Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Great Green Goat!

Love this. Check it out: Leaders of the Los Angeles Community Redevelopment Agency rented Boer goats to eat weeds and clear some land as opposed to using gas-powered weed-whackers.

As msnbc points out, it is an economic and environmentally friendly alternative.

(Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)

Green Petcare

On my regular walks with Jack (pictured) I am never certain whether it is better for the environment for me to encourage him to do his business deep in the woods or in some ground cover and leave it there to fertilize and spare the space in a landfill or if I should always pick it up and dispose. 90% of the time, I do pick up and dispose. The receptacles provided by my neighborhood say that the bags are biodegradable but... well... what does that mean anyway? How so? Luckily, I am not alone in this dilemma and Slate's Green Lantern has addressed the issue.

In a nutshell, he says that it is important to always pick up and properly dispose of doggie waste because it contains "a bacteria that can contaminate local waterways if it washes from your lawn into storm drains. In large enough quantities, this pollution can remove oxygen from streams and rivers and contribute to algal blooms, threatening marine life."

Okay. I'm convinced. But what about after you have picked up the waste? The lantern suggests flushing it down the toilet, burying it at least a foot deep in the ground, or creating a composter far away from any fruit or vegetable gardens. He also suggests transporting with bags or boxes made from bio matter (hopefully the biodegradable bags in my community count) but what if these are unrealistic options due to the place of residence? I can't picture folks getting on an elevator in their apartment building with their stinky bags to flush and then, well, throwing the bags out anyway. Ugh.

It gets even more complicated for cat owners and I'm not certain this settles the matter for me. Check out the Lanterns post here.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Edible schoolyard

Definitely check out Tara Parker-Pope's post in Well Alice Waters Takes Kids Beyond Chicken Nuggets. Waters, along with Rachel Ray and Jessica Seinfeld, will speak at the New York City Food & Wine Festival. Waters hopes to bring an understanding of gardening and agriculture back into the lives of children and aims to educate parents and schools how to do so.

I couldn't be happier about this as a friend and I constantly discuss the need to reconnect children (and adults) with the garden and an appreciation of it.

Cherry Chocolate Macadamia goodness

I recently had my first taste of Baltimore's Michele Thortnett's homemade, all-natural granola and wow is it good. Nuts, seeds and organic whole grain oats are blended by hand with no dairy, eggs, additives, or preservatives. Nice, huh?

I am enjoying some of the Cherry Chocolate Macadamia granola right now. Not only is it amazing, I feel good about the fact that the entire operation is as green as can be, from their delivery truck (that runs on waste vegetable oil) to their website (which is offset 100% with certified wind power).

Can't wait to try the Pumpkin Spice variety! Visit Michele's website here.
**update 10/07/08** Tried the Pumpkin Spice and it is delicious. Highly recommend.

Yay frogs!

With all the rain this weekend, I was surprised to only come across one or two froglets. Too bad I wasn't looking around the rain forest in Honduras because they found a previously presumed-extinct little Miles' Robber frog (crauygastor milesi).

National Geographic reports that "while trekking last year through Cusuco National Park in Honduras, Jonathan Kolby, a senior herpetologist with the conservation group Operation Wallacea, stumbled across the frog."

The assumption was that chytrid fungus wiped out the species but alas, the little Robbers prevail!

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Love the new Chick-fil-a ads

You all know I don't exactly support fast food chains but I love this ad and had to post it.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Global Warming Pollution Increases 3%

Bad news from the Global Carbon Project's release last night: CO2 emissions are accelerating and could push beyond leading scientists' worst-case scenario projections. The pollution leader is China, followed by the U.S.

A little bit goes a long way - in many senses. Check out these simple suggestions from the Environmental Disease Fund to learn some small steps you can take to help.

And if you are really interested in the topic, calculate your carbon footprint on conservation.org OR calculate how many trees you would need to plant each year to offset your footprint here.
Visit the Arbor Day Foundation to help offset your lifestyle by clicking the logo above.

Friday, September 26, 2008

reduce, re-use, recycle

Just found this on Reuters:


"Wal-Mart Stores Inc will give out fewer plastic shopping bags, and encourage shoppers to reuse and recycle them, as the retailer aims to slash its plastic bag waste by a third worldwide by 2013. The plan is expected to cut the equivalent of 9 billion plastic bags from stores each year, and eliminate more than 135 million pounds of plastic waste globally in the next five years. The world's largest retailer said on Thursday it aims to reduce plastic bag waste by 25 percent in its U.S. stores and 50 percent in other countries. "If we can encourage consumers to change their behavior, just one bag at a time, we believe real progress can be made toward our goal of creating zero waste," said Matt Kistler, senior vice president for sustainability at Wal-Mart. Wal-Mart's U.S. stores will begin selling a new 50-cent reusable bag in October, and its baggers will be trained to pack bags more efficiently. Earlier this month, its Mexico stores introduced reusable bags that cost one-third less than the previous ones." Read full article here.

A few weeks back I posted about some retail giants installing solar panels - so I am happy to hear about this news as well, although some critics are saying that this is a rather small effort. I absolutely believe that any action is better than inaction.

Thursday, September 25, 2008


This burger has preserved itself since 1996. Nutrition consultant and wellness educator, Karen Hanrahan, recently posted this disturbing photo on her website and blogged about using the frightening paddy as her "favorite prop" when educating parents about nutrition and healthy food choices. The McDonald's hamburger has been kept in an old Tupperware container without any additional preservatives for twelve years. TWELVE YEARS!

Read the post and view other burger images (including a 2008 to 1996 burger comparison) here. Thank God I have never eaten a hamburger. This is really creepy however I am curious to see how other uber-processed foods would compare after twelve years. (Please, no one suggest I experiment with peanut MnMs. They are my Achilles' heel. There is no way one of those delicious little morsels could go uneaten in my presence for more than twelve minutes let alone years.)

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

powerful cows

The NY Times put up a great slide show about the Green Mountain Dairy farm in Sheldon, VT. Turns out they are part of "an alternative energy program that converts methane gas from cow manure into electricity." I love the picture above, by Dennis Curran.

Check out the slide show here and for the related article: Electricity From What Cows Leave Behind for details about the conversion process.

And in other good news, the NY Times has a new blog: Green Inc.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Backyard wildlife

"Amazing how nature endows these little creatures with such intricate color and detail..."

Friend, mentor, journalist, loyal blog-reader and clearly talented photographer, Jonathan Bor, sent me this awesome picture recently taken in his backyard and I can't get over how close he was able to get to this critter. After a few shots like this one, Jonathan actually pulled the blade of grass and moved him to a clay dish and the little fella let him do it!

There is a secret passageway (also knows as: a space desperately in need of some caulk) from the hose faucet outside our house into some plumbing apparatus on the opposite wall inside our little half bath, through which many a critter like these have found there way into our home. Every once in a while, the house guest is a sweet young grasshopper (as opposed to wolf spiders the size of my hand and crickets that look like something from the Mesozoic era) and I gotta tell you... they are pretty hard to catch with a cup or a net let alone a camera.

Thanks for sharing, Jonathan!

want not waste not

TIME magazine published a great article about "Sustainable Dave" Chameides and his efforts to reduce his garbage footprint by gaining a better understanding of the amount of trash he produces in his day to day life. How so, you ask? By holding on to all of the garbage he is responsible for in a year in the basement of his home.

For the past eight months his waste has totaled up to a little over 30 lbs. Compared to the average American, who is estimated to have created 1,000 lbs of trash so far this year, he is clearly a cautious consumer. The estimate per American for an entire year is 1,700 lbs. Wowzers.

The article gives some startling details about the cost of garbage disposal and the excessive consumption in our country and if it doesn't make you think twice... well... maybe you are the marketing guru who is responsible for that fifth P: Packaging.

Anywho... Check out the article as well as Dave's blog about his efforts, reasons and progress.

(thnx holly)

Monday, September 22, 2008

Learning from the "vegetannual"

As you know, I've been enjoying Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle this late summer/early fall and the further I get into the family's journey of through a year of eating only local, sustainable food, I'm having a harder and harder time shopping in a conventional grocer. Just yesterday I ran into the local supermarket for some TP and paper towels and thought, "Hmm... I am out of apples... I'm sure they've got some fairly local ones..." Not quite. The apples I found in the organic section... ugh... I couldn't bring myself to purchase them. Why, you ask? Because they were from New Zealand. New Zealand! Really?

Granted, I know Australia and New Zealand are leaders in the organic and biodynamic farming fields, I was just surprised (yet again) that so many of these supermarket chains continue to ship in these varieties bred to survive travel and provide little in terms of taste and nutrients when there are certainly plenty more local resources.

So... as I looked around and saw asparagus, spinach, pineapples, lettuce, sugar cane and every other product of a plant you can imagine I was reminded of "The Vegetannual" that Kingsolver uses as a guide to lead those of us who are, eh hem, agriculturally-challenged, through the growing season. So many of us have grown so used to picking up a bunch of bananas at the grocer we don't even consider the fact that they have traveled far and wide so that consumers worldwide can enjoy some tasty potassium anytime they please. It's rather greedy of us to expect to have this vast selection year-round, don't you think?

So I departed the shop with my paper goods and drove over to this wonderful stand at the intersection of Route 99 and Bethany Lane, where I found some delicious peaches that offer a unique pinch of pucker with their sweetness. Perhaps I have persuaded you to visit a local farmers market and stick to what is in season right now? Here's what you can expect to find:

Sweet corn
Summer squashes
Cherry tomatoes

This is a great time of year for shopping your local farmers market. Admit it, that is a pretty tasty selection listed above!

Inspired recycling

Check it out:

It is a thistle feeder made from the packaging of tennis balls and a hanger. Very inspired and very easy to do. Just remember to make some slices for the birds to slip seeds through.

Love it!

(thnx Susan and David)

Sunday, September 21, 2008

More benefits of fish oil/omega 3s

Roni Caryn Rabin for the NY Times recently wrote about the increasingly popular suggested treatment by pediatricians who practice integrated medicine: fish oil and omega 3s. Although the research is limited, many parents concerned about the side effects of conventional medicine are turning to this option first for the treatment of mood disorders, primarily ADHD, learning and developmental problems, and dyslexia. Read Rabin's informative article here.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Hunters often overlooked

Those of you who have had a conversation with me regarding my decisions to remove meat from my diet know that my reasoning is 50% environmental, 25% because of my love for animals and an inability to support an industry that mistreats them and treats them with God-knows-what that can't be good for them or us, and 25% due to the Pollan-esque feeling of being so disconnected from the hunting, killing, butchering and so forth process that I find myself to be... well... undeserving. For those of you that I haven't spoken to about this, basically, I can connect to growing vegetables but not to butchering an animal. Those who can connect - i.e. the hunters that earn their meat, are highly respected in my eyes and I feel like they are entitled to their meat more than the majority.

In this article in The Washington Post on Monday, Steve Sanetti, the president and chief executive of the National Shooting Sports Foundation, wrote about the 15-20 million often-overlooked population that have lived an eco-friendly, sustainable lifestyle long before "organic" and "renewable" became all the buzz. It is an educational read and I'm glad to see the topic written about. I even have to admit that I love Sanetti's closing line: "For us, the amusing irony is that American society, which has looked down its nose at hunters more sternly with each passing generation, is discovering that camouflage has been a primary shade of green all along."

(thnx Lisa)

Home made, bittersweet Playdough

As my dear friend counts down her last few hours here at The Sun, she found time to send me a link to a fun, all natural and non-toxic recipe that warms the heart.

Check it out here.

And because I couldn't locate a permalink, here is the recipe:

3 cups flour, sifted

1 1/2 cup salt
6 teaspoons cream of tartar
3 1/4 cup water
3 tablespoons oilfood coloring

Whisk all the dry ingredients together in a large pot until no lumps remain. Whisk in the wet ingredients (except for the food coloring) and stir until no lumps remain. Cook on high for 3-4 minutes until a dough forms. Separate into several portions and add food coloring, kneading until uniform in color. Store in airtight containers.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Eco Joe

I have said my piece about using re-usable water bottles in place of the (gulp) Fiji or whatever other wasteful imports I see more often in trash cans than recycling bins, but I have not touched upon coffee/tea receptacles.

Thankfully, a loyal reader sent me Slate's Green Lantern's response to the latest coffee quandary: to use polystyrene/paper cups and dispose or to re-use ceramic/stainless steel and wash. Re-use and wash, right? Duh! Styrofoam is in landfills... like... forever! Well... yes it is but no, it isn't that simple. Both options have environmental consequences. Some more severe than others depending on what matters most to you, where you reside, and how often you feel the need to clean your coffee/tea mug.

Get the details from the green lantern here.

If your office is one of those eliminating disposable cups and opting for a "bring your own" policy, think about taking this guy's advice and washing with cold water. In case you are wondering where I stand on this, I use a ceramic mug (pictured), wash it no more than once a week (sorry, Mom) and like to think that the global warming discussions it provokes may change the habits of others and in turn balance out the environmental impact of my tea drinking.

(thnx Bec, for article as well as mug last Xmas)

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

There is something fishy about this... or not fishy...

Orange juice laced with anchovies to give you a beneficial dose of Omega-3s and vitamin C? Fat burning waffles? Digestion regulating ketchup? Powdered beets, carrots and bananas in peanut butter? Ugh. Nothing says health like getting nutraceuticals - that are hardly proven beneficial after separation from the healthy whole FOOD - by way of processed concoctions like these.

NY Times reporter Julia Moskin weighs in on new "added value" health claims being made by uber-processors Tropicana (owned by PepsiCo), General Mills, Kraft and Dannon in her article Super Food or Monster From the Deep? From the article:

A new brand of peanut butter, Zap, is imperceptibly fortified with powdered beets, carrots and bananas. NutritiousChocolate
, a new product from Gary Null, a health-food marketer, includes the usual ingredients of chocolate: cocoa butter, cocoa beans, cane sugar, vanilla. Oh, and broccoli, cranberries, nectarines, parsley, pomegranates, watermelons, kale and more — a total of 30 additional plants, all in powdered form. But whether the nutritional benefits of the original foods survive in additive form is still to be determined. "Whether a tomato is good for you, that’s one thing,” Dr. Kessler said. “Whether the lycopene in a tomato is good for you, that’s another. And then whether synthetic lycopene and microencapsulated lycopene are also good for you, that’s yet another thing.” ... Eating the right nutrients is a complicated question, one that nutritionists say could most easily be solved by eating a wide range of basic foods. Dr. Lichtenstein of Tufts says that the recent setbacks and surprises in nutrition research have made her rethink the whole model of adding nutrients to the diet, despite the effectiveness of vitamin fortification. Maybe the true benefit of eating a lot of fish is that you are actually eating less of something else, like steak,” she said. “Maybe a subtraction model is the key. We have a long way to go to find out.”
(fun photo from NY Times, by Lars Klove)

Besides pointing out the obviously healthier choice, to opt for the whole food, Moskin draws a clear line between the triumph of fortified foods like Vitamin-B-enriched flour and Vitamin-D-enriched milk that were based in rigorous research and studies, and the carefully designed marketing campaigns whose claims often slip through the cracks and onto the shelves. She examines the economical reasoning behind adding value and leads the reader to a Pollan-esque conclusion: that there is a whole lot more to health and nutrition than these isolated nutraceuticals.

Monday, September 15, 2008

NY Times most emailed...

Tara Parker-Pope writes candid and valuable advice about how to have success diversifying your children's diet in the article The Six Food Mistakes Parents Make that appeared in yesterday's special: Good Health Guide. I took a little heat for my comments about an interactive feature addressing childhood obesity that the Washington Post put out last week so I am happy to praise a similar piece in this post. And clearly I am not the only one as this has quickly shot to the top of the "most emailed" list.

Here are the six mistakes:

1.) Sending children out of the kitchen
2.) Pressuring them to take a bite
3.) Keeping good stuff out of reach
4.) Dieting in front of your children
5.) Serving boring vegetables
6.) Giving up too soon

As a former (famously) picky eater of a child I have to say, these are good tips. Absolutely read the entire article though. The experts cited have some really great ideas based in some solid research.

Talking potatoes

I had the pleasure of partaking in and attending a beautiful wedding this weekend. Congrats again Tina and Nick. It was such a lovely wedding.

But of course, I couldn't let the whole weekend pass without some talk of plants or global warming so today I just want to do a brief post about potatoes because they were the focus of a rehearsal dinner conversation.

In Kingsolver's book that I recently posted about, she writes about how so many of us are unable to identify a root vegetable during growth, specifically a potato plant. And by "many of us," I mean me. Had I not recently read about the beautiful blooms on the plant portion of a potato, I may have looked rather foolish when the groom's brother and best man, Mitchell Panati, was telling me about the beautiful potato farms that span the landscape of his home in Maine. The praise with which he described the landscape led me to activate the Google machine and find some pics. Check them out above and below. Would you recognize them as potato plants?

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Evolutionary dance

I am currently reading the book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Kingsolver, her husband and their daughters (although the youngest is, as Barbara puts it, too young to enter into a book contract). The memoir/journey is based on the decision to sustain/live/eat for one year on only food they grew themselves or that was grown or raised locally. I've only just begun the book and already I have to share a passage Barbara wrote about co-evolution because it's superb. So much so that I won't bother going on about how great the book is and will simply share her words. From 3. Spring Forward:

"Disease pathogens and their crop hosts, like all other predators and prey, are in a constant evolutionary dance with each other, changing and improving without cease as one evolves a slight edge over its opponent, only to have the opponent respond to this challenge by developing its own edge. Evolutionary ecologists call this the Red Queen principle (named in 1973 by Leigh Van Valen), after the Red Queen in Through the Looking Glass, who observed to Alice: 'In this place it takes all the running you can do to keep in the same place.' Both predator and prey must continually change or go extinct. Thus the rabbit and the fox both get faster and over the generations, as their most successful offspring pass on more genes for speediness. Humans develop new and stronger medicines against our bacterial predators, while the bacteria continue to evolve antibiotic-resistant strains of themselves. (The people who don't believe in evolution, incidentally, are just as susceptible as the rest of us to this observable occurrence of evolution. Ignorance of the law is no excuse.)"

Highly recommend this book, folks. A joy to read.

Better groceries... hmmm...

Can we talk about the Washington Post's interactive "Buy Better Groceries" feature? First, you'll want to check it out here.

I'm not going to criticize Sally's advice because it is good advice. What I am going to criticize, however, is the Store Directory. I understand that this is targeted at parents of overweight or obese children and therefore it contains some quasi-healthier alternative kid-friendly foods, but just saying... if you really want to help the kids out, how about eliminating frozen french fries, frozen pizza, and cookies from your shopping list? Are Nabisco Cinnamon Teddy Grams really the best choice?

A friend of mine introduced her little boy to the miracle of growing his own tomatoes. Imagine the life lesson you are sharing with your children by making a pizza from scratch sans some mozzarella cheese. How great is that!? And what kid doesn't want to bake cookies? Or instead, maybe some blueberry muffins?

I know that time is a big factor but what is more important than teaching your children to make healthy choices. I'm just saying... perhaps this interactive feature could have focused a bit more on whole foods and less on processed.

Heavy metal compost lot?

At first I wanted to post about James E. McWilliams article because of the following paragraph that quite nicely sums up conventional vs organic agriculture:

Conventional agribusiness, after all, is a chemically dependent, resource-intensive venture that contributes to global warming, aquatic "dead zones," and massive land degradation. Organic systems, by contrast, restore soil health, foster biodiversity, and recycle organic matter rather than lading the land with synthetic chemicals. Whereas conventional agriculture follows the law of supply and demand, organic agriculture follows what its founder, Sir Albert Howard, called "the law of return." Potential waste, according to this dictum, ends up enriching the soil.

But as I read on I thought, "Geez... Is nothing safe?"

So we know that chemical fertilizers used in conventional agribusiness result in the presence of excess metals like lead, nickel, mercury, copper, arsenic, zinc, and cadmium in soil but it turns out that the same toxins are in organic soil. Great.

So what is going into the compost pile? Animal manure, rock phosphates, fish emulsions, guano, wood ashes, etc. Doesn't sound so bad to me. James E. McWilliams' conclusion, as he wrote about in Slate, is that we should read the organic labels with more skepticism. But here's the thing, scientists have not conducted enough research to say that organic soil has higher counts of these heavy metals than conventional. I get the sense that the news here is that there is still a presence of these metals in organic soil and products and people should be aware of that. Thankfully, the Organic Trade Organization and the Organic Materials Review Institute are keeping a close eye on the issue.

As far as I'm concerned, it is hard to know exactly what we are putting into our bodies but I do know that the environmental impact of conventional industrialized farming is reason enough to opt for local, organic foods. I also like to believe that my Chinese foot detox patches pull excess metals out of my body regardless of how much heat I take for using them.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Will the world be flat, crowded, and hot?

Lots of buzz about The World is Flat author Thomas L. Friedman's new book, Hot, Flat and Crowded. And apparently lots of buzzwords within its text. I'm hoping to pick it up soon but for the time being, here are some reviews:

The director of the energy and sustainable development program at Stanford University and an adjunct senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, David G. Victor, calls the book a call to arms for an American-led green revolution in his recent NY Times article. It's hard to tell if that is his endorsement or criticism. From the article:

Mr. Friedman’s strength is his diagnosis of our energy and environmental nightmares. But blind spots appear when he turns to remedies. One is renewable power. Like most observers, Mr. Friedman assumes that the road out of today’s mess is studded with wind turbines and solar plants. Maybe that’s true, but maybe not. Such renewable resources account for only a tiny fraction of current power supply, and when the titans of today’s energy industry think about cutting carbon dioxide, they are more likely to imagine building carbon-free nuclear power plants or advanced coal plants that safely bury their pollution underground.

Victor's mention of carbon-free nuclear power plants has sparked my interest for the book he himself is writing on these subjects at hand. My father did a series of lectures across the country back in the 70s about nuclear energy that I'd hoped to retrieve the transcripts of but, unfortunately, I get the sense he's not too interested in jumping into eco-politics these days.

Gregg Easterbrook is less impressed with the book and takes a poke at Friedman's doomsday attitude in his review for Slate. But critics are by nature critical, right?

So thanks to the NY Times, you can read the first chapter of Hot, Flat, and Crowded here

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Learn something new everyday

I'll admit it. When I think "invasive species" I think "eminent threat." Guilty. I mean... hello?? Zebra Mussels?? It was decades ago (1986) but few have forgotten about the stowaways in the ballast tanks of ocean vessels that reproduced uncontrollably clogging pipes and waterways.

Good news about some species in New Zealand though - reported by Carl Zimmer in the NY Times. Not all biological invasions are created equal. Read a bit of the debate about the softer side of invasive species: the naturalized species and hybrids, the evolution and diversification versus the potential "infestations," extinction, climate change and habitat loss in Zimmer's article here

(thnx Alissa)

Campaign for High-Fructose Corn Syrup?

We all know that very little of the corn grown in this country arrives on our plates fresh picked from the stalk, right? The majority of it is (over)fed to livestock or processed into the most common ingredient on supermarket shelves: High-fructose corn syrup. And I guess people are starting to catch on that uber-processed junk food isn't good for anyone so the Corn Refiners Association has created this gem and others like it:

What's upsetting about this campaign is that it only addresses the end-user aspect of widespread HFCS use and consumption - those who have only just begun considering the immediate impact on their bodies and are blissfully unaware environmental repercussions of the soda they are drinking.

Eviana Hartman wrote a great article for Eco Wise in the Washington Post back in March explaining the energy-intensive processing, abundance of fertilizers, soil erosion, and resulting dead zones in the corn crop monoculture and production of HFCS. It's a quick read that quotes Michael Pollan and that I recommend in the face of this nonsense campaign.

Check it out here

Here is another one:

Washington Post reporter Jennifer Huget weighs in on HFCS. Check it out here

That's not sustainable...

...that's a white chocolate sculpture of the capitol building at a National Military Family Association reception honoring the likes of Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates; Deputy under Secretary of Education, Leslie Arsht; and Congressman Jason Altmire, among others who have worked to ensure unused GI Bills may be transferred to military spouses and pushed for much-needed policy updates regarding leave for family of wounded service members.

As always, I am grateful for the opportunities afforded to me through my volunteer work with the NMFA. And apart from schmoozing with Army Major Pat Work, aide de camp for the Secretary of the Army, I had the chance to chat sustainability and dead zones with former VP of Development for the Ocean Conservancy, Matt Schatzle. In fact, he gave me a quick history lesson about the commercial fishing industry before pointing out that the chocolate dessert I grabbed was far from sustainable. Stay tuned for a more detailed post about that conversation.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Again: Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants. -MP

You all know how I feel about "nutritionism," right? And isolated-vitamin pushers? In case you don't, I consider most vitamin-of-the-month club news to be clever marketing and cringe when I share a meal with someone who a) notices that I haven't ordered a dish with meat and comments/questions me about it, then b) tells me about the importance of protein and iron with no study to source and c) then offers their expert advice on which vitamin/supplement I should be taking.

Anywho... Baltimore Sun reporter Kelly Brewington wrote an article last week about the $9.7 billion dollar vitamin/supplement industry in the U.S. ($ total from 2007) and what advice, if any, may be worthwhile. To give you a few highlights:

- There isn't enough evidence against the practice to tell people to stop taking vitamins but there also isn't really enough to tell people to start taking them.
- Many experts agree about the benefits of Iron for women at childbearing age and calcium and vitamin D for post-menopausal women.
- A lot of the "evidence" can be biased because the vitamin-takers are already leading a healthier lifestyle.
- The bottom line however, is that eating whole, healthy, local and seasonal foods and exercising will serve your body better than any vitamin/mineral supplement.

Check out the article at: www.baltimoresun.com/news/health/bal-to.hs.vitamins08sep08,0,4530283.story

*Note: This post of course reminds me of a devastating fact about one in seven children in Africa either going or being born blind from a Vitamin A deficiency (that I will have to look up to report and source properly). I mention this because I'd like to point out that I understand the devastating consequences of a limited diet in certain parts of the world and in no way intend to diminish the importance of a balanced diet. What I am blogging about, and what Kelly Brewington is reporting about, is the supplement industry targeting the health-conscious market in America: a supposedly undernourished yet clearly over-fed population.

Another genius convenience item...

Look what I found at Target yesterday. Thank God! I've heard a lot of folks complaining about having to dip into two jars to make a PB&J. (Note: I did not purcahse this item)

Friday, September 5, 2008

Goghurt... lol

Some friends and I were just chatting about the "convenience" and "bulk" factors that attract food shoppers to major supermarket chains and Costcos and so forth versus the good-on-so-many-levels concept of buying locally and only enough food for a way or two. And then we got into how low cost for the consumer often equals even lower profits for the farmers, high profit for the middleman (processors, Walmarts, etc) and the highest cost for the planet. "For what?" we thought.

The answer (other than diabetes, high cholesterol and other western diseases) is: Crap like "goghurt."

Ellen Degeneres explains it best:

(thnx Alissa, Dennis)

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Nitrogen dilemma

While studies on the impacts of carbon continue, many realize we need to focus on what has been called "the missing greenhouse gas" as well: Nitrogen trifluoride. The abundance of which I have mentioned previously in regards to dead zones. It's rather complicated though. Think about biofuel research - these cornfields are over fertilized to increase production and further research intended to address our carbon concerns, but the nitrogen cycle and the damage may outweigh the benefits. Richard Morgan, for the NY Times, explains:

Nitrogen is part of all living matter. When plants and animals die, their nitrogen is passed into soil and the nitrogen in the soil, in turn, nourishes plants on land and seeps into bodies of water. Dr. Giblin is pursuing her research because as the Arctic warms, the tundra’s permafrost will thaw, and the soil will release carbon and nitrogen into the atmosphere.
When an ecosystem has too much nitrogen, the first response is that life blossoms. More fish, more plants, more everything. But this quickly becomes a kind of nitrogen cancer. Waters cloud and are overrun with foul-smelling algae blooms that can cause toxic “dead zones.” Scientists call this process eutrophication, but the laymen’s translation is that the water gets mucked up beyond all recognition. A recent such plague bedeviled China when its Yellow Sea was smothered in algae at Qingdao, the planned site of Olympic sailing events this summer. More than mere inconvenience, such problems routinely threaten many coastal areas and riverside communities.
Nancy Rabalais, executive director of the Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium, is known as Queen of the Dead Zone. She cruises around the Gulf of Mexico every summer in the research vessel Pelican to look for damage from nitrogen-rich river flows into the gulf. This year, she expects a dead zone that will beat the Massachusetts-size 8,500-square-mile bloom of 2002.

Read Morgan's exploration of "the nitrogen dilemma" in his most recent article:
Beyond Carbon: Scientists Worry About Nitrogen’s Effects

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Organic dessert for dogs

This is a tough one for me. I'm a dog lover/owner as well as a strong believer in getting back to basics in terms of food. And I support the growth and purchase of natural and/or organic products very much, but this new organic yogurt for dogs... well...

After exploring their website I am more and more tempted to treat my little dog Jack to it but... on the other hand... I'd rather treat him to something local like Peanut Little Bites from the Baltimore Dog Bakery www.baltimoredogbakery.com

But what do y'all think? www.yoghund.com

New Nutritional Rating System Hits Supermarket Shelves

In a grocery world where health claims cover food packaging and nutrition labels confuse consumers, an easier nutritional rating system is a welcome advancement. To help consumers assess nutritional value of supermarket items, a rating between one and 100, 100 being the best, will be assigned to designate the "Overall Nutritional Quality Index (ONQI)" of the food in three major supermarket chains this month.

The complex and comprehensive formula factors in more than 30 different nutrient markers such as vitamins, minerals, protein, carbohydrates, antioxidants, fat, fiber, folate, potassium, calcium, zinc, omega 3 fatty acids, iron, energy density, sugar, cholesterol, trans fat and so forth. I know I know, this sounds a little too nutritionism-esque but I like the concept and want to look into it further.

So NuVal, the creator of the Nutritional Scoring System, is expected to rate approximately 40,000 supermarket products by September 2009. For now, because I'm sure you are curious, here are a few example ratings that have been released:

Fresh strawberries: 100
Raw broccoli: 100
Fresh blueberries: 100
Raw spinach: 100
Apple: 96
Banana: 91
Plain oatmeal: 88
Atlantic salmon: 87
Almonds, dry roasted: 82
1% Milk: 81
Orange Juice: 39
Ground beef, cooked at home: 31
Diet soda: 15
Pepperoni: 9
Regular soda: 1

And here is the official description of the rating from griffinhealth.org:

The Overall Nutritional Quality Index (ONQI) is algorithm designed to generate a single, summative score for the “overall nutritional quality” of a food based on it's micronutrient and macronutrient composition and several other of its nutritional properties (e.g., energy density). The ONQI is further designed to stratify foods into a rank order of relative nutritiousness both universally (i.e., across all food categories) and within specific food categories (e.g., breads, cereals, frozen desserts, etc.), while avoiding the characterization of any food as “good” or “bad” in absolute terms. The ONQI enables the “average shopper” to choose foods on the basis of overall nutritional quality with the ease and fidelity of top nutrition experts. It is designed to have applications at point of purchase in retail supermarkets, on food packaging, in restaurants, inprint materials (e.g., books, periodicals), and on-line.

***UPDATE*** I found some more ratings in Nat. Geo.
Orange: 100
Green beans: 100
Pineapple: 99
Radish: 99
Summer squash: 98
Green cabbage: 96
Tomato: 96
Clementine: 94
Watermelon: 94
Fresh Figs: 91
Avocado: 89
Shrimp: 75
Couscous: 72
Canned Tuna, oil, drained: 67
White rice: 57
Canned kidney beans: 52
Pasta: 50
NY strip steak: 44
Vanilla yogurt: 43
Skinless chicken breast: 39
Canned peaches: 37
Lobster: 36
Enriched white bread: 29
Whole chicken with skin: 28
Raisins: 26
Hamburger (75% lean): 25
Bagel: 23
Peanut butter: 23
Swiss cheese: 17
Center-cut bacon: 13
Dark chocolate: 10
White bread: 9
Cheese Puffs: 4
Apple Pie: 2
Regular-cut bacon: 2
Saltine crackers: 2
Popsicle: 1
I am sort of surprised by the lower-than-I-expected rating of dark chocolate. Raisins too. And also that Cheese Puffs got a four and Saltines got a two.