Saturday, November 29, 2008

poultry pollution

We've talked about the negative effects excessive poultry production has on the Chesapeake Bay in some previous posts and Ian Urbina addressed Maryland's growing poultry pollution problem in his recent NY Times article. It turns out 650 million pounds of chicken manure is produced in our state each year. Holy crap. Pun intended. From the article:

As the amount of cropland in Maryland has shrunk and the number of chickens raised has grown to 570 million, these mountains of manure have become a liability because the excess is washing into the Chesapeake Bay, one of the nation’s most polluted estuaries, and further worsening the plight of the fishermen who ply its waters.

Poultry is Maryland's most lucrative form of agriculture and state officials are finally starting to realize that being able to sell masses of skinless, boneless chicken breast for around $2 a pound has consequences, like growing phosphorous and nitrogen levels in the bay.

Read about proposed regulations and farmers reactions here as well as in the aforementioned NY Times article. I'm not sure, however, how fair it is for the liability for manure to fall to the growers raising the chickens, rather than the larger companies that "own the birds, provide the feed and drop off a new batch of chicks every eight weeks."

Friday, November 28, 2008

more troubled trees...

Ponderosa Pines aren't the only ones suffering from the effects of some insects. Up in Worcester, MA, thousands of Maple trees are scheduled to be chopped down in the next months due to an infestation of Asian long-horned beetles. Following a tornado in 1953, Maples were planted as replacement trees, and unfortunately all those Maples and too little tree diversity allowed the pests to gain a strong foothold.

Read more about these Maples and plant diversification in yesterday's NY Times article here.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

What's Tappening?

Tappening is the anti-bottled water project of Eric Yaverbaum and Mark DiMassimo's, that launched those controversial ads during the election suggesting that both candidates have a drinking problem -drinking bottled water that is. Yaverbaum works in public relations and therefore realizes the power of a clever slogan. Check out this recent interview, where he talks about the "aha" moment when he realized the environmental impact of bottled water and his desire to plant the seed for change. Here are some sobering statistics from the Tappening website:

If you choose to get your recommended eight glasses a day from bottled water, you could spend up to $1,400 dollars annually! The same amount of tap water would cost around 49 cents.

Americans buy 28 billion water bottles annually, which uses the equal of 17 million barrels of oil, sufficient to fuel 1 million cars for 12 months worth of driving.

With only 23% of discarded PET bottles recycled it costs American cities about $70 million to clean up the discarded bottles yearly.

Bottled water often contains more bacteria and impurities than tap water, because the EPA regulates municipal water systems more stringently than the FDA regulates bottled water.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Dangerous Mussels in Maryland Waterways

Remember the devastation brought about by Zebra mussels that I mentioned in a past post? Well, I have some bad news. Despite the more than $3 million dollars Maryland has spent on precautionary measures, a fish survey team on the Susquehanna River discovered a single half-inch zebra mussel inside a water intake pipe upstream from the Conowingo Dam.

The Baltimore Sun's Candus Thomson reports:

The zebra mussel is native to Europe's Black and Caspian seas. The mussels entered the Great Lakes in the mid-1980s in the ballast water of an oceangoing freighter. Since then, the mollusks have spread to waters that border or cut through more than 20 states, Quebec and Ontario. This month, they were discovered in a high-mountain lake in Utah.

Zebra mussels reproduce rapidly and attach to structures and each other, building dense layers up to a foot thick. They spread by traveling in the bottom of boats or by attaching to propellers, bilges and anchors or floating docks.

In addition to clogging reservoir ducts and hydroelectric dam intake pipes, the mussels upset the balance of nature by removing nutrients needed by other species.

Find the full article here, on

Greenhouse Gases Reach Record High

From the Associated Press: The U.N. weather agency says the three main greenhouse gases in the Earth's atmosphere have reached new record highs. Apparently this is the first time in a decade that the concentration of methane in the atmosphere has increased, partially by natural sources, like wetlands, and partially by human activities such as fertilizer use or fuel combustion. Ugh.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Ecotarian. Why didn't I think of that?

Just learned (via the treehugger newsletter) this term that refers to an individual who selects food with consideration for the environmental factors and energy used to produce it. Ecotarian. Sort of brilliantly obvious, don't you think?

The Guardian's Ethical Living columnist Lucy Siegle writes:

Ecotarianism has a winningly common-sense approach. The concept is simple: eat the foods with the lowest environmental burden, those with the lowest global-warming potential (GWP) and the least chance of messing up the planet via their acidification and pollution potential.

Friday, November 21, 2008

integrated water management systems

Allison Arief put a really cool post up on her NY Times blog last night about some of the latest new alternative technologies, not just green - but blue. Check it out here to learn about Living Roofs, Living Walls, Greywater, and Rainwater Harvesting. I think the Living Wall is way cool. Check it out. This one is an overpass by Patrick Blanc: Pont Max Juvénal, Aix-en-Provence.

From Arief's post: Living walls are far less common at present, but can be similarly effective at reducing building cooling demand and restoring bird and butterfly habitats. ...But despite their fantastic appearance, living walls are highly practical: they absorb and filter storm water, which reduces local water body pollution and helps prevent the overwhelming of municipal storm water infrastructure. (An urban example by architect Cesar Pelli, which is slated to receive LEED Platinum certification, is shown below). They also filter air particulates, improving air quality and help to reduce the urban heat island effect (UHI). Living walls can also be installed in building interiors, where they not only improve air quality but add humidity to the air when central heating is used in the winter.

nine books for 2009

Treehugger just released their list of nine must read books on eating well.

The 100 Mile Diet, Alisa Smith and James MacKinnon
Food Security for the Faint, Robin Wheeler
How to Cook Everything, Mark Bittman
The Omnivore's Dilemma, Michael Pollan
In Defense of Food, Michael Pollan
The Oxford Companion to Food, Alan Davidson
No Nonsense Guide to World Food, Wayne Roberts
Stuffed and Starved, Raj Patel
Where Our Food Comes From, Gary Paul Nathan

For summaries of the books, click here.

smart penguin

I absolutely could not resist posting this video that is up on buzzfeed. What an awesome, adorable and most of all: lucky little penguin.

please help save the frogs

Because football has apparently taken over Thursday nights now, on top of Sunday and Monday nights, I was only able to catch the first quarter of The Animal Planet documentary, The Vanishing Frog. I learned enough in that short time, however, to understand the threats facing our planet's amphibian population. Here are some facts:

Since the 1980s, more than 120 species of frogs have gone extinct.

Right now, one-third to one-half of the world's amphibian species are threatened.

For example, a decade ago there were tens of thousands of Southern Mountain Yellow-Legged frogs in the lakes of the Sierra Nevada mountains. Today, less than 200 remain.

Climate change, pollution, the introduction of non-native species, fires, and most recently a deadly chytrid aquatic fungus are the main suspects in the disappearance of the frogs and so many other amphibian species.

Chytrid fungus is currently unstoppable and untreatable in the wild. The World Conservation Union calls it the worst infectious disease ever recorded among vertebrates.

The top five critically endangered frogs are: the Southern Mountain Yellow-Legged Frog, the Panamanian Golden Frog, the Variable Harlequin Frog, the Lehmann's Poison Frog, and the Southern Corroboree Frog (pictured).

Only about 250 Southern Corroboree frogs remain in the wild, 25% of which are expected to vanish in the next three years, quite possibly because of the chytrid aquatic fungus.

I encourage you to check your local listings for The Vanishing Frog or watch the full documentary here on Animal Planet's website. And if you'd like to help, learn more by visiting or click here to purchase a t-shirt or make a donation to Amphibian Arc that supports their global amphibian rescue efforts.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

More bad news about vitamins...

Tara Parker-Pope writes about all the recent bad news about vitamins in her NY Times Well blog. From her post:

Everyone needs vitamins, which are critical for the body. But for most people, the micronutrients we get from foods usually are adequate to prevent vitamin deficiency, which is rare in the United States. That said, some extra vitamins have proven benefits, such as vitamin B12 supplements for the elderly and folic acid for women of child-bearing age. And calcium and vitamin D in women over 65 appear to protect bone health.

A Johns Hopkins School of Medicine review of 19 vitamin E clinical trials of more than 135,000 people showed high doses of vitamin E (greater than 400 IUs) increased a person’s risk for dying during the study period by 4 percent. Taking vitamin E with other vitamins and minerals resulted in a 6 percent higher risk of dying. A later study of daily vitamin E showed vitamin E takers had a 13 percent higher risk for heart failure.

On the bright side, while Vitamin C has no overall benefit for cold prevention, it has been linked with a 50% reduction in colds among marathon runners, skiers, soldiers, and people who are exposed to significant physical stress and cold temperatures, according to the study Parker-Pope discusses. Be careful though - because Vitamin C may interfere with Cancer treatment.

GW's environmental legacy

The Economist's Green.view wrote an interesting post about George W. Bush's environmental legacy and what he could do in his remaining time in office to "shake off his oilman’s legacy of environmental indifference, and acquire, rather surprisingly, a green halo." From the article:

Last year, Mr Bush established the world’s largest marine protected area—Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument, in north-western Hawaii. The monument became the largest single conservation area in American history, home to some 7,000 species, including the monk seal, spinner dolphins and the green sea turtle. It was a big step, but now the question is whether he can pull off the same trick on an even grander scale, by fully protecting two vast areas of the Pacific Ocean from fishing and mineral exploitation.

Read the entire post here.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008


A loyal blog reader linked me up to this Unsuitablog post, reminding me of a recent conversation regarding the growing consumption of eco-friendly or green goods. Is it better to purchase a piece of furniture that was made sustainable bamboo than one from Ethan Allen? I guess so, but buying a used set from a yard sale or local consignment shop is much better. Or even better, not buying it at all. Keith Farnish said it best in his post The New Shopping Order:

...there is a colossal battle to be won, against virtually every commercial interest on Earth, that relies almost entirely on people choosing to buy new and replace existing items that they have at a rate that is increasing at currently 5 times the speed of global population growth. In short, we need to have a completely new attitude to shopping, where reality and conscience takes precedence over the open mouthed acceptance by the public of new goods, and where the people of Earth are prepared to stop for a moment and think about the effect that every single new item that they purchase is having on this planet. There needs to be a New Shopping Order. Being part of it is simple: next time you want to buy some new trainers, a new lawnmower, computer, digital decoder, anything at all, ask yourself the following questions, in this order:

1) Do I need to buy this thing at all?
2) Can I repair or refurbish this thing, or have somebody do it for me?
3) Can I buy or obtain this thing, or something similar, pre-owned?
4) Can I buy this thing in a more ethical way?

This video, that I've gotten from the Unsuitablog post but don't know the actual origin of, is a great illustration of the issue:

(thnx Lisa)

Buy Local Baltimore

If you haven't heard about the educational/marketing campaign Buy Local Baltimore than I guess you aren't on facebook. Lucky for you, I am here to bridge the gap.

The campaign is a project by the Chesapeake Sustainable Business Alliance aimed to educate the public on the importance of supporting the local economy as consumers and businesses(hopefully) move toward environmentally sustainable and socially responsible business practices. Learn all about the project on their website.

Buy Local Baltimore's top ten reasons to buy local:

1.) Keep money in the neighborhood
2.) Embrace what makes Baltimore different
3.) Get better service
4.) Buy what you want, not what someone wants you to buy
5.) Create more good jobs
6.) Help out the environment
7.) Support community groups
8.) Invest in the community
9.) Put your tax money to good use
10.) Show the country that we believe in Baltimore

Pretty great, huh?

Happy cows

The California Milk Advisory Board has been running their Happy Cow ad campaign for a while and I have to admit, the latest installment has captivated me. The Happy Cow Auditions are, well, in a word: awesome. The more auditions I see, the more difficult it is to decide who to vote for.

View other auditions, including my absolute favorite that I can't seem to embed properly, and learn all about the happy cows on the Real California Milk website. The bloopers are great too.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

blue revolution

Mark Bittman for the NY Times, writes about the future of fishing:

The [industrial fish farming industry] spends an estimated $1 billion a year on veterinary products; degrades the land (shrimp farming destroys mangroves, for example, a key protector from typhoons); pollutes local waters (according to a recent report by the Worldwatch Institute, a salmon farm with 200,000 fish releases nutrients and fecal matter roughly equivalent to as many as 60,000 people); and imperils wild populations that come in contact with farmed salmon.

There's good news though. Plenty of scientists are agree that a turnaround is possible. If fisheries are managed well, even declining species can quickly recover. Read all about it here. And check out this awesome (although not really related) picture of my friend Nick with a Strawberry Grouper (catch and release of course):

No proof of vitamin supplements benefits

The findings of a recent, long-term, large-scale study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, show that regular supplements of vitamins C, D and E do not reduce the occurrence of heart attacks, stroke, or breast cancer. Once again, Michael Pollan was right (think myths of nutritionism).

Read a summary of the findings in this LA Times article recently printed in The Sun.

bad news bark beetles

Out west, in Montana, Colorado and Wyoming, a swelling infestation of bark beetles are taking a toll on millions of acres of trees. The suppression of fires, a decade of drought, and the fact that hard winters have softened, are said to be main causes for the flourish and expanded range of these beetles. Land owners are cutting down up to 75% of the pines in hopes to leave less competition for water and foster survival.

The Latin name for the beetles, Dendroctunus, means tree killer. Read more about the battle between bug and bark, and the domino effect this devastation has on the ecosystem here, in a recent NY Times article.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

More on frustration-free packaging

The NY Times reports that additional retailers and manufacturers, including Sony, Microsoft and Best Buy, following in Amazon's footsteps and are creating alternatives to the plastic “clamshell” packages that no human hand can destruct. From the article:

Impregnable packaging has incited such frustration among consumers that an industry term has been coined for it — “wrap rage.” It has sent about 6,000 Americans each year to emergency rooms with injuries caused by trying to pry, stab and cut open their purchases, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

I thought this was an eco-initiative and than a consumer safety and satisfaction thing but either way, less plastic, right?

Friday, November 14, 2008

I've heard it's pretty terrible but...

Holy smog. I hadn't realized pollution in Asia was this bad. The NY Times reports:
BEIJING — A noxious cocktail of soot, smog and toxic chemicals is blotting out the sun, fouling the lungs of millions of people and altering weather patterns in large parts of Asia, according to a report released Thursday by the United Nations. The byproduct of automobiles, slash-and-burn agriculture, cooking on dung or wood fires and coal-fired power plants, these plumes rise over southern Africa, the Amazon basin and North America. But they are most pronounced in Asia, where so-called atmospheric brown clouds are dramatically reducing sunlight in many Chinese cities and leading to decreased crop yields in swaths of rural India, say a team of more than a dozen scientists who have been studying the problem since 2002.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Heating your home this winter

'Tis the season for soaking in the last few color splashes of fall and welcoming the familiar smokey fragrance of a wood burning fireplace with a deep breath. Ahh the crisp scent of an approaching winter... and how wonderful to know that your neighbors are heating their homes the old fashioned way. I mean, that's the most eco-friendly way, right?

Actually, no. It's better to heat your home with gas than with trees. Slate's Green Lantern answers the question, and makes me feel much better about flipping the switch on the pho-fireplace that came with our home, in his most recent post. Here are some highlights:

There's some debate about how to figure the carbon footprint of burning wood: After all, a tree releases carbon when it decomposes anyway, so it's conceivable that putting wood in the stove is more or less carbon-neutral. On the other hand, if we cut down trees faster than they are replaced, there's a net reduction in carbon sinks that sequester carbon dioxide. And when a tree decomposes, some of that carbon is absorbed by the soil; when you burn wood, virtually all of it will end up in the atmosphere. Still, as long as your firewood is farmed sustainably, heating by wood is less likely to contribute to heating the earth. Researchers estimate that, in total, wood may produce between three times and 10 times fewer greenhouse gas emissions per unit of heat than other energy sources... So, is wood worth it? Taking everything into account, the Lantern doesn't recommend switching over to wood for environmental reasons. If you want to cut down on your greenhouse gas emissions, there are better ways of doing it—from changing your transportation habits to your diet—that won't involve pumping those other pollutants into the air. Instead of changing your source of fuel, you may want to think about how you might get by with less heat to begin with; to start, you can turn down the thermostat by a few degrees or improve your insulation.

*Beautiful image is from rjsparrow's Ireland 2007 album on flickr

From Green.view

Another article from The Economist about the obstacles that stand in the way of the great green fix. Here's an excerpt:

The foremost thought in the minds of legislators wavering over green bills will be the second big obstacle to Mr Obama’s green ambitions: the state of the economy. The president-elect’s newly appointed chief-of-staff, Rahm Emanuel, insists that the grim outlook is reason to press rather than postpone the green agenda: “You don’t ever want a crisis to go to waste; it’s an opportunity to do important things that you would otherwise avoid.” The notion that government spending on greenery will help lift America out of recession has become faddish. But there is little evidence to support it.


Thomas Friedman on The Daily Show


Last night, Thomas L. Friedman, author of The World is Flat and most recently Hot, Flat and Crowded, talked to Jon Stewart about the future of energy. He addresses an important question when discussing how government funding of a large number of jobs could lead us to the green Microsoft or green Google. Jon Stewart asks: Microsoft wasn't government funded? Why aren't there people 'working in their garage' to find some solutions now? To which Friedman replies that the cheaper and more convenient alternative is too vast for a new, green idea to really catch on - that the playing field needs to be leveled. Obviously he can explain it best. Check it out:

Refillable. The 4th R?

We're all used to hearing, "Reduce, Reuse, Recycle" but somehow have forgotten about a major player in the eco-R's: Return. As we count down to America Recycles Day, some are pushing for the even more efficient practice of returnable, refillable bottles.

I have to admit, I had somehow forgotten all about this practice until this headline and accompanying article in treehugger caught my attention.

Blue gold

As discussed in Monday's post, water seems to be on track to becoming the next big commodity, being dubbed "the new oil" and "blue gold." Catherine Brahic, for NewScientist, reports that "after a decade of sometimes difficult talks between neighbouring governments, mediated by UNESCO," a detailed map showing where underground aquifers store vast amounts of water has been developed (for the first time). "The hope is that it will help pave the way to an international law to govern how water is shared around the world." More from the article:

Aquifers are underground layers of rocks or sediments from which water can be extracted - normally by drilling boreholes or digging wells. They hold 100 times the volume of freshwater that flows down rivers and streams around the world at any time. What the UNESCO map reveals is just how many aquifers cross international borders. So far, the organisation has identified 273 trans-boundary aquifers: 68 in the Americas, 38 in Africa, 155 in Eastern and Western Europe and 12 in Asia. Each trans-boundary aquifer holds the potential for international conflict - if two countries share an aquifer, pumping in one country will affect its neighbour's water supply.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Not that I've ever doubted him...

... but a recent study pretty much confirmed that Michael Pollan is right and "fast food" is basically "corn." If you are wondering why this is awesome, let me explain. Or rather, let Wired explain. From the Wired post:

Chemical analysis from restaurants across the United States shows that nearly every cow or chicken used in fast food is raised on a diet of corn... Corn is an icon of unsustainable agriculture, requiring tons of fertilizer and pesticides, both of which require large amounts of fossil fuel to manufacture. Most of it is fed to livestock who didn't evolve to subsist entirely on corn. In cattle, eating corn increases flatulence emissions of methane — a potent greenhouse gas — and creates an intestinal environment rich in e. coli, a common cause of food poisoning. That necessitates mixing cow feed with antibiotics, in turn producing antibiotic-resistant disease strains... Many of those livestock end up in high-calorie, low-nutrition franchised fast foods... Fast food's biggest selling point is its low price — and that, say industry critics, is largely possible because of corn's ubiquitous cheapness.

And why is corn so cheap? Because it is subsidized by the government.

Corn is central to agriculture in the United States, where it is grown in greater volumes and receives more government subsidies than any other crop. Between 1995 and 2006 corn growers received $56 billion in federal subsidies, and the annual figure may soon hit $10 billion.

The $100-billion fast food industry has repeatedly been linked to obesity, heart disease, and diabetes (you know, the "western diseases"). So this is a pretty big deal. Something has got to change, right? Anyone else hoping that our new President Elect will spend some time with Michael Pollan or at least his books?

Green jobs not necessarily an easy fix

Interesting article in The Economist about the possibility of governments investing heavily in green technology, therefore boosting the demand for jobs (and the economy) while transforming the energy business. Interesting in that it reminds us that, "the easy notion that there is a single solution to the world’s economic and climatic problems is, thus, a dangerous one."

Monday, November 10, 2008

Call me crazy...

...but I don't believe that water should be treated as a commodity, being called "the new oil" and "blue gold." Water is a human right. The WSJ reports:

Water has become a booming $500 billion industry, by some estimates... Texas oilman T. Boone Pickens, who has bought water rights for a chunk of the Ogallala aquifer in Texas and owns more water than any individual in the United States, has said the natural resource should be treated like any other commodity -- bought and sold for a profit... The world is running out of fresh H20, which accounts for just 3% of the earth's water. Recent moves by multinational corporations to privatize water sources could spell disaster for poor countries and residents with no means to pay... Geopolitical experts warn that water scarcity poses not just a public health risk, but a threat to global security. Currently, some 1.1 billion people, one-sixth of the world population, lack safe drinking water. Global water consumption is growing at unsustainable rates, doubling every 20 years, according to a March 2008 report by Goldman Sachs. A study by International Alert, a London-based conflict-resolution group, listed 46 countries with a combined population of 2.7 billion that have a "high risk" for violent conflict over water in the next two decades.

Not cool, folks. Not cool. The WSJ sat down with the newly appointed United Nation's first senior advisor on water issues, Maude Barlow (Canadian water activist who has opposed privatization for 20+ years and author of Blue Covenant) to discuss the "corporate takeover of the world's water." Read highlights from their interview here.

No home-made chocolate chip cookies for kids in California

Kids at Piedmont High, in Piedmont California, had a pretty disappointing bake sale this year due to the July 2007 implementation of guidelines that were passed by lawmakers in 2005 . The guidelines require that snacks sold during the school day contain no more than 35 percent sugar by weight, derive no more than 35 percent of their calories from fat, and no more than 10 percent of their calories from saturated - thus turning traditional bake sale items, like cupcakes, caramel apples and lemon bars, into contraband.

Read the full story in the NY Times. It is important to teach children healthy habits but even I think this is going a little far. President of the California School Nutrition Association, Stephanie Bruce, said quite simply, “It concerns me we’re not teaching moderation.”

I'm all for ridding the schools of soda machines and Twinkies, but I think a healthy relationship with food, one that is developed in the kitchen, encourages planning and preparation, fosters tradition, and brings people in the community together, shouldn't be against school policy.

Folks in Japan are going bananas

Apparently grocery stores in Japan can't keep their banana shelves stocked ever since the popularization of Japan's Morning Banana Diet. The diet claims up to 43 pounds can be lost in ten weeks but... I find that hard to believe, but love bananas nonetheless.

Here's how the diet "works" - When you wake up in the morning, eat a nice fresh, organic banana, and drink a glass of water. Then eat whatever you'd like (barring no dessert foods) for lunch and dinner (of course a balanced meal is suggested) Make sure to eat dinner by 8PM and be in bed before midnight.

I'm a big fan of bananas and definitely eat at least one a day but I don't necessarily believe that doing so has that much of an impact on weight. I do, however, believe that is has an impact on health. Eric Leech, for treehugger, wrote, "The banana has been claimed by some to be considered as close to the perfect food as you can get. It provides a lot of nutritional benefits such as carbohydrates (for energy), potassium, vitamins (C, B6), protein (not a significant amount, but respectable), 0 fat, 0 cholesterol, 4 to 7 g fiber, and approximately 110 calories for a medium sized banana."

Find criticism and comments about banana diet here.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Bye bye single-use bags!

Great news. Mayor Michael Bloomberg has called for a 6 cent charge per plastic bag needed at the register. What is being called the plastic bag tax could generate $16 million a year. Or even better, if the proposal is passed, perhaps the outcome will mimic the bag tax in Ireland. From the NY Times:

Just a few weeks after Ireland adopted a similar, though much heftier tax in 2002 — charging shoppers 33 cents a bag — plastic bag use dropped 94 percent, and within a year, nearly everyone in that country had purchased reusable cloth bags.

Several City Council members said they were intrigued, but needed to see more details. Several did note, however, that it was only a few months ago that the Council passed — with the help of environmentalists and plastic bag manufacturers — a law requiring all stores that provide plastic bags to accept plastic bags for recycling, with some exceptions. And during the lengthy public debate over that bill, council members heard speakers testify that fees of at least 25 cents a bag needed to be imposed to get consumers to change their behavior.

Read reactions from New Yorkers here.

Green Collar Jobs to Revive the Economy?

The Wall Street Journal reports:

President-elect Barack Obama and his energy advisers have been making the case that a multibillion-dollar government investment in everything from wind turbines to a "smart" electrical grid is just what's needed to help revive the economy. The lure is millions of government-subsidized "green jobs."

On the campaign trail, Mr. Obama argued that spending $150 billion over the next decade to boost energy efficiency would help create five million jobs. The jobs would include insulation installers, to make houses more energy-efficient, wind-turbine builders, to displace coal-fired electricity, and construction workers, to build greener buildings and upgrade the electrical grid.

Read the entire article here.

And on a similar note, I've been looking for a reason to post a link to Dayo Olopade's piece in The New Republic about the division of liberals along class lines due to the environmental movement. A few excerpts from Olopade's piece:

Class distinctions were bred into the green movement from the beginning, as elite families like the Roosevelts and Rockefellers backed early conservation efforts that generally privileged aesthetics over economics. The Sierra Club itself was at first a social organization that arranged outdoor adventures for its leisured members. In 1962, Rachel Carson (who grew up along the Allegheny River just north of Pittsburgh) published Silent Spring to expose the role of chemicals and industrial pollutants in the production cycle, promoting the defense-of-nature model that animates groups like the National Wildlife Federation, the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC), and the Sierra Club to this day. But, although Silent Spring talks extensively about factories, the seminal text makes virtually no mention of the people working inside them.

Labor groups in industries like logging or car manufacturing have spent years fighting the conservation agenda and blaming green victories like the Endangered Species Act for draining jobs in construction and development. By 1997, the AFL-CIO saw fit to campaign against U.S. adoption of the Kyoto Protocols, which it regarded as an economic albatross, and, in 2002, the Teamsters sided with conservative Republicans to push for oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

Of course, both groups have consistently endorsed and campaigned for Democrats throughout this period, and there have been occasional moments of synergy, as when greens and blues teamed up to push the Clean Air and the Occupational Health and Safety acts in the 1970s. But "it was easier to do that when the economy was booming," says Les Leopold, a labor historian and co-founder of the Public Health Institute. Since the rust belt began to tighten in the '80s, the character of the relationship has overwhelmingly been one of mutual mistrust and rivalry, with the greens viewed as hostile to the problems everyday people face.

Now green-collar jobs are providing an obvious incentive for compromise. The idea is to bring about the greening of the United States while restocking the beleaguered labor movement with good positions--in both traditional fields (such as building the storkish steel turbines that now dot Pennsylvanian hills) and new ones (like energy audits, efficiency retrofitting, and biofuel production).

nuclear renaissance

Champions of nuclear power are working to change the face of the carbon-free industry, and according to World Nuclear News, they're hoping to "recreate some of the excitement that surrounded nuclear technology in the 1950s." World Nuclear News, a publication of the World Nuclear Association, has asked readers to submit ideas for more aesthetically pleasing power plants. Learn more about it from today's NY Times Green Inc post and check out some of the design submissions here.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Love this photo!

Meet Lax Couvillion and his froggy friend. Love it.


In order for a food to be considered a "superfood," it must be high in enzymes, phytochemicals, vitamins, minerals, Chlorophyll, and antioxidants. Think spinach, blueberries, walnuts...

The Superfood line put our by Naked Juice was brought to my attention by a loyal blog reader who said, "I've been really into the Green Machine juice, but I'm not sure how healthy it is." She too has grown weary of packaged and healthfully labeled "foods." So I did a little investigating and came to the conclusion that any juice from Naked Juice, particularly from the Superfood line, although naturally high in sugar, is pretty darn good for you.

The company calls itself "Naked" because they bare all in terms of ingredients. Each drink contains no added sugar, preservatives, artificial flavors or colors and boasts a pound's worth of beneficial fruit per bottle (the details of which is listed on the back of the container). The nutrition label on the Green Machine juice tells us that one serving (1 cup or 240 g) contains 25g of sugar. Compare that to Welch's Orange, Pinapple, Apple Cocktail that contains 34g of sugar, per serving of the same size, yet lacks the green power of algae, wheat grass, barley grass, spirulina, chlorella and every other beneficial ingredient special to the Green Machine.

I am such a big fan of wheat grass, I have considered shelling out the couple of hundred dollars to get my own machine. And as far as fresh, raw fruit and vegetables go, I can't get enough. I can however, get a little sick of the grainy green flavor that often accompanies anything with flax seed and, well, various types of grass. So what I am really liking about the Naked Juices is their blends, variety, and use of naturally flavorful fruits to hide those less pleasant parts.

Take a look at the contents of the three flavors in the Superfood line from Naked (following contents from

Green Machine: apple and pear juice blend, pineapple juice, mango puree, kiwifruit puree, banana puree with powdered spirulina, chlorella, brocolli, green tea extract, spinach, barley grass, wheat grass, blue green algae, echinacea purpurea extract, odorless garlic

Red Machine: apple and pear juice blend, red raspberry puree, banana puree, pear puree, grain flax seed, cranberry juice concentrate, natural strawberry flavor, natural cranberry flavor, dried dulse powder, red grape concentrate, vitamin B12, folic acid, vitamin B6

Blue Machine: apple and pear juice blend, banana puree, pineapple juice, blueberry puree, soluble dietary fiber, blackberry puree, coconut, vitamin C (ascorbic acid), vitamin E (dl-Alpha Tocopheryl acetate), niacinamide, calcium pantothenate, vitamin B6 (pyridoxine hydrochloride), vitamin B12 (cyanocobalamine), folic acid

They sound pretty great, don't they? I'm sold on end product, but what about the company's practices? Packaging? How do they compare to their competitors? Let's see...

The word on the web is that Odwalla, another big brand in the power packed juice market, although comparable, may not be as tasty as the Naked juices. Their nutritionism marketing push is a little too cutesy for me (AntioxiDance, PomoGrand), but their practices are beyond noteworthy. Odwalla products never contain artificial colors, flavors, preservatives or genetically modified organisms. They do their best to local, in season, organic produce, use green energy to run their facilities, eliminate 99% of their bio-waste and save it from going to the landfill by using a high tech anaerobic digestion system, and they donate money to the Organic Farming Research Foundation, Conservation International and several other smaller organizations that are in the local communities of their 45 distribution centers.

Naked Juice's practices are right on par. All bottles contain 20-30% post-industrial recycled content and are, of course, recyclable and 100% PVC free. The bottle shape itself reduces the number of trucks used per juice delivery. The company purchases carbon credits to offset their electricity usage. By-products (orange peels etc) are given to local farmers for animal feed (love that!). They are members of Sedex and they hold their suppliers to safe and healthy codes of conduct. The only thing that I don't love about Naked Juice is that they get their "fruit from anywhere - anywhere it's the freshest, juiciest and purest that is." I suppose this is great news for acai berry lovers but it is bad news for locavores.

So my conclusion is, as always: fresh, local, in season fruit and vegetables are the best option for you and for the environment. Since few (other than the Kingsolvers) can pull off that kind of dedication - and everyone could use a little more health in their diet - grab a Green Machine. In comparison to the rest of the bottles juice market, their practices are paramount. The nutritional bang per buck and per bottle is impressive and, if you are a soft drink drinker, try replacing your daily soda with a Green, Red, or Blue Machine. I'm willing to bet you'll notice a boost in your energy level, improvements in your skin and moods, and perhaps even shed a few pounds.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

How did I not know about Ableman??

A friend of mine mentioned Michael Ableman in an email so I promptly googled him and came across something he wrote regarding E. Coli tainted spinach back in 2006. We seem to see through the same eyes. From Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food:

Not long ago lettuce came only in heads and spinach in bunches. For a salad, someone else might do the growing, but you still did the trimming and washing. You had some control -- and responsibility -- over the process. Now salad comes prewashed and bagged. You just pour it on a plate, dress it, put it in your mouth and chew.

This convenience adds risk. You give one more job over to someone somewhere else, trusting that they are concerned as much about product quality and your health as about the bottom line on the quarterly report.

But the business of food is now big business, and it might be making us sick. Witness the spinach tainted with E. coli bacteria that is blamed for more than 180 people infected in 26 states and Ontario, Canada, including one death.

The first mixed salad greens and loose spinach were from small, local growers who hand-cut the young greens and rushed them to market, organ-transplant style. Now we have a multimillion-dollar salad industry that consolidates raw ingredients from many big producers and has little control over growing methods. Washing salad ingredients on this scale requires facilities more like municipal swimming pools or public bathhouses than where our food should come from. And if you remember sixth-grade biology, you know that stuffing fresh, green leaves into sealed plastic bags is a great way to breed bacteria.

The spinach scare has prompted cries for better regulation and inspection. But the drama over one microorganism distracts us from something much bigger: a vast industrial food system built on cheap, empty calories -- from government-subsidized corn, for example -- that feed epidemic levels of obesity and diabetes. Sometimes it seems a system more interested in finding ways to pump more high-fructose corn syrup into kids' breakfast cereals than in providing fresh, whole foods to nourish their growing bodies. Click here to continue reading.

So some new suggested reading (for myself and others):

Fields of Plenty: A Farmer's Journey in Search of Real Food and the People Who Grow It by Michael Ableman

On Good Land: The Autobiography of an Urban Farm by Michael Ableman

From the Good Earth: A Celebration of Growing Food Around the World by Michael Ableman

A few Michael Ableman articles that appeared in the LA Times

Frustration-Free Packaging

Amazon just introduced a streamlined, easily opened and recyclable packaging initiative that eliminates "wrap rage" and more importantly, the need for an item to be shipped inside an additional box. The Frustration-Free packaging (the image on the left) is sized accordingly with the product therefore reducing waste.

I think it's great. Read more about it here.

Living on a dollar a day

Tara Parker-Pope recently blogged about a couple in Encinitas, California who spent one month living on just a dollar a day each for food in order to find out how difficult it is for people with limited income to eat a healthful diet. According to the World Bank, nearly a billion people worldwide survive on a dollar's worth of food a day. The average American eats about $7 worth per day. The couple, Christopher Greenslate and Kerri Leonard, lived on raw beans, rice, cornmeal and oatmeal bought in bulk, made their own bread and tortillas and budgeted for Tang orange drink mix out of fear of a Vitamin C deficiency. Fresh fruits and vegetables were out of the question. So were canned foods and bread. From Parker-Pope's article:

Last year, Dr. Drewnowski led a study, published in The Journal of the American Dietetic Association, comparing the prices of 370 foods sold at supermarkets in the Seattle area. The study showed that “energy dense” junk foods, which pack the most calories and fewest nutrients per gram, were far less expensive than nutrient-rich, lower-calorie foods like fruits and vegetables. The prices of the most healthful foods surged 19.5 percent over the two-year study period, while the junk food prices dropped 1.8 percent.

Read the full article here and check out the couple's blog here.


Never heard of it? Me neither, but I hope to try it soon. Quinoa, pronounced keh-NO-ah or, sometimes, KEEN-wah, is a Peruvian seed with a mild, nutty flavor, related to leafy green vegetables but commonly used like a grain. The NY Times Recipes for Health reports:

Quinoa is as versatile as rice but it has a protein content that is superior to that of most grains, because it contains all the essential amino acids. In particular, quinoa is high in lysine, an amino acid important for tissue growth and repair. It’s also a good source of manganese, magnesium, phosphorus and copper, and it has a high iron content.

I'm not sure how easy it will be to find this protein-packed grain-alternative but it seems relatively easy to prepare and cook. Martha Rose Shulman recommends soaking and rinsing even packaged quinoa to be certain the bitter coating that protects the seeds from birds has been shed, and then cooking the quinoa for fifteen minutes in a three to one ratio (three parts water to one part quinoa), as opposed to the 2:1 of rice, for a fluffier grain. Find detailed preparation and cooking instructions here.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

NYC recognizes light pollution problem

New York is ranked as one of the country's most light-polluted cities by the International Dark-Sky Association. On Saturday, the NY Times reported that due to the rise in energy costs and more sophisticated lighting systems, Manhattan has dimmed it's nightscape. Yay!

Some highlights from Ken Belson's article:

Motion sensors ensure that unoccupied offices, storerooms and canteens go dark after workers and cleaning crews leave at night. Dimmers soften overhead lights that once could burn only bright or not at all. Timers guarantee that buildings fade to black while the city sleeps.

“The tall tower with the illuminated floors on all night long is probably a thing of the past,” said Randy Sabedra, the owner of RS Lighting Design, who is helping to create a new map of the city’s most prominently lighted buildings.

New York scores a 9 on the 9-point Bortle Dark-Sky Scale, the association’s favored measure, along with other major cities like Houston and Las Vegas; a typical suburban sky ranks a 5, while Tucson, which has stringent outdoor lighting codes, is also a 5.

State Assembly passed legislation in June requiring that new outdoor lighting have shields that reduce glare and waste; the bill’s sponsor, Assemblywoman Linda B. Rosenthal, a Manhattan Democrat, said it would most likely be taken up by the State Senate if the Democrats manage to win a majority on Tuesday (Republicans currently hold a one-seat advantage).

City Councilman Alan J. Gerson has introduced a variety of similar measures — to require full streetlight shields and motion detectors in all commercial and government buildings, and to mandate more efficiently lighted billboards. The first of the proposals could be taken up as early as this month.

Winter Forecast

The habits of insects, birds and plants have been foretelling winter weather to farmers for years. Some may consider it folklore, but bees nests built high off the ground, a foggy August, an abundance of spiders sneaking into the house, and the early turning of the trees have long been clues of a harsh winter to come. Because I have captured and released at least a dozen spiders in the past month, recently noticed a bees nest at the absolute highest point of our home, and the Farmers' Almanac is predicting a extraordinarily snowy winter - I think I'm going to go ahead and pull out the winter coats.

For the Atlantic Corridor, the Almanac says: "Despite a mild November, this winter will be colder and snowier than normal, with near or above-normal precipitation. The coldest temperatures will occur in mid-December, early January, and early February. The snowiest periods will be in early and mid-December, early January, early and late February, and early March."

Read more about the winter forecast and the 2008-2009 Farmers' Almanac predictions here and here.

(thnx Niko)

Obama on Pollan. Pollan on Summarizing.

Rarely is anything or done in the last few weeks leading up to the election that effects my vote and this is no exception - but I found it worthy of a post.

In a recent NPR interview Michaeal Pollan talked about how he was approached by a staffer from the Democratic party and asked to summarize his NY Times article, Farmer-in-Chief, into one or two pages so that he/she could get it into Barack Obama's hands. Pollan declined and said that if he could have said everything he needed to say in two pages he wouldn't have written the 8,000ish words to begin with. Go Pollan!

However, it turns out that Obama read the article after all. In a recent interview, the Senator said:

"I was just reading an article in the New York Times by Michael Pollan about food and the fact that our entire agricultural system is built on cheap oil. As a consequence, our agriculture sector actually is contributing more greenhouse gases than our transportation sector. And in the mean time, it's creating monocultures that are vulnerable to national security threats, are now vulnerable to sky-high food prices or crashes in food prices, huge swings in commodity prices, and are partly responsible for the explosion in our health care costs because they're contributing to type 2 diabetes, stroke and heart disease, obesity, all the things that are driving our huge explosion in health care costs. That's just one sector of the economy. You think about the same thing is true on transportation. The same thing is true on how we construct our buildings. The same is true across the board."

I'd love to link to some articles about where each candidate stands on climate change but unfortunately all the ones I am finding are pretty biased. Ugh. Wish I knew more about McKinney.