefits the land, the plants, animals, and ultimately, we the people.

The Cleanivore Revolution has no judgement about your diet choices, your food beliefs, or how you stock your fridge and pantry. Paleo, Raw, Vegetarian, Vegan, however you food identify is fine with us. And we expect the same from our community, no judgement.  If you're here to be part of the clean food sourcing movement to save the world, you're in the right place. If you're here to give someone a colonoscopy over their chosen diet, food beliefs or what's on their dinner plate, you're in the wrong place.



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FOOD, like clothing.

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Food today is rather like clothing.

And yes you could say we wear the food we eat, but that's not quite where I'm going with this statement.

When you decide to buy your clothes you have a plethora of options, from cheap to expensive, crappy to divine, and everything you can imagine in-between. And where you source your clothes will largely depend on what those clothes are for and what you're willing to spend. If you're going to your boss's daughter's fancy wedding you most certainly are not showing up in that Kmart outfit from last year's beerfest. No you're going to be properly attired in a quality outfit. If you've made the Boss's guest list, you're buying the good stuff.

Summer around the corner? Why not stock up at local low priced clothing store. Fashion changes season to season, no point in blowing cash on clothes that will only be worn for the summer, and it won't matter that in 3 months the colors have faded or the seems have started to unravel. The low price draw of these clothing stores is that they perfectly fit the always changing styles, good for just a season.

Career clothes? Different story. Here you need a better quality of garment. Ones that not only say 'capable', 'efficient' and 'dependable', but also wear well, wash well and have longevity. Yes you pay more, but you also get way more out of them.

Party clothes can vary from BBQ to Banquet, Target to Neiman Marcus. And then there is always the super special occasion where perhaps you splurge on the best. My girlfriend's daughter ponied up half of her wedding budget for a one of kind, famous designer dress. It's her day, her magical, been-planning-for-a-year day, and she will look and feel like a million bucks.

My detailed point is, clothing comes in many variations of quality and cost, and you buy accordingly.

Food is the same.

Our food supply has everything from cheap & crappy, to divine & expensive, and everything in-between. At the bottom of the pile is junk food and at the top, a wealth of food fabulousness. If you work your way from the bottom up you'll go from franchised, manufactured fast food, to all types of manufactured convenience foods, to manufactured packaged foods, to conventional fresh foods, to organic foods, to pristine pasture raised foods. And with-in each of those categories there are sub categories. Organic food for example has several levels of organic depending on authenticity. You have your bottom of the organic barrel Big food brands, the moderately organic big/small brands and the totally authentic organic niche brands. Typically, these levels can be easily recognized by price.

Just like clothes. You can find the same pair of trendy shorts at Kmart, Macy's and Bebe, and the cost of $7.99, $14.99 & $39.99 tend to be directly related to overall quality.

So goes the varying quality of clothing, so goes the varying quality of  food.

So the question is, how do you source your food? Your body is your temple, your vehicle to get through life, your home to live in 24/7, your machine to get you through the tough times, your sanctuary to party, play, relax and enjoy. So it seems like a no brainer that the food you consume, will be the best there is. Your cheap clothes only need to last a summer. Your body needs to last your lifetime.




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How the heck did I get here?

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How did I end up here? Totally by accident. Although I have always been involved in health and well being, my belief was that our American food system, with the exception of fast food, provided the healthiest food possible. After all, the Government had specific departments in place to make sure the American food supply exceeded the necessary requirements to nourish the land of opportunity. Right?

Not exactly. For awhile now we've had pesticides, processing chemicals, food additive chemicals, packing chemicals, growth hormones used in meat and dairy, and we've had heavy antibiotic dosing in the meat, dairy, poultry industries. But the general public didn't really know and for those who did, they didn't know to what extent or what the dangers really were. And frankly, up until a few years ago, neither did I.

And I wonder how in the heck I got to this moment? Me, the sustainable food, people, planet advocate.

Now you may be one of those driven, ambitious folks who never doubted for a moment the path you would take in life.

But me? I'm more the 'have a goal, make a plan, roll with the tide and see where the day takes me' kind of person. And over the years it has taken me a shit load of places. Different countries, different careers, different people, different lifestyles. But the one constant has always been my health and well being.

I grew up being exposed to life outdoors, having lots of friends, being active, and eating healthy. I was 7 when my family bought a sheep and cattle farm in New Zealand, and it was then that I learned the connection of where my food came from and what it took for food to go from land to table. From seed, to cultivate, to crop, to harvest, to piping hot broccoli spears on my plate, lightly sprinkled with sharp cheddar cheese. Next to the greens on my plate would be a cut of meat, from lamb or beef raised on the lush pastures of our farm, humanely slaughtered by a knowledgeable butcher, then aged to perfection and frozen for the months ahead.

There were no GMO's, no mass sprayed pesticides, no antibiotics, no growth hormones, no GMO corn and soy feed pellets, no confinement. The food I ate as kid was just how food should be. Clean air, water, soil, earth kissed food.

Fast forward 45 years.

In the US, our food system is much like that of a futuristic movie. While most of the westernized world has adopted the fast food, convenience food options, we have taken food to a whole new level...of profit. And not profit for the many local farmers, butchers, produce markets or the people, profit for Big Industry where food is a traded Stock Market commodity and people have become the guinea pigs of 'manufactured' food, and clean air, water, soil, small farmers, butchers and produce markets have gone by the wayside.

I know how we got here.

Our part: Time, Cost, Convenience.
Big Business part: Money. Profit. Greed.

But there is hope. A silver lining in the processed, prepackaged, feedlot, drug laden, lab originating frankenfood of the modern diet.


As the health of people, plants, animals and the planet rapidly decline, folks have started taking a stand. A movement to restore health and well being to our families, our food, our planet. And ironically, it all starts with money. Your money, and what food you choose to spend those hard earned dollars on. As more and more people start making a statement about the importance of their health, of their family's health, they start spending their money on foods that are better for them. And the more you spend your money on better food, the more clean food is needed to accommodate all the people consuming better foods .

So, over time as people switch from conventional products to organic products, they are forcing the profit driven Big Business to grow less drug and pesticide laden foods, and produce more and more organic foods. Big Business wants to stay in business, and they will go where the consumer spends their money.

This movement also gives huge opportunity for the revival of the small farmer, the local farmer's produce markets, and maybe even the butcher shop. And all of this puts a ton of jobs back in the hands of folks sustainability working the land, promotes financial gains for the small business owner, reintroduces everyday folks to their food, and revives the farm to table relationship necessary to keep the people, the plants, the animals and especially the planet, healthy and thriving.

All of this, simply by how you spend your food dollars.

And this is how I ended up here. The Accidental Cleanivore who has come full circle from the days of growing up on clean, wholesome food from pristine land.

Through prepackaged foods, convenience foods, junk foods, manufactured foods, chemicals, hormones, antibiotics, GMO's, feedlots, nutrient void land; back to the beginning. And realizing that I can save the world $1 at a time, simply by tweaking my grocery list.  

And that is how The Cleanivore Revolution was born. My wanting to be a voice in the movement to save the planet (and thus save ourselves, our kids, grandkids, great grandkids) and finding that anyone can save the planet, just by being themselves.

You don't have to go out and buy the latest hybrid or electric car, put solar panels on your roof, become a vegan or live completely off grid (although if you want to do those things, go for it, every little bit helps!) All you have to do is be yourself, do what you can to spend your food dollars on clean foods, and know you're part of the solution for a thriving future.

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