Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Can pomegranate rival poppy in Afghanistan?

Maybe not tomorrow, but one can hope.

The southern province of Kandahar is said to produce perhaps the world's best pomegranates. It is also produces a huge percentage of the opium circulating the globe and is considered the heart of Taliban country. Ugh.

USAID and the UN are hoping that pointing out the quadrupling price of the healthfully pomegranates and dropping price of opium may position the fruit as a potential rival to the poppy. After all, the western demand for pomegranates is on the rise, we seem to be willing to pay out the wazoo for their juice (upwards of $4.50 for 16 ounces of the POM Wonderful brand), and from what I understand, the opium/heroin market may be a little over-saturated.

Of course the pomegranate alone will not fix the widespread nutrition deficiencies or defeat drug lords or Taliban, but perhaps shifting the focal crop of Afghan farmers is a step in the right direction.

Read more in this recent article from The Economist.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

dwindling moose population

In the last 20 years, the moose population in the Upper Midwest United States has plummeted and scientists are pointing fingers at climate change, specifically the gradual rising of temperatures in the Northwest. The LA Times reports:

"Solitary and grumpy, moose have made it clear in their estimated 13,000 years in North America that they hate warm weather. The concern about the fate of the moose comes as the Bush administration, in its last weeks, is revising regulations in ways that prohibit federal agencies from evaluating the effects of increased global warming on endangered species. Officially, the moose is not endangered in the U.S. But it is in danger of disappearing from the Midwest, which is the far southern fringe of its range. There are about 7,700 moose in Minnesota, nearly all in the northeast part of the state. That's down about 50% from 20 years ago...

...Whereas deer, wolves and bears have adapted to warmer temperatures, wildlife biologists say, moose have suffered. Moose require shade, water and cool weather, each of which is dwindling in northwest Minnesota, where the moose population struggles among small patches of aspen woods and farmland. When temperatures rise, the moose have to work harder to obtain food and find places to stay cool... that affects their immune systems, prevents them from putting on more fat in the summer (which they need to get through the winter) and makes them vulnerable to parasites."

Monday, December 29, 2008

gardening coaches

Great article and links in Slate about the emergence of "gardening coaches," folks that can help you jump start your garden and understand what grows in your region, how to plant and manage your garden, enhance an existing garden, and get you excited about getting your hands dirty. If you want to grow your own veggies and are willing to invest your time in the garden but not on the research end, $30-$80 for an hour sounds pretty reasonable.

If you don't want to pay for a coach, Slate also put up a great Guide to Planting a Beginners Garden worth bookmarking.

The article also profiles the San Fransisco, local urban farming company: My Farm, who will install your garden, weed and irrigate weekly, monitor for pests and even harvest the vegetables all for $500-$1,800 for installation and $50-$250 weekly for maintenance.

the paper towel problem

So you just washed your hands in a public bathroom and now face a choice. Do you use electricity and dry your hands with the blow-dryer or do you crank out a paper towel that you will hardly dampen and quickly discard? I wipe my hands on my pants, jacket, whatever... but depending on your attire and location (work) that may not be an option so...

The NY Times Green Inc talked to researchers at Harvard and the University of Oregon and as you would expect, it is a complex issue. The "lifecycle" energy use of the blower is much lower than the paper towels when you figure in the energy intensive mills creation and shipping of the paper towels. Not to mention there is hardly enough fiber in paper towels for them to be recycled. There is talk about composting paper towels but of course you have to factor in other contaminants that could end up in the trash in a public bathroom.

Check out Slate's Green Lantern's detailed take on the debate in this post from earlier in the year.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

More Holiday Re-Purposing

While giving gifts adorned with re-purposed gift tags, I was introduced to the thoughtful practice of using the plastic zipper bags that enclose blankets, sheets, or comforters as perfectly practical ways to store your reusable holiday ribbons.

Collecting and saving ribbons is, of course, a longstanding tradition in my Polish family. In fact, I can picture my Babci carefully sliding a box out of the wrapping paper so even that can be reused. I digress...

As with many things in life, out-of-sight can mean out-of-mind. A paper bag or box filled with ribbons and bows can get lost in a closet, its contents unknown, but a clear bag that lets the sparkle of its contents shine through is a sure way to remind you there plenty of ribbons left from last year.

(thnx Momma D)

changing way of life...

Great article in The Washington Post today about the ramifications of a dwindling oyster and crab population in the Chesapeake Bay for the folks whose lives have been built around them for generations.

passive houses

One of the original Passive Houses in Darmstadt, Germany

They are the latest buzz in energy-efficient living. There are about 15,000 of them around the world with the majority in German speaking countries or Scandinavia. They are called "a revolution in building design," but what are they?

A recent article in the NY Times attempts to explain them as " as get all the heat and hot water they need from the amount of energy that would be needed to run a hair dryer. Using ultrathick insulation and complex doors and windows, the architect engineers a home encased in an airtight shell, so that barely any heat escapes and barely any cold seeps in. That means a passive house can be warmed not only by the sun, but also by the heat from appliances and even from occupants’ bodies."

Still confused? Me too. Let me clarify. The whole point is for the structures to allow, or rather create, a temperature comfortable space without the use of a radiator or furnace. It's all about sustainability. The buildings are designed using passive solar building design techniques, which means:

- They are compact - about 500 square feet of living space per occupant
- Triple-pane, insulated windows are oriented towards the equator
- A wide range of thermal insulation materials are use
- Special attention is given to eliminating thermal bridges
- They're hermetically sealed (airtight)
- The walls are the same temperature of the floor, which is the same temperature as the air, which is the same in each room

Although it's credibility is considered questionable by many, Wikipedia actually offers quite a bit of info on these structures. I grabbed the following diagrams from their passive house page.

Diagram of passive solar design techniques

Thermogram showing the heat escaping a traditional building (left) versus the containment in the passive house (right)

(thnx Jonathan)

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Monday, December 22, 2008

Plastic Surgeon Fuels Car With Lipo-ed Fat

Read about this barf-inducing bio fuel concept and similar ones using animal fat in this recent Forbes article.

Gross. The surgeon, Craig Alan Bittner, is under investigation because it is (clearly) illegal to use human medical waste to power a vehicle.

Bittner said, "Not only do they get to lose their love handles or chubby belly but they get to take part in saving the Earth."

As always, ignorance WAS bliss...

I read some alarming statistics about Christmas on treehugger today. Because of my love for the occasional gag gift, I've suppressed these realities for some time but now that they have been brought to my attention, I feel obligated to share them with you.

Waste. The average American spends $800 of Christmas gifts each year. Within a year, around 50% of those gifts end up in a landfill. Not to mention, the wrapping paper and cards they arrived with.

My green suggestion: Set some guidelines with your family and friends early on. Maybe agree that no one needs more than one gift, or provide each other with lists of things you really need rather than things you want - think frying pan vs. Big Mouth Bass. Opt for reusable wrap. A gift bag can be used at least a few times before it looks, well, used. If you are one of those people who really likes to see the joy on the gift recipient's face when they unwrap, use newspapers. While some regions have restrictions on what type of paper can be recycled, most allow newspaper recycling and for some reason a lot people associate newspapers with recycling so maybe they will think twice before stuffing it in a garbage bag.

Together, we buy and send 2.65 billion Christmas cards a year. I love the sentiment of a hand written Christmas card and have a hard time promoting the eco-friendly suggestion of e-cards - even though that is enough paper to fill a ten story football stadium.

My green suggestion: Instead, I encourage you to re-purpose them into gift tags for next year or email me at requesting my mailing address, send them my way, and I will do so.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

The World is Fat

That is not a typo. It's a new book by Barry Popkin, The World is Fat, that points to the usual suspects: sugary drinks, cheeseburgers, sedentary lifestyle, as well as the less obvious ones like evolutionary biology, the global food economy, and the constant availability of food that he aptly calls an "obesogenic environment."

In case you forgot what an enormous (pun intended) problem obesity is in some countries and starvation in others, here's an alarming statistic: More than 1.6 billion people in the world are overweight. 800 million are malnourished. Somethings wrong here. Wowzers.

Read Newsweek's interview with Popkin here and Slate's take on Popkin and the novel here.

blinded by beauty?

This is a tough one. Witnessing the whistling winter flight of a group of swans is an experience like no other, but there is a downside to their presence. Some non-native species are actually quite aggressive towards the native ones and dangerous to our local eco-system. Since the mid 1990s, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources has attempted to control certain populations by addling eggs but there are mixed opinions regarding how effective this method is. According to a local hunter who has noted the particularly negative effect of the black beak mute swans, it may be time for the DNR to re-examine the protection laws.

“The swans can be slaughtered in Virginia but are protected in Maryland,” he tells me. “They are beautiful birds but they are eating the underwater vegetation in the [Chesapeake] bay. They are hurting the crab and duck populations and you can’t hunt them.”

Perhaps the plea for the swans protection is trumping other issues because of their longstanding cultural and symbolic significance and beauty. Or perhaps my opinions are more easily swayed around midnight at holidays parties.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

I'm not convinced...

This reminds me of those pro-HFCS ads, the "sweet surprise" ones that came out a few months ago. I should mention that truvia is made from the stevia herb - which has been used as a sweetener in Paraguay for hundreds of years. The word on the street is that "the body does not metabolize the sweet glycosides from the stevia leaf or any of its processed forms - so there is no caloric intake and stevia doesn't adversely affect blood glucose levels and may be used freely by diabetics."

more on urban farming

In a basement deep below Tokyo's financial district, an experiment in urban underground farming has not only generated employment, but it has piqued interest in new methods of farming and local pesticide-free crops.

In a region largely dependent on imports for food, LEDs, RGB LEDs, high frequency flourescent lamps, hydroponics, metal halide lamps and high pressure sodium vapor lamps cultivate herbs, flowers, shelf rice, fruits, vegetables and to germinate seedlings. Of course Tokyo and the Pasona Group aren't the only ones active in this practice. traces it's principles and roots back to WWII when 20 million Americans planted victory gardens that in turn grew 40% of this nations food supply. As environmental concerns become a larger and larger part of our daily lives, urban farming techniques continue to evolve. Definitely an industry, so to speak, worth following.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

this is rare...

...I disagree with the TierneyLab.

In his most recent post, John Tierney shared his thoughts on the West Virginia school teacher who encouraged/supported her second-grade students to fight to keep their schools recycling program alive. Those thoughts are that this was wasteful and that they should have been doing something more profound with that time. I'm not kidding. He feels they should be learning "about markets and about the long-term tendency of prices of natural resources to fall while the cost of people’s time rises."

He goes on:

"Instead, the students are being taught that saving resources is more important than saving human time, and that recycling is such a righteous activity that it deserves to continue even when it costs money and time to do it. That may be a popular belief, but that’s all it is, a belief. I’ve always thought of recycling as essentially a religious sacrament –a fine activity if pursued voluntarily, but not something that should be mandated or taught in public schools."

Okay kids, true or false:

Saving human time is more important than saving resources ___
Recycling is only for the righteous ___
If you believe in recycling you can bet you're to blame for this sh*t economy ___

Check out the entire post here. I encourage you to read the comments in response to the post as well. I understand and admire the bigger argument that is going on here but... we are talking about second-graders... I'm pretty sure they are around seven years old... just saying...

squirrel with skills

(found this on but otherwise have no idea where it came from or how to build my own squirrel obstacle course)

slower-to-digest = lower blood sugar for diabetics

A study done by researchers at the University of Toronto suggests that eating a diet rich in foods like nuts, beans, pasta, parboiled rice and lentils helps to control blood-sugar in type 2 diabetes sufferers. Half of the 210 participants followed this low glycemic-index, slow-to-digest diet regimen while the other half were advised to consume a healthy brown diet with whole grain breads, cereals, brown rice, and potatoes. Not only did the slower-to-digest diet help control blood sugar, it also lowered cholesterol levels, which of course cuts the risk of cardiovascular disease.

If the larger study the researchers have applied for a grant to perform yields the same results, and diabetes sufferers are able to adapt to a diet rich in these recommended foods, then I suppose this is good news. I can't help but wonder, however, if the introduction of nuts, beans, and lentils in turn created an absence of say... fast food or anything that could be considered less than healthy, and if there might be some other variables worthy of examination. Read more about the study here.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Obama appointments

President-elect Barack Obama just named his picks for the Secretary of the Interior and the Secretary of Agriculture. Senator Ken Salazar and former Iowa governor Tom Vilsack respectively. Brian Knowlton and Jeff Zeleny of the NY Times report:

As governor, Mr. Vilsack was a strong proponent of ethanol and wind energy, traveling the world in search of new markets and opportunities for American products.

Mr. Obama particularly praised Mr. Vilsack’s advocacy of biotech and his work to foster “an agricultural economy of the future that not only grows the food we eat but the energy we use.”

Mr. Salazar, a former director of the Colorado Department of Natural Resources and state attorney general, has also been a proponent of renewable energy sources.

A farmer and rancher with deep roots in Colorado, he is known as a staunch conservationist and an opponent of developing oil shale on public lands. But some environmentalists are unhappy that Mr. Salazar has worked to allow more offshore oil exploration.

a thorn in my side...

I love flowers. Who doesn't? In fact, my extraordinary love of Peonies, desperate attempts to grow them in my "urban garden" (aka pot on my city balcony a few years ago) and the incredible image of one on the cover of Charles Elliott's: The Potting Shed Papers, actually led me to pick up that particular book therefore furthering my horticultural hobbies. My interest in the origins and historical role of various flowers and plants, however, came about years earlier from (you guessed it) Pollan's: Botany of Desire. I digress...

For years, I have managed to suppress the reality that the perfect-petaled, fresh-cut roses I bring home to brighten the house in the middle of winter are about as sustainable as asparagus on a supermarket shelf that same snowy season. But when I came across the headline: Blooming Biohazards on VegNews this morning, my heart actually sank. Some of my closest friends are florists. So it is with bittersweet emotion that I share the following term and facts with you:

"McFlowers" - quickly and cheaply grown, factory-farmed flowers from countries with little to no regulation on the use of carcinogenic pesticides and herbicides.

The majority of flowers found in the U.S. are coming from South America. Industry workers there, predominantly women, are poorly paid and often suffer from pesticide-related illnesses.

The cost of transportation. Fresh cut flowers "are kept at very cool temperatures and packed in buckets of water or with individual plastic water tubes on every stem to ensure they keep their 'just picked' appearance. The energy burned to cool and ship these luxury items is, without question, taxing to the environment."

Read Andrea Rose's full article here.

Well, ignorance was bliss.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

11 Chesapeake Bays...

Recent data from a NASA satellite reveals that more than 2 trillion tons of land ice in Greenland, Antarctica and Alaska have melted since 2003. The water melting from Greenland alone, in the past five years, would fill up about 11 Chesapeake Bays.

Read more about this alarming evidence of global warming here.

Dubai = Not Sustainable


"Versace, the renowned fashion house, is to create the world’s first refrigerated beach so that hotel guests can walk comfortably across the sand on scorching days. The beach will be next to the the new Palazzo Versace hotel which is being built in Dubai where summer temperatures average 40C and can reach 50C. The beach will have a network of pipes beneath the sand containing a coolant that will absorb heat from the surface. The swimming pool will be refrigerated and there are also proposals to install giant blowers to waft a gentle breeze over the beach. The scheme is likely to infuriate environmentalists. The revelation comes as more than 11,000 politicians, green campaigners and others are gathered in Poznan, Poland, for the latest talks on cutting greenhouse gas emissions....

...Soheil Abedian, founder and president of Palazzo Versace, said he believed it is possible to design a refrigerated beach and make it sustainable. 'We will suck the heat out of the sand to keep it cool enough to lie on,' he said. 'This is the kind of luxury that top people want.' "

You know, the kind of luxury "top people" want. Like indoor ski slopes in the middle of the desert. Good grief. In honor of her recent departure from SNL, I have to quote Amy Poehler on Weekend Updates and say, "Really?!?!? I mean, REALLY?!?!"

Read all about it here.

Maine Warmers

I can't help but remark on the irony of the new "comforting creatures," by Maine Warmers, my brother-in-law has just alerted me to. Polar bears? Seals? Interesting... Frogs are probably next.

For those 98 percent of you who don't know what a "comforting creature" is, they are basically microwavable heating pads made with soft Berber and filled with whole corn. Think heating pad, minus the cord and hospital feel.

(There is, of course, a long story behind this. Last Christmas, the B-I-L gave me an adorable and useful warming sheep that I lent to a friend and never recovered. I refuse to admit that he is gone - that Jason the sheep is never coming back to me. My BIL knows the sheep is gone, just like the Vans he gave me that are probably on my little sister's feet as I type, and regularly gives me a hard time about it. I suppose emailing pictures of the cute new comforting creatures is part of his guilt initiative.)

Anywho, if you are interested in purchasing a warming creature, look for one here, on the Maine Warmers website

Secretary of Food

Please join me and sign the petition to Nominate Michael Pollan for Secretary of Agriculture

To: President-Elect Barack Obama

We citizens of The United States of America request the appointment of Michael Pollan to the Office of Secretary of Agriculture of the United States of America.

Through his academic lectures and papers, published books and articles Mr. Pollan has proven capable of gathering wide-ranging research, organizing it into a coherent whole and reaching non-biased conclusions. This research has provided him a unique understanding of the history, development, and contemporary practices of U.S. Agriculture and its relationship to the health of the citizens of The United States. He is singularly qualified to identify inefficiencies and present improvements in production, nutrition, and our problematic reliance on petroleum and petro-chemical based fertilizers, for the benefit of food producers and consumers both. As an academic and journalist, Mr. Pollan is free of the type of conflicts of interest rampant in the current administration which have led to abysmal performance and deficient oversight of industry at the expense of the people.

It is our belief that this scholarly approach coupled with his unique ability to synergize and coherently communicate to a wide audience makes Mr. Pollan the best choice for Secretary of Agriculture in an administration whose stated goals include affordable health and healthcare for the citizens of this nation and wholesale change from the practices of the Bush administration.

Please refer to for Mr. Pollan’s full biography and Curriculum Vitae.


Your signature on the petition

And while we are on the topic, some other suggested reading and petitions you may be interested in:

Obama's "Secretary of Food?"
Food Democracy Now
A Pitch to Obama on Food and Farming
Can the Guy From Stone Barns Be Secretary of Agriculture?

(thnx Amanda Dobbins, for buzzfeed post)

Monday, December 15, 2008

precious pygmy hippo

From the Washington Post: A British zoo celebrated the birth of a rare pygmy hippopotamus by inviting visitors to vote on its name. The zoo has selected four names to vote for: Loko, Kadina, Zimmi and Lola.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

clever little critters...

Indiana woman opens car hood and finds trove of black walnuts left by a crafty chipmunk

Guess I am not the only one with a love/hate relationship with my chipmunk neighbors.

drum roll please...

The NY Times reports that the non-profit cancer prevention organization, The Cancer Project, has debuted their list of the five unhealthiest items sold in our nation's fast food chains. Read Roni Caryn Rabin's full article here and read highlights below:

* Jack in the Box’s junior bacon cheeseburger topped the list as the worst offender. The burger costs just one dollar but is packed with 23 grams of fat, including 8 grams of saturated fat, 55 milligrams of cholesterol and 860 milligrams of sodium and just one gram of fiber.

* In second-worst place, the 89-cent Taco Bell cheesy double beef burrito, with 460 calories, 20 grams of fat and a whopping 1,620 milligrams of sodium.

* In third-worst place was the one-dollar Burger King breakfast sausage biscuit, with 27 grams of fat, including 15 grams of saturated fat and over 1,000 milligrams of sodium.

* Fourth worst went to the one-dollar McDonald’s McDouble, which contains 19 grams of fat and 65 milligrams of cholesterol.

* Last, and least-worst, was the Wendy’s junior bacon cheeseburger, for $1.53, with 310 calories and 16 grams of fat.

The Brightest Full Moon in 15 years

So perhaps the comment I made last night about "light pollution being at an all time high during the holidays because even the semi-rural suburbs were glowing in the distance" might have been... ugh this is painful... wrong? Oops. Yesterday, Wired's Clara Moskowitz wrote about the phenomenom:

"Because the moon orbits along an egg-shaped ellipse, not a circle, its distance from us changes. Today, the moon is approaching its nearest point to Earth, so it should look about 14 percent bigger and 30 percent brighter than this year's other full moons, according to NASA. Since the moon takes about 28 days to orbit Earth, it reaches its point of closest approach, called perigee, about once a month. But since the moon's orbit isn't a perfect oval — rather, it wobbles — some perigees are closer than others. Tomorrow's approach will be the closest the moon has come to Earth since 1993."

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Longwood Gardens Embraces LEDs

Since my first visit to Longwood Gardens back in 2003, I have been nagging friends and family to take the trip up there. Now, it seems that my efforts may have to intensify as I just read that they've have switched 80 percent of their holiday lights to LEDs and that, my friends, means the pros are embracing the eco-friendly so we've got to be supportive!

Growing up with a father who is a pioneer in the field of florescence, I had the luxury of learning about light emitting diodes long before they hit the flashlight key chain market. What I didn't always know though, is how energy efficient they are - using only a fraction of the electricity of that of incandescent lights. In the past few years, the safer, longer lasting, eco-friendly LED holiday lights are flying off the shelves - even though they are a tad pricier.

Read all about them in this article, originally from the Philadelphia Inquirer.

lobster prices even lower

As discussed in an August post, Daniel Gross wrote an interesting piece for Slate about the seemingly bargain price (economic and environmental) of lobster, particularly in Maine, siting the following reasons:

- Lobstermen don't pay for fertilizer or feed. Just gas for their boats.
- Short supply chain. Lobsters aren't distributed on a global scale; they move from traps to dockside tanks to either the home cooks or restaurants.
- Melted butter side dish is inexpensive.
- "Distributors seeking to maintain their margins are cramming down the fishermen and with limited local outlets, lobstermen can't hold out for higher prices."

This week, the NY Times' Melissa Clark weighs in about seizing the sale and enjoying a luxurious lobster dish at a bargain price. I certainly didn't enjoy the bit about "humane" lobster killing because, well, death by freezing, stabbing or boiling all sound pretty horrific but its a quick and clever read citing a few books I am fond of. Find it here.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Stuff Environmentalists Like

Christian Lander, co-creator of the semi-controversial website (and later novel), Stuff White People Like, has written a similar guide for the December issue of Plenty magazine: Stuff Environmentalists Like. I think it's pretty great because I understand and share Christian's sense of humor. Not everyone does though (visible in comments on his posts). Anywho, if you consider yourself to be an environmentalist of sorts and feel like having a laugh at your own expense, think about picking it up at your local newsstand or reading weekly installments as they are posted to Plenty's website. Here is an excerpt:

Step One: Bringing Numerous Talking Points to Dinner

If an environmentalist invites you over for dinner, do not assume that your host’s primary purpose is to serve you a meal. The goal is education.

You cannot assume your host is vegan or vegetarian either. Doing so could lead to a number of social faux pas that are on par with or worse than calling them a Republican. While many environmentalists are vegan or vegetarian, others can talk for hours about how it is possible to eat meat and still be green. Their requirement of course is that the animal is raised on a small farm and allowed to run around and eat grass. If you are hoping to impress a host in the latter camp, tell a story about how you are raising a few chickens in your backyard. For extra points, use the following terms: free-range, factory farm, and antibiotics.

If conversation starts to lull, it’s always a good idea to bring up a paradox that engages the entire table. The most pressing question of our generation is: local or organic? This subject is sure to create a lively distraction while you grab whatever delicious food remains, leaving only the tempeh and brown rice for the other guests.

And from the second installment, called Brainwashing Children:

This process begins with natural childbirth and quickly moves to a restricted diet entirely free of processed sugar, bleached flour, and all other food items typically enjoyed by children. The ultimate plan is to force kids to acquire a taste for organic broccoli, whole grains, and tofu before their young minds can yearn for a Happy Meal.

My Holiday Project

Reduce. Reuse. Re-purpose. Recycle.

First and foremost I have to thank my mom, LM, for this inspired idea. Without her keen ability to recognize creative and unique ideas and share them with me, these old holiday cards would have been headed towards the recycling plant having served the single purpose of sending a merry wish to a friends or family members. Thanks to LM, they are enjoying a longer, multipurpose life not only as gift tags, but as handmade eco-friendly gifts-that-then-keep-on-giving to my family, co-workers, and blog-supporters; as a fun and hopefully annual holiday project inspiring creative cutting and pasting in even the most macho member of my household; as useful items during tough economic times; and as environmental conversation (and maybe conservation?) starters with recipients.

seafood selector

I think it is safe to say that I consider myself more of an ecotarian than a vegetarian. If there were an official term for someone who practices the principles of Michael Pollan, I suppose that would be the ideal "-tarian title" for me. I digress... What I am trying to say is that, living in close proximity to the East Coast and Chesapeake Bay, I eat my fair share of seafood but have been meaning to find out the most environmentally responsible way to do so.

Yesterday, as luck would have it (and as a contributing member) I received the Environmental Defense Fund's Pocket Seafood Selector that lists the best, worst, and okay seafood choices for you and the ocean. I've listed some of the best and worst, based on environmental and health factors, below but please check out/download to your mobile phone/print the seafood and sushi guides and learn more on this website. No more Chilean Sea bass for me.


Char, Arctic (farmed)
Mackeral, Atlantic
Oysters (farmed)
Sablefish/black cod (Alaska, Canada)
Salmon (Alaska wild)
Salmon, canned pink/sockeye
Sardines (U.S.)
Trout, rainbow (farmed)
Tuna, albacore (Canada,U.S.)


Chilean sea bass
Orange Roughy
Salmon, farmed or Atlantic
Swordfish (imported)
Tuna, bigeye (longline)
Tuna, yellowfin (imported longline)
Tuna, bluefin

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

"corn syrup adds a dash of sweetness"

If you like hot dogs, I do not recommend pressing play below. Ick. I mean, it isn't anything groundbreaking or shocking... just sort of gross.

just terrific

Check out Tara Parker-Pope's recent post in the NY Times about an emerging positive trend encouraging parents to involve their children in all aspects of meal preparation in the kitchen, not just cookies and cupcakes. Parker-Pope reports that, along with a recent string of cookbooks targeted to children, Nintendo has started heavily advertising the “Personal Trainer: Cooking” game, for use on its DS handheld system, that includes videos of cooking techniques and 240+ dishes from countries around the world.

(PS - I am aware that the picture of the baby has nothing to do with this post but that is my little niece, Layla, and the picture was taken somewhat near to a kitchen in which cooking was taking place and the hat... holy terrific cuteness... I couldn't resist!)

Fellow Squirrel Supporter

When I saw these pictures in facebook friend's album titled simply: Jeff, with comments like, "Jeffrey waiting for his morning coffee and toast," I couldn't resist asking about the little fellow. Within a few hours, I received the following tragic yet heartwarming tale from Jeffrey's kind caretaker, John Lindner. It is with bittersweet emotions that I share Jeffrey's story with all of you.

Oh, Jeff. What a great squirrel. My favorite. His story ended as tragically as it started. Jeffrey's brother, (guessing on genders here) my daughter Nicole named Jeffrey, wandered out of a tree and was killed by my dog, Seven. Jeffrey remained in the tree crying and cussing the rest of that day and the next. Finally hunger drove him out of the tree. This time, I found him before the dog did. We hung out on the lawn for a bit. I called Bonnie and Nicole out so they could see him. While they were hanging with him, I started walking toward the house. Jeff followed. Stole my heart. When ever I moved more than a yard or two from him, he'd drop what he was doing and coming running to me. We called everyone we knew who might be able to help him. About half a dozen places said they couldn't or wouldn't take him. We kept him outside in protected nest for two days. Despite special water for newborns and a variety of food, he seemed to weaken. On the third day, I held him for the last time. I thought he might be exhausted, but no such luck. He died a short time later. I still miss him. -- John Lindner

Monday, December 8, 2008


The NY Times reported on the effects this bad economy is having on a practice near and dear to our hearts: recycling. The article, found here, reminds that the motive behind many large companies' active recycling efforts is profit and that as the demand for plastics and paper drops - so does the value.


My observant and thoughtful mother gave me a really cool birthday gift this year: a lightweight, fleece-lined, weatherproof jogging jacket for my winter runs - something I actually didn't have. Knowing about my growing eco-friendly efforts, she managed to find one that was made from recycled plastic bottles. Twelve of them, to be exact.

Made by New Hampshire textiles, eco-mills, the jacket is part of a line called earth-tec. Their website is under construction so I haven't got a whole lot of information about the process but so far I am pretty impressed.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

purchase the pine, people

I'm going to go out on a limb (pun intended) and say that most people aren't sure which is the greener option: purchasing/cutting down a real tree each year, or using an artificial one. The greenest option would be to purchase a real tree, roots and all, and replant it post-holidays. For those of you who aren't interested in spending so much or lack the acres of land to replant, the next greenest is, believe it or not, purchasing or cutting down a real tree year after year. Here's why:

- Remember what drives this country: profit and consumers. So many people purchase Christmas trees each year, so many growers plant trees in preparation for the season. It takes an average of 5-16 years to grow the pine trees used for the holidays. That's 5-16 years of growth during which the trees absorb carbon dioxide and other gases.

- Think about the tree farms. Pines are hearty. Christmas tree farms are often planted where other crops are unable to grow. They stabilize the soil, protect water supplies and provide refuge for wildlife.

- When a Christmas tree is cut down, one to three seedlings are planted in its place - totaling an average of 56 million trees each year.

- After Christmas, real trees can be recycled into mulch or other useful products.

- If you purchase or use an artificial tree, chances are it was made in china from non biodegradable materials. While some hang on to their artificial trees for decades (like the silver tinsel one pictures above that I'm certain my mother is still storing in her garage), most discard them within ten years and they end up in our landfills - where they can remain for centuries.

So go for it, folks. Get the real tree.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

love the new england clean energy council logo

Not just because my talented friend Tom O'Keefe designed it, but because it embodies the innovation and crisp cleanliness of the council while expressing their growing initiatives.

Friday, December 5, 2008

I don't even know where to start...


My girl emailed me about this site, vegnews, that just launched on December 1st, after a year in the making and I'm lovin' it. Unlike a lot of "green" sites popping up these days, it isn't about the coolest new overpriced product made from recycled materials. It reads just like their magazine and offers a great gathering of news and ideas. The magazine was named "Best Lifestyle Magazine" this year, "Best Niche Magazine" in 2007, and #18 on the Chicago Tribune's Top 50 Magazines in 2006 so... just saying... it's definitely "add to favorites" worthy.

(thnx Kara)

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Meat Consumption and CO2 Emissions

You can thank the NY Times for this one:

Check out the article that accompanies this graph here and remember, if everyone treated meat like a side of feed lot remorse, I mean, a side dish - like a side dish, and cut back just a little therefore decreasing demand then maybe, just maybe, the supply would start to decrease... and the manure... and the methane gas...

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

i heart squirrels

After seeing my recent post about squirrels and acorn shortages, a friend reminded me of an encounter I had with some squirrels in the park behind the White House last year. Lucky for you all... I located the pictures. Please note that:

a) I've already taken a lot of heat for "letting that germy, rabid-looking thing" near me, let alone on me
b) I do not suggest letting random squirrels climb on people and only did so because the poor thing was some sort of squirrel-rat hybrid with a saber tooth (I'm making it worse, aren't I?) and needed help breaking the peanut in two
c) Had I known about this meeting in advance, I would have brought gourmet nuts instead of the peanut MnMs, which I don't leave home without, and removed the potentially-toxic-to-squirrels chocolate shell

six degrees

You may have noticed a new addition to my recommended reading list: Thomas M. Kostigen's latest book, You Are Here. Or you may not have noticed - which is why I am posting about it. It's a great book. The basic premise is in it's subtitle: Exposing the Vital Link Between What We Do and What That Does to Our Planet. So many people, myself included, are unaware of how our seemingly small individual actions are connected to the enormous environmental issues we hear and read about. Kostigen's book makes those connections for you, in an uncomplicated, conversational, educational and entertaining tone. Let me give you an example from Chapter Two, Our Future, Mumbai, India:

"The simple things you see and hear have meanings upon meanings. When I walk to the Gateway of India, a huge archway in front of the Taj Mahal Hotel on Mumbai Harbor, I see the tourists mill and snap photos. But beyond, way in the distance, are convoys of shipping tankers. They are low riding, meaning they are full. And they are making their way into port filled with goods... and waste, often hazardous waste... This is where the traces of American lives, thousands of miles away, can be found steaming to shore... About 80 percent of the electronic waste in the United States is exported, mostly to Third World countries like India. It comes by ship, on tankers filled with used computers, cell phones, televisions, batteries, all kinds of things that contain mercury, lead, and heavy metals that are dangerous to people's health and the planet... For every PC we buy, we discard one. While about two billion dollars worth of electronic equipment is recycled in the United States, it represents just 11 percent of the e-waste generated."

Pretty disturbing, huh? There's a lot more to this e-waste export too. Instead of a U.S. recycler spending the twenty or so dollars to recycle a discarded computer, Indian importers will buy it for fifteen dollars, extract usable parts, generate about ten dollars in revenue, and dump the hazardous remains in India's backyard. Net gain per computer for the U.S. recycler: $35. For the Indian importer: $10. Environmental impact: priceless.

Long story short: I highly recommend this book.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Studies show that people trust the "low fat" label to mean fewer calories

So Pollan was right. Again. Marketing certain foods as "healthy alternatives" or "low fat" leads people to believe that those foods are healthier than they really are. From the TierneyLab:

They’ve found that all of us, even professional dieticians, make systematic mistakes when estimating how many calories are on a plate. Experiments showed that putting a “low fat” label on food caused everyone, especially overweight people, to underestimate its calories, to eat bigger helpings and to indulge in other foods.

Find the entire article here.

certified organic people?

Tara Parker-Pope put up an interesting post yesterday about going organic - or more specifically, about Dr. Allen Greene's attempt to eat 100% organic over the course of three years (because that is the amount of time it takes to have a breeding animal certified organic by the Department of Agriculture).

As you would expect, Greene joined a CSA, cut back on his meat consumption, and notes the high cost and challenges of eating 100% organic. Check out the entire post here and this interesting tidbit from Parker-Pope's post:

On the road, though, life was more challenging. In corporate cafeterias and convenience stores, he looked for stickers that began with the number 9 to signify organic; stickers on conventionally grown produce begin with 4.

the new logo!!!

Friend and graphic designer extraordinaire, Rhonda Zillig, just emailed me the new logo for the blog. Could it possibly be more perfect!?!? What do you guys think - orange or blue?

(thnx Rhonda)

a very merry un-birthday... to squirrels! to squirrels!

Since I was born, on this day 27 years ago, my mother has made it a point to keep everything equal between me and my sister. Equal number of jelly beans in our Easter baskets, presents under the tree, knick-knacks in our stockings, and the most celebrated reminder that mom loves us equally: the un-birthday. While my sis celebrated her b-day with friends, gifts and crafts, my mom would get my attention and give me a special surprise of my own (and of course do the same for my sis on my b-day). She still does it today. We all do actually. And this year, in light of the acorn shortage, I decided to wish the local squirrels a very merry un-birthday... with nuts! gourmet nuts!

Monday, December 1, 2008

love this

A friend of mine just introduced me to charity: water and I am already a big fan. The mission is simple. charity: water is a non-profit organization bringing clean and safe drinking water to 1.1 billion people in developing nations who don't have access to it. 100% of the money raised goes directly to projects, most funding sustainable clean water solutions in areas of greatest need. Other projects focus on raising awareness through events, fundraising exhibitions, and other public awareness campaigns (most currently Jingle Wells).

On the site, founder Scott Harrison shares his story with an undeniably honest tone. "For me," he says, "charity is practical. Sometimes easy, sometimes inconvenient, always necessary."

(thnx Lisa)

worthwhile read

Holy Cow! What my 3,000-pound steer has taught me about faith.
By Jon Katz

I read it in Slate last week and really enjoyed it. Find it here.

starving squirrels

Now it all makes sense. The gourd torn to pieces on the front porch. My sister's peppers stolen from the plant on her back porch. The picked apart pumpkin on our jogging trail. An empty bird feeder within hours of a refill. There is a major acorn shortage in Maryland and Northern Virginia, people. Major. And our furry little friends sure are feeling it.

The Sunday Washington Post reported on the absent acorn phenomenon yesterday but the cause for zero-production remains a mystery. Some say it is just a slow production year or a strange anomaly. Others suggest weather patterns and heavy rain could play a role. I can't stop thinking about that movie The Happening in which the trees wage biochemical warfare in areas with high concentrations of humans and development. Ugh.

I have to say, on morning dog walks under Oak trees taller than nearby homes there were more than a few moments when I thought to myself, "Tread carefully, self. A direct acorn hit on the head can be startling and doggie droppings are hard to spot in a blanket of acorns... Wait a minute... the ground seems so even and soft... Not bumpy as it would if it were covered in acorns... Guess the squirrels are quick to gather 'em this year. "

Not quite, huh? Poor little things. Guess I'll be picking up some peanuts on my way home tonight.