... is a place for the eco-curious to accompany one another as we sort through the latest green news, learn the history and future of food and agriculture, strive for sustainability, reflect on fun encounters in life and nature, and work to reduce not only our carbon footprints, but the footprints of our readers - one carefully considered step at a time.
Happy Holidays, folks. We here at JustSaying are busily breaking down cardboard boxes and sorting through paper for recycling and re-use and therefore on a bit of a seasonal break from the blog but just wanted let everyone know to stay tuned later this week for some great post-holiday tips.
Topics to include:
- Eco-friendly gifts received and now endorsed by JS
- Re-purposing our holiday trees
- Doggie DNA tests
- Memorable holiday tags
In the meantime, if you have holiday cards that you would like to send in for re-purposing next year please email for our mailing address.
Hope the 8701-A and 8701-B residents are as excited about the thistle stocking (hung in their holly tree with care) as I am. I know it's a few days early but I couldn't stand keeping it from them any longer. Enjoy, little ones! And have a lovely holiday, readers!
Love the thistle stocking? Purchase one for your own feathered friends at Plow and Hearth. (Thnx Neeks)
Last weekend, my little sister mentioned that the googly-eyed glutton on Sesame Street may be using his celebrity to fight the childhood obesity epidemic by trading in those chocolate chips for healthy servings of fruits and vegetables. As lovely - albeit drastic - as an idea as this is, it is not actually happening. Turns out, the rumor came about back in 2005 when producers decided to focus more strongly on sending positive health messages to their young viewers by adding segments about exercise and proper nutrition. Cookie Monster expanding his horizons to other food groups was just one part of the initiative.
PBS received letters and emails about the possible personality overhaul and an online petition even arose suggesting that folks boycott the "Veggie Monster" - but there was no such creature to protest. Can you picture the protestors on PBS's doorstep, though? Chanting: "C IS FOR COOKIE! THAT'S GOOD ENOUGH FOR ME!!!" stomping on bananas and snapping carrots over their knees? Too funny.
Anywho... Cookie Monster has since made appearances on the Today Show, Martha Stewart, and The Colbert Report to assure viewers that although he now enjoys an array of healthful snacks, cookies are still a part of his diet: "sometimes." The shift in the character's eating habits became a hot topic again last month when Sesame Street celebrated 40 years of programming (since November 10th 1969), making it the longest running children's program in television history.
So kudos to Sesame Street and their thoughtful initiatives. Cookie-lovers everywhere can calm down and rest assured that the Cookie Monster we know and love isn't going anywhere (thanks to a healthy, portion controlled, diverse diet).
I don't know what is harder to believe: That this guy woke me up early this morning by banging into the bedroom window -or- That I actually went out in this blizzard to fill up the feeder. As if he needs it! Look at that belly!
So there's a big story this week in the NY Times examining potential dangers of tap water - which, according to the latest data from the EPA, is not as carefully regulated as I/we once thought. This is a freakin' disaster for JustSaying's crusade against bottled water. Charles Duhigg reports:
"Only 91 contaminants are regulated by the Safe Drinking Water Act, yet more than 60,000 chemicals are used within the United States, according to Environmental Protection Agency estimates. Government and independent scientists have scrutinized thousands of those chemicals in recent decades, and identified hundreds associated with a risk of cancer and other diseases at small concentrations in drinking water, according to an analysis of government records by The New York Times... But not one chemical has been added to the list of those regulated by the Safe Drinking Water Act since 2000...."
Okay okay... the system needs some attention and upgrades. The NY Times put up this great interactive allowing folks to look at the water systems in their respective states and districts. Seeing these chemicals listed as contaminents in local water systems is bound to scare people straight to Costco for cases of bottled water. The article continues:
"Drinking water that does not meet a federal health guideline will not necessarily make someone ill. Many contaminants are hazardous only if consumed for years. And some researchers argue that even toxic chemicals, when consumed at extremely low doses over long periods, pose few risks. Others argue that the cost of removing minute concentrations of chemicals from drinking water does not equal the benefits... Moreover, many of the thousands of chemicals that have not been analyzed may be harmless. And researchers caution that such science is complicated, often based on extrapolations from animal studies, and sometimes hard to apply nationwide, particularly given that more than 57,400 water systems in this country each deliver, essentially, a different glass of water every day."
However, independent studies published by the National Academy of Sciences suggest that contaminated water is the source of millions of Americans maladies (upset stomachs, birth defects, cancer) each year.
This is super tricky, folks. I urge you to read the article in its entirity here. Duhigg addresses the actual risk posed by small traces of arsenic (which is roughly equivalent to risks associated with receiving 1,664 x-rays although it sounds like it will turn us all into mutant ninja turtles); risks and studies surrounding the presesnce/development of bromates (particularly out in LA); a handful of contaminents associated with manufacturing pollution (some regulated, some not) such as perchlorate, trichloroethylene, perchloroethylene; other chemicals associated with liver and kidney disease (lead, mercury) and Parkinson's disease (manganese) and what the EPA intends to do about all this.
In a statement, the E.P.A. said that a top priority of Lisa P. Jackson, who took over the agency in January, was improving how regulators assessed and managed chemical hazards... “Since chemicals are ubiquitous in our economy, our environment, our water resources and our bodies, we need better authority so we can assure the public that any unacceptable risks have been eliminated,” the E.P.A. wrote. “But, under existing law, we cannot give that assurance.” ...Ms. Jackson has asked Congress to amend laws governing how the E.P.A. assesses chemicals, and has issued policies to insulate the agency’s scientific reviews from outside pressures. But for now, significant risks remain, say former regulators.
For a long time, I have sat complacent and content with my tap water and urged those around me to trade their BPA rich plastic bottles in for reusable ones. But perhaps it's time I start putting a little more emphasis on home purification systems and a little less trust in the "America has the safest tap water" mantra I've undertaken up until reading this article.
New research from the University of Missouri: People are more likely to walk with a dog than walk with another person. You don't say! You mean to tell us that a human exercise partner, who can and (hopefully) does use the bathroom indoors, is less likely to motivate you to get outdoors regularly and consisently than say... a dog who needs to do his business outside in rain, sleet, heat or snow (regularly and consistently so help your carpets)?
" ...people who walk dogs are more consistent about regular exercise and show more improvement in fitness than people who walk with a human companion. In a 12-week study of 54 older adults at an assisted living home, 35 people were assigned to a walking program for five days a week, while the remaining 19 served as a control group. Among the walkers, 23 selected a friend or spouse to serve as a regular walking partner along a trail laid out near the home. Another 12 participants took a bus daily to a local animal shelter where they were assigned a dog to walk.
To the surprise of the researchers, the dog walkers showed a big improvement in fitness, while the human walkers began making excuses to skip the workout. Walking speed among the dog walkers increased by 28 percent, compared with just a 4 percent increase among the human walkers.
“What happened was nothing short of remarkable,” said Rebecca A. Johnson, a nursing professor and director of the Research Center for Human Animal Interaction at the University of Missouri’s College of Veterinary Medicine. “The improvement in walking speed means their confidence in their walking ability had increased and their balance had increased. To have a 28 percent improvement in walking speed is mind boggling.”
Ms. Johnson said that because some people are afraid of dogs, the participants were given the choice of walking with a human or a dog as the companion. Ms. Johnson said the dog walkers were far more consistent in sticking with the program than those who were walking with humans.
“In the human walking group, they were regularly discouraging each other from walking,” she said. “Missouri is a hot state. We would hear them saying: ‘It’s hot today. I don’t want to walk, do you?’ ”
The response from participants in the dog-walking group — and their dog companions — was very different.
“When the people came to the animal shelter, they bounced off the bus and said, ‘Where’s my dog?”’ Ms. Johnson said. “And the dogs never gave any discouragement from walking... "
Nothing short of remarkable?? Oy. Check out the full post here. The reader comments are pretty funny.
I've avoided addressing this topic for a few days now but suppose it is time to at least acknowledge it. On the left, we have a lot of folks highly concerned about the human impact on our planet and desperate to prove that there is in fact a problem here - be it visible in climate change, species depletion, melting polar ice caps etc. On the right, we have a camp eager to point out the vast number of improvements made by the human species, the progress we've made in carbon emission regulation in the past few decades, the unsustainable habits of very wealthy Al Gore, etc. I say: thank heaven for both sides because they are passionate and keep the debate alive, progressive, current and fair.
This past weekend I had breakfast with my father - a scientist who is a registered republican (rare, I know) - and as much a I resisted, it seems he brought my chair from the far left of this debate to somewhere around the middle. He pointed out the historical flattening of populations, the crisp white snow on the ground that would look a lot more like a scene set in a Dicken's novel had America not progressed leaps and bounds in the cleanliness of our automobiles, the unmatched medical and scientific innovation of folks who aren't busy farming all day and of course the factory farmed eggs in my omelette.
I argued that climate change isn't linear and that coastal cities are doomed, that so much of our scientific innovation is treating western diseases brought about by a food system that needs an overhaul not a band aid, and that species are dissappearing from land and seas as fast as forests are being torn down for McNeighborhoods. For once though, I listened more than I talked and I learned more than I preached. And I learned that there are a few things we can all agree on and perhaps my energy is best focused there.
No one on either side wants to see species endangered and dissappearing. No one wants weather patterns disrupting entire cities and farm lands. What the hot-headed debaters fail to acknowledge is that we are all in this together and interested in the smartest, cheapest, most effective solutions and those ideas come from both ends of the political spectrum.
So although I truly believe that the human species has done plenty of harm to nature, I don't necessarily believe that nature is as passive and weak as I did before. Perhaps the changing climate is nature's way of fighting back and what we deem as detrimental may be part of a naturally developing solution. Of course that solution may be to wipe out the human species with droughts, extreme temperatures, hurricanes and floods but it may not. Maybe these are warnings, not warmings, and we're evolving side by side with the climate, coming up with greener solutions and even fudging some data to convince everyone that this is serious and we can't ignore it.
Don't get me wrong - I'm still going to preach the enviro-benefits of being a vegetarian, scold folks for drinking bottled water, emphasize the importance of recycling and respecting our mother earth, chain myself to trees and all that important stuff - but just saying... maybe I'll cool it a little with the global warming comments and let nature speak and fight for itself.
Just found out via the B'More Green Bloggers that Mayor Sheila Dixon and Baltimore Public Works are sponsoring a recycling contest called the RecycleMORE Community Tonnage Competition to help the initiative in the city. I wish it were statewide!
And also, just (can't resist) saying - do you think the winning block will get gift cards?
My super-hip gal pal gave me a glorious, fresh, organic, vegan, handmade bath bomb in my birthday gift-bag last week and was surprised to learn that I had not yet heard about the company that created it: LUSH Cosmetics. Naturally, I visited one of their U.S. stores to learn about their ethics, products and get a little holiday shopping done.
Here's what I found out and why I am adding LUSH products to my list of holiday gift suggestions:
The aforementioned bath bomb/ball is one of many made in their Vancouver factory with a mold made from recycled plastic.
In fact, all the bins and totes in that factory are made with recycled content and products are packaged with recycled paper, not bubble wrap. Not to mention they use electricity cautiously and wisely and encourage their employees to bike to work.
No virgin materials are used for packaging. Their liquid and cream products are packaged in 100% recycled plastic bottles and pots.
The shampoo bar (that my sis/research partner bought from the Annapolis store during our visit) is an awesometastical way to reduce one's carbon footprint because: "Solid products last longer and weigh less than bottled liquids which take more energy to transport... One truckload of LUSH solid shampoo bars is enough for about 800,000 washes. It would take 15 truckloads of liquid shampoo to do the same job.If 1 in 5 people in the US switched from liquid shampoo to solid, about 22 million plastic bottles would be saved from the landfill. On top of this, 6 million tonnes of preserved shampoo would be prevented from entering the environment."
Absolutely no animal testing. LUSH specializes in making effective, 100% vegetarian products (more than 70% vegan actually) with minimal preservatives.
Although I tend to preach against over-consumption and consumerism, truth be told - giving thoughtful gifts and experiencing new skin and haircare products may be two of this blogger's guiltiest pleasures. Find LUSH's fun holiday products here. If you can't find what your looking for, here are a few other skin and haircare brands JustSaying highly recommends: Aveda, Burt's Bees, The Body Shop, Jurlique (especially the Biodynamic Beauty line) and Skin Preparations.
If you've got a Facebook account, chances are you've seen the status updates about your friends "working hard in FarmVille," receiving the green thumb award, or a bid to become their friendly neighbor. If you participate in FarmVille already, you know all about it and how to climb the ladder to industrial farming as fast as possible and gain access to those elusive Lily and Asparagus seeds, but for those of you who are reading this on JustSaying and not on Facebook, let me explain.
After "allowing this application," users/players begin with a patch of land upon which they can:
- Plant trees for harvest
- Plow land and cultivate grains, fruits, veggies, etc
- Purchase cows for milk, pigs for truffles, chickens for eggs and so forth
- Build farm houses, fences, picnic tables
- And so on and so forth happy farming fun
In the beginning, most of the items on one's farm have been given as gifts by neighbors and only certain "crops" are available. The more you plant, grow and harvest, the more seeds are available to you thus unlocking more levels and allowing you to raise baby elephants (for circus peanuts), build a dairy farm (that holds 20 of your cows - regular, chocolate, strawberry or green), and expand your acreage! The more you can cram onto your little patch of pixels, the more coins and experience you gain and purchasing power you achieve. Not surprisingly, most farms that I've (virtually) visited have come to look like this:
A virtual CAFO! Seems oddly realistic, right? Well... yes and no. The encouragement for rapid development is spot on but the green fields and animal-friendly pastures are about as realistic as that beautiful agrarian scene on the Land o' Lakes butter container that the film Food, Inc recently debunked. So here are the top ten reasons why I am fed up with this FarmVille foolery:
1.) Real farms are a thing of the past and this game just encourages the disillusioned idea of happy cows. 99.9% of meat (chicken, turkey, pigs, cattle, etc) is grown/created (not "raised") in factory farms. There is no option for your animals to graze. Animals don't get "brushed." Chicken coops don't house 20 happy chickens. Pigs aren't loyal pets out collecting truffles for their owners. There is no place like FarmVille! 0.1% of real farms are like this. That is hardly enough land for 1/1000th of the Facebook nation.
2.) Expansion and overcrowding is encouraged. The more horses and rabbits you have, the more hair you can brush and sell so that you can but that tractor and harvest MORE crops at a FASTER rate!
3.) There is no climate or consequence. You would think that after a few solid months in FarmVille at least one of your neighbors would encounter a bigger problem than raccoons ransacking their crops. Like say... a drought. Or maybe an early frost? Late blight? Beetle infestation? Food borne illness? Nope. At least on the Oregon Trail there was a possibility of a broken axle or death by dysentery.
4.) There are no seasons or regions. Anything grows. Anywhere. Anytime. Or in no time rather. Pattypan Squash: 16 hours. Soybeans: one day. Rice: 12 hours.
5.) If only farms could be so bio-diverse. Crop rotation is a beautiful thing that happens practically no where except in backyard farms and biodynamic ones yet in FarmVille, it's as simple as click, click, plant.
6.) Supergrow: the fertilizer of FarmVille. Not only can you fertilize your own crops (because waiting two whole days for a mere pint-sized pineapple is just plain silly), you can fertilize your neighbors crops! So much for that certified organic rating and seal you worked so hard and paid so much for.
7.) The game refuses to acknowledge the actual yield from these animals. When I first received a baby turkey I was certain he'd be sold to slaughter on Thanksgiving - but the little guy gave me feathers instead. Still does actually. And the only chickens on these farms are layers. No broilers. Okay. Speaking of chicken farms... where have all the padlocks gone?
8.) Avatars wear overalls. Yeah, okay. Again... the happy farmer who wakes up via one happy rooster and milks his dozen cows, each with their name carved into their happy, hay filled space in a bid old barn.
9.) Seed purchase is the only part that is somewhat realistic. You'd think that once you purchase some strawberry seeds you could harvest the crop and re-use seeds from that batch yet, just like on real farms, Facebook has genetically engineered the seeds so that they only produce one batch and you have to purchase the same seed harvest after harvest. How fitting.
10.) For some reason, I am compelled to play it. When I first saw FarmVille I was pretty darn thrilled. A nice educational game for the Facebook tween population! Clearly I feel a tad differently today, and yet, I harvest my crops, pet my goats, and feel guilty when I don't log on in time and my squash withers. I even take pictures of my little farm, like this one that I call, "That'll do, Pig. That'll do."
Hopefully 28 gourmet nuts for my littel furry neighbors will make their day merrier than mine. A sprained ankle, common cold, and fear of E. Coli from last night's bok choy isn't exactly the greatest way to ring in the next year of my late twenties. Oy.
Empty less than two hours later. The bare bowl cracks me up for some reason. I suppose I expected it to be bumped around or upside down or to see one of them running away with the bowl full of nuts overhead like they would have in a Disney/Pixar movie.
...for JustSaying to remind you about our favorite simple ideas to help make the holidays more green than red. Save money. Save carbon emissions. Win win!
Get a real tree. Not only will your home smell like lovely pine without any artificial sprays or candles, but you are contributing to a business that is actually great for the planet. I know, I know: Instinct dictates that cutting down trees = bad. But that isn't the case in the business of Christmas. Of course, purchasing the tree - roots and all - to be replanted after the holidays is the absolute greenest of the green. But getting a recently cut tree is still better than artificial. Christmas tree farms are a big business. 56 million trees each year that, without demand, wouldn't be planted and grown for 5-16 carbon dioxide-absorbing years before their sale. Read all about it in last years post, purchase the pine, people. (By golly gosh, those are some cute sisters in that picture!)
Make your own gift tags from last years Christmas cards. Or email me to receive a bag full of them for free in exchange for donating your old cards. JustSaying did this last year but on a much smaller scale. Tags were given to friends and family and we were working with less than a hundred discarded cards. Since then, volunteers have popped up to help make the tags and tons of cards have been donated to the re-use/re-purposing cause.
Consider purchasing gifts through organizations like the World Wildlife Fund. Not only will you be donating to an important cause, you'll get on the mailing lists for similar organizations that send out holiday-themed return address labels and wrapping paper made from recycled materials (and a request for a small donation).
About online shopping. Amazon is one of my favorites because of their eco-friendly frustration-free packaging. If you can't find what you are looking for on there, be sure and sign up for an account on your favorite sites so that you can save items in your cart until all your purchasing is complete and can be sent in a single shipment. Save yourself the shipping fees and save the packing materials and shipping miles.
Please feel free to share any green holiday tips of your own in the comment section.
Illustrator, author and designer Maira Kalman posted a wonderful photoblog today about our nation: spattered with cities filled with fast walkers, fast talkers and fast food. She had a chance to spend time with Alice Waters, Bob Cannard and Michael Pollan and bring those experiences together in this photo essay on the democracy of healthy eating.
Considering the focus of Back to the Land, you'd think this would be my favorite of hers to date but I am still rendered speechless and peaceful when I revisit Time Wastes Too Fast, which she posted earlier this year (June).
First off, Jack Shepard found and posted this on Buzzfeed so kudos/cred to him. Second, holy awesome. I love dogs as much as I love squirrels and therefore am not upset with this pup for doing what dogs do: chase cute little animals. But seriously, how great is this story? Here are the pics:
Ahhh... Turkey Day. Here we go again. I know what you're thinking, "Here comes her tofurkin' PETA agenda push." I don't blame you. It was awfully tempting to use the holiday as a platform to point out the environmental and ethical horrors of factory farming but I will resist. Instead, I ask that everyone simply:
Sure, it's far better to travel by train than car or plane for the holiday, and cooking with local, in season vegetables is ideal, but I trust that the flood of articles on the interweb about hosting an environmentally friendly feast have already told you that stuff. What I'm saying - or rather what I am just saying - is that Thanksgiving shouldn't be about overeating birds stuffed with other birds stuffed with pigs or pumpkins or whatever goes into those. It's about gratitude. Be considerate of what you are eating, think for a moment about where it came from, the efforts that went into growing and preparing the ingredients for each dish, the many moving parts in this country that made such a meal possible for you and yours and give thanks.
That's it. Just mindful and grateful. Enjoy the fruits of your labor and the delicious, peaceful fullfillment that comes along with a home-cooked meal.
How cute is this little Magombera chameleon?! (Image credit: Andrew Marshall/African Journal of Herpetology)
Conservation scientist, Dr. Andrew Marshal, was surveying endangered red colobus monkeys in the low-land forests of Tanzania when he came upon a twig snake that was eating one of these guys for lunch (I decided not to post that photo). The startled snake quite literally lost his lunch and just like that a new chameleon species was discovered.
The species is named after it's habitat, the Magombera Forest, which is under threat so Dr. Marshal hopes this will "create a banner for the desperate needs of the endangered ecosystem."
Any of you who have ever spent more than two minutes with me probably know a little something about my furry sidekick, Jack. But just in case, dear readers, I should let you know: he is a rescue puplanthropist and overall darling. His latest fund raising efforts are going on right now via the Hallmark Cutest Dog of the Season Contest and we need your help.
The Grand Prize-Winning pup will get a $1,000 cash prize and $1,000 donation to their favorite animal charity. But get this: Jack says he wants to give his cash prize to his favorite animal rescue organization, the Maryland SPCA, too! That would be $2,000 going to feed, shelter and snuggle local Maryland pets this winter!!
If you'd like to help Jack reach his goals, please click here and scroll down to click on the big red VOTE button.
I wasn't actually dumpster "diving" per say... at least in the beginning. I was simply being a good dog-owner and cleaning up after the dog on my morning run and happened to notice this gem in the pile of discarded items beside the trash receptacle.
Post jog, when we returned to the dumpster, the crew had jammed this grocery cart (that I was so looking forward to using as motivation to walk to the grocery store instead of drive) into the dumpster so diving ensued.
Once upon a time I thought that simply purchasing anything and everything organic was the greenest option. I went about my merry way in the organic produce section and slept well at night. But last year I took a closer look after realizing that the organic apple in my hand had traveled to Maryland all the way from New Zealand. I remember looking around at the bananas, pineapples and watermelon and thinking to myself, "I have never even seen a banana on a tree. Do pineapples grow on trees or in the ground? Surely the ground, right? Oh man...there is no way eating watermelon in the middle of winter is sustainable!"
Yes, fertilizer is the enemy of the oceans but there is a lot more to keeping the carbon footprint of the crops you consume at a minimum. Brendan Borrell for Slate's Green Lantern, addressed this very dilemma in Tuesday's post Sustainable Salads:
"...Certain crops require loads of phosphate fertilizer, for example, which is mined from the ground and can eventually cause stream-choking algal growth. Other fruits and veggies are grown with heavy doses of pesticides, fungicides, and other chemicals that can pollute waterways and cause reproductive problems in animals. So how do you know which crops are best to eat? Here's the Lantern's rule of thumb: Try to keep your more extravagant fruit cravings in check, but don't sweat the low-impact calories that come with your carbs.
As it turns out, it's not hard to find digestible data on the use of fertilizers. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization offers a handy list of various crops and their associated fertilizer loads. Bananas consume the most by a very large margin, requiring a whopping 427 pounds of nitrogen, phosphate, and potash fertilizer per acre of cultivation. Sugar beets and citrus crops are next, followed by vegetables, tubers, and grains. Peas and beans require just 35 pounds per acre, in part because they have capacity to absorb nitrogen from the air. In short, eat more beans...
...What does all this fancy number-crunching mean? Considering that about one-third of greenhouse gases (PDF) emitted from agriculture in the United States come from fertilizers and pesticides, identifying low-impact crops can be at least as important as sourcing your foods locally. For instance, switching from strawberries to oranges in your fruit salad cuts pesticide use by half and fertilizer use by a factor of 10. For those who can't do without their berries, your best bet may be to buy from a truly sustainable source that avoids the worst pesticides, sticks to manure and other organic fertilizers, and prevents excess nutrients from flowing into waterways. Major organic growers like Cascadian Farms and others provide limited information about their agricultural practices on their Web sites.
What about organic versus conventional produce? When it comes to dietary staples like corn, wheat, and rice, the choice isn't so clear. David Pimentel of Cornell has estimated that it takes about 30 percent less energy to grow organic soy and corn than it does to grow the conventional kind. On the other hand, organic doubters, including the father of the Green Revolution, Norman Borlaug, have suggested that the spread of fertilizer and pesticide-free agriculture would result in more land being cleared for crops to match today's conventional yields, a view that has been supported by a British government report. The USDA has just started surveying some organic crops, and we'll have to wait until all the data is in to issue a final verdict on that front. As for fruits and vegetables, going organic is the eco-friendly choice. The switch will reduce your impact on the soil and water and won't require a vast expansion of the agricultural footprint.
For all this, one of the simplest ways to ballpark the impact of a conventionally grown fruit or vegetable is to glance at its price. The trick doesn't always work, but, in general, the cheaper one probably required less fertilizer, pesticide, land, and energy."
As always, I fall back to the same advice: Buy local, in season produce *when possible. This is going to be a long winter, huh?
*** I emphasize "when possible" because everything here on JustSaying is a suggestion - encouragement in an eco-conscious direction only. Nothing changes overnight and not even yours truly can live here in America without giving in to the convenient option now and then. Just remember: a little bit goes a long way and do the best you can for yourself, your family and your environment and know that any effort whatsoever makes a difference.
File under: Good for you - good for the environment.
For a one-time payment of $43 bucks you can stop delivery on a ton of junk (snail) mail, receive two energy-efficient light bulbs, get an easily transported reusable bag, and reduce the energy costs of recycling! Did I mention that they will also plant five trees?! Love it. Visit Planet Green to sign up for the Precycle Package.
There was a time when a warm day in November seemed like a gift to gardeners - the perfect temperature to spend a few hours cleaning up the yard before winter sets in. These days it seems a bit more bittersweet because there is this looming sense that the 68 degree high set for today, albeit quite a few degrees short of the record of 79, comes with a price of dangerous weather patterns somewhere else. Like the "hot April day" Maryland encountered earlier this year.
Anywho, while on the topic of climate change, I've been meaning to share a factoid from J.S. Foer's new book (that I'm about halfway through and looking forward to discussing):
"Animal agriculture makes a 40% greater contribution to global warming than all transportation in the world combined; it is the number one cause of climate change."
After a loyal reader pointed me towards a recent NY Times article about the island-sized patches of garbage afloat in the Pacific Ocean, I realized that I must not have given this topic enough attention when I was reading Thomas Kostigen's chapter "Where the Currents Take Our Trash" in his book You Are Here this past spring.
We're talking about huge islands of trash floating in remote areas of our oceans, folks. Here's a sampling of what these toxic whirlpools consist of (some still in their original shapes and form, others broken down into tiny, confetti-seized pieces that are gobbles up by marine life):
Light bulbs, Tooth brushes, Plastic water bottles and caps, Glass, Pill bottles, Buoys and fish nets (more on this momentarily), Traffic cones, Plastic bags, Tires, Disposable lighters, Paper, Oil and oil cartons, Wood, Rope, Toys...
The patch Lindsey Hoshaw explored for the Times is about 1,000 miles east of Hawaii and is said to be doubling in size every decade. It is one of five ocean areas where heavy currents and slack winds keep the trash swirling in a giant vortex known to experts as a gyre. The impact of these patches on marine life is tremendous. There is a passage from a portion of Kostigen's book looking at the growing number of animals endangered by ocean debris that really hits it home:
"[Dr. Marcus Eriksen, director of research and education aboard the Charles Moore's Alguita vessel that discovered the Eastern Garbage Patch] spent time on Midway Island examining the effect of trash on albatross. 'I found birds with syringes sticking out of their stomachs and toothbrushes caught in their mouths,' Marcus says. He explains that albatross have two stomachs: one where they store food to feed their young and another where they digest food for themselves; plastic filled both. When he arrived on Midway he was shown a series of Laysan albatross skeletons. 'Every single one had plastic in it. Every single one.'"
Scientists have identified more than 250 species known to have been injured or killed by this ocean debris and bear in mind: this is only one aspect of the problem. These dangers eventually make their way to us.
Let's start at the bottom. Plankton is the base of the marine food chain. The amount of plastic fragments in the central Pacific outweigh zooplankton sixfold. Zooplankton are non-selective feeders and ingest anything small enough which is inevitably plastic. Then marine mammals feed on zooplankton and so forth up the chain. Our fate and the oceans' are certainly looking more and more parallel. I'll let Hoshaw take it from here:
"PCBs, DDT and other toxic chemicals cannot dissolve in water, but the plastic absorbs them like a sponge. Fish that feed on plankton ingest the tiny plastic particles. Scientists from the Algalita Marine Research Foundation say that fish tissues contain some of the same chemicals as the plastic. The scientists speculate that toxic chemicals are leaching into fish tissue from the plastic they eat.
The researchers say that when a predator — a larger fish or a person — eats the fish that eats the plastic, that predator may be transferring toxins to its own tissues, and in greater concentrations since toxins from multiple food sources can accumulate in the body."
If you can't picture it from words alone, I urge you to view the collection of photographs in this slide show from Hoshaw's visit to the patch with Charles Moore, the captain who came upon the patch in 1997 during the Transpacific Yacht Race and has dedicated his vessel to researching it since 1999. Keep in mind, the pictured patch is said to pale in comparison to the Western Garbage Patch, just south of Japan, that captures trash from Asia, Russia, India and the Malaysian Peninsula.
This program has been underway in New York City since a few caring, innovative folks noticed two things back in the early 1980s: A growing hunger problem in the city -and- Local restaurants discarding perfectly good, unused/uneaten food. They recruited friends, borrowed vehicles, and over the past 25 years have evolved into an the efficient, cost-effective program they are today. From their website:
"...City Harvest has distributed more than 200 million pounds of food to a network of over 600 community food programs throughout New York City. The organization now delivers an average of 71,000 pounds of food daily and more than 25 million pounds this year... Picking up and delivering food the same day keeps costs down and allows us to focus on fresh, perishable foods that are often in short supply at soup kitchens and food pantries. Currently, our cost to deliver a pound of food is just 26 cents, making City Harvest a smart, simple solution to ending hunger in New York City..."
In the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving, Campbell's and Progresso engage in what foks in the advertising business call "Soup Wars." If you pay attention, you'll find that the commercials and print advertisements evolve from self-propelling, your-grandmother-gave-us-this-recipe, mmm mmm good jingles to smear campaigns against the other candidate. This year, I wouldn't be surprised if bisphenol A, or BPA, is the new MSG and plays a role in the race.
"...More than 92 percent of Americans have BPA in their urine, and scientists have linked it — though not conclusively — to everything from breast cancer to obesity, from attention deficit disorder to genital abnormalities in boys and girls alike.
Now it turns out it’s in our food.
Consumer Reports magazine tested an array of brand-name canned foods for a report in its December issue and found BPA in almost all of them. The magazine says that relatively high levels turned up, for example, in Progresso vegetable soup, Campbell’s condensed chicken noodle soup, and Del Monte Blue Lake cut green beans.
The magazine also says it found BPA in the canned liquid version of Similac Advance infant formula (but not in the powdered version) and in canned Nestlé Juicy Juice (but not in the juice boxes). The BPA in the food probably came from an interior coating used in many cans..."
I am not a huge fan of the Dr. Phil Show. Not that I am working with much of a sample size (about three episodes in my lifetime), but it seems to me that the guy spends a lot of time talking in depth about problems and breaking people down and judging them, and not enough time discussing solutions. That said, I've got to tip my hat to him today for using the power of the visual medium that is television to put some pressure on adults and parents to take responsibility and combat the growing childhood obesity epidemic in America. The episode, found here, is sort of hard to watch but it's effective.
According to a study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 85% of the snow on Mount Kilimanjaro has melted away since 1912. The primary cause: "increase in global temperatures." Experts predict that it will disappear completely within twenty years. The images above, taken in 2001 and 2009, show the near 26% decline in the last decade alone. Read more here.
Halloween candy sales average about $2 billion per year here in the United States, which ranks the holiday ahead of Christmas and Easter for candy consumption. And even more disturbing, in 2007 Americans each consumed an average of 24.5 pounds of candy (Sources: Current Industrial Reports, Confectionery; U.S. Census). That's a lot of High Fructose Corn Syrup.
My recently ordered copy of Jonathan Safran Foer's new book, Eating Animals, which is a departure from his usual (awesometastical) historical fiction and instead a nonfiction "exploring the fictions we use to justify our animal eating habits," can not arrive soon enough.
Actress, Activist and Harvard Alum Natalie Portman shares how her experience with the book moved her from vegetarian to vegan in a recent post on The Huffington Post:
" ...what Foer most bravely details is how eating animal pollutes not only our backyards, but also our beliefs. He reminds us that our food is symbolic of what we believe in, and that eating is how we demonstrate to ourselves and to others our beliefs: Catholics take communion -- in which food and drink represent body and blood. Jews use salty water on Passover to remind them of the slaves' bitter tears. And on Thanksgiving, Americans use succotash and slaughter to tell our own creation myth -- how the Pilgrims learned from Native Americans to harvest this land and make it their own.
And as we use food to impart our beliefs to our children, the point from which Foer lifts off, what stories do we want to tell our children through their food?
I remember in college, a professor asked our class to consider what our grandchildren would look back on as being backward behavior or thinking in our generation, the way we are shocked by the kind of misogyny, racism, and sexism we know was commonplace in our grandparents' world. He urged us to use this principle to examine the behaviors in our lives and our societies that we should be a part of changing. Factory farming of animals will be one of the things we look back on as a relic of a less-evolved age.
I say that Foer's ethical charge against animal eating is brave because not only is it unpopular, it has also been characterized as unmanly, inconsiderate, and juvenile. But he reminds us that being a man, and a human, takes more thought than just "This is tasty, and that's why I do it." He posits that consideration, as promoted by Michael Pollan in The Omnivore's Dilemma, which has more to do with being polite to your tablemates than sticking to your own ideals, would be absurd if applied to any other belief (e.g., I don't believe in rape, but if it's what it takes to please my dinner hosts, then so be it).
But Foer makes his most impactful gesture as a peacemaker, when he unites the two sides of the animal eating debate in their reasoning. Both sides argue: We are not them. Those who refrain from eating animals argue: We don't have to go through what they go through -- we are not them. We are capable of making distinctions between what to eat and what not to eat (Americans eat cow but not dog, Hindus eat chicken but not cow, etc.). We are capable of considering others' minds and others' pain. We are not them. Whereas those who justify eating animals say the same thing: We are not them. They do not merit the same value of being as us. They are not us.
And so Foer shows us, through Eating Animals, that we are all thinking along the same lines: We are not them. But, he urges, how will we define who we are?"
Guess I won't be making exceptions for meat in the homes of others anymore. The more I learn, the less I can justifiably eat. Ugh. On a similar note... I sorta loved the last few moments of South Park's Whale Whores episode...
"It wasn't whales and dolphins... It was chickens and cows..."
"Great job son. Now the Japanese are normal like us."
Genetically modified Triffid seeds that were reportedly given out by developer Alan McHughen, now a biotechnologist at the University of California, Riverside "for educational purposes only" and thought to have been destroyed in 2001, are popping up and contaminating Canada's organic crops causing their value to plummet. There are no health concerns but that hasn't stopped European importers from shutting their doors, The Globe and Mail reports:
"...Since early September, confectionery companies there have been yanking pastries and other baked goods containing flax from their shelves, blaming imports from Canada for the contamination. The genetically modified seeds have been found in 34 countries, according to the Canadian Biotechnology Action Network.
...Terry Boehm, a flax grower near Saskatoon and one of the approximately 15,000 prairie farmers who produce the crop, is worried about the fallout from the food scare. The cause of the contamination is “the $300-million question,” he said, adding: “I really can't hazard to say how it's there, but there's a huge amount of questions that need to be answered in regard to that.” The genetic contamination also undermines the image of a product widely extolled for its health benefits as a rich source of artery-friendly omega-3 fatty acids and often grown organically to further its cachet. In organic farming, using genetically modified organisms is a big no-no..."
I suppose it's possible that a few farmers planted the seeds despite McHugen's instruction but come on, folks. Are we going to believe that only organic flax growers need be concerned? Nice try, authorities. Clearly a genetically modified plant has escaped and may soon take over the world.
I kid, I kid. And I shouldn't because this "contamination" is truly threatening the livelihood of quite a few Canadian prairie farmers. What a mess. Perhaps the lesson here is that not all organic growers are created equally trustworthy and therefore releasing the GM seed for any purposes is the big no-no. And that European pastry chefs might be a acting a tad too doomsday. Read more here and here.
In the BBC film Bearwalker of the Northwoods, set to air in Scotland tonight, lucky viewers will get to see how wildlife biologist Lynn Rogers' decision to replace traditional scientific methods with good ol' fashioned relationship building paid off and got him into the intimate inner circle of mother bear June and her three little cubs. Believe it or not, cornering them and shooting them with tranquilizers isn't the best method. The film, which was filmed in Minnesota, USA has got to be available here in the US soon, right? From The Guardian article:
"...Rogers eventually realised he couldn't hope to know bears unless he won their trust. And so he abandoned scientific detachment and took the daring and controversial step of forming relationships with his study animals, using food to gain acceptance among an extended bear family in Minnesota.
Gaining the trust of the bears has given him a close-up insight into their behaviour and social organisation as well as allowing Rogers to explode myths about them. Contrary to popular belief, for example, he contends that the bears are not violent and do not like honey..."
I have to say, it boggles my mind that Rogers' methods are considered controversial. But I suppose if popular belief holds that bears are cuddly honey lovers with piglet sidekicks one minute and violent campground attackers the next, it's about time somebody made a film highlighting their simple, animal awesomeness. I hope they are still fighting the good fight against forest fires. And wearing grass skirts as they teach young orphans the ways of the jumgle.And making porridge.
Great. Someone asked Slate's Green Lantern about the environmental impact of tofu and reminded me and my fellow eco-eaters that the soy-based protein source also comes with a price. Luckily though, a much lower price than meat. Well, most meat. Nina Shen Rastogi for Slate responds:
"Not all meat is created equally when it comes to environmental impacts. Producing a calorie of chicken protein requires only a fraction of the energy that it takes to churn out a calorie of beef protein. Chickens also produce significantly lower levels of greenhouse gases, thanks in part to their dainty diet and the fact that, unlike ruminant animals, they don't go around expelling methane from their mouths and rear ends.
So where does tofu fit into this picture? Soybeans themselves are a highly efficient source of protein: According to one recent study, it takes about 0.2 calories of fossil fuels to make a calorie of soybean protein, a little more than one-thirtieth of the total for chicken. Soy is also much better from a global-warming perspective: In conventional production, a kilogram of raw beans generates about 150 grams to 300 grams of carbon-dioxide equivalent, as opposed to 2,500 grams for the equivalent quantity of edible chicken meat. (Organic soybeans should produce even less CO2 equivalent. [PDF])
But then, we're not talking about eating soybeans in their natural form. As you note in your question, it takes some work to make beans into tofu. Soybeans are soaked in large tanks and ground into a slurry that then gets heated, filtered, and coagulated into slabs before being chopped up, packaged, and pasteurized. All of these steps require energy—and they dramatically increase tofu's carbon footprint...
...So we don't know exactly where American tofu falls on the spectrum of greenhouse gas intensity, but we can draw at least one commonsense conclusion: Your potential savings will depend on what you're swapping out in the first place. If every dinner you serve contains beef or air-freighted fish, then switching to tofu every once in a while will make a real difference. If you eat mostly chicken, your savings would be less impressive."
The good news is, most of the tofu consumed in America comes from native-grown soy beans which means we aren't contributing to the destruction of the Amazon - which was my biggest fear when the headline got my wheels turning. Whew!
Readers, meet crispycones, brought to you by chef and food designer Nir Adar, who doesn't think anyone should have to sit down to eat beef stew. Nope. His quest: To make it possible to eat all the foods you love on the go.
"They're incredibly versatile, delicious with fillings from eggs to salads, pizza to deli, stir fry to carnitas, BBQ, stews and even dessert. Any food that's ever been eaten between two slices of bread, in a wrap or on top of pizza can now be enjoyed drip free, anywhere, anytime and on the go with Crispycones."
And I thought go-gurt was the king of convenience...
Sylvia Earle's new book, The World is Blue: How Our Fate and the Ocean's Are One, recieved the "Colbert Bump" Tuesday night and this interview alone has caused me to re-examine the fish that remain in my own diet. Of course, many of you have seen me whip out my trusty EPA Pocket Seafood Selector at meals and likely chosen the fish or shellfish with the smallest finprint on our oceans and collective environment right alongside me - but perhaps that isn't enough. Check out the stats Sylvia drops on Stephen:
So whattaya say, folks? Can we all commit to choosing fish that are low on the food chain? Vote with our forks?
So many wonderful articles in today's New York Times Magazine I don't even know where to start!
You may recall Michael Pollan's call for dietary dos and don'ts back in March for his new book "Food Rules: An Eater's Manual" publishing in January 2010. Well good ol' MP previewed 20 of his favorite reader submissions and they certainly are insightful. Check out the corresponding interactive feature here. One of my faves: If you are not hungry enough to eat an apple, then you are not hungry.
Might I also recommend spending some time with novelist Jonathan Saffron Foer's contribution: Against Meat - Or At Least 99 Percent of It.I'm looking forward to reading his new book "Eating Animals" due out in November. His article alone captures the thought process and constant debate (internal and external) of a conscious eater. Or, as MP would call it: the omnivore's dilema. The attempts at vegetarianism. The careful consideration of what your children will eat based in not only your belief system but in honoring traditions and gratitude. Even the early mention of the moment he realized that the chicken in his mouth was a chicken that was once alive on a farm resonates. It's an excellent read. The whole issue is excellent
This clip comes from a particularly great Real Time episode with a panel including Thomas L. Friedman and Marcy Kaptur and guests Richard Dawkins and Lisa Jackson. I am posting it for three reasons. 1) It brought to my attention the traces of pharmaceuticals that are showing up in our water system - which raises questions about how equipped our current filtration system is (something that has not yet been discussed here on JustSaying). 2) It boggles my mind how dismissive Lisa Jackson, EPA Administrator, was about the environmental impact of the meat industry. And 3) It reinforces the importance of my decision to add Bill Maher to my "dream dinner party" guest list.
Yesterday, the NY Times reported about the Education Department's decision to ban bake sales in public schools as part of a new wellness policy aiming to reduce students' trans fat and sugar intake. From the article:
The previous regulations limited sales to once a month and allowed them at any time during that day, but they were loosely enforced. Officials say they will do more to monitor the new regulations.
“We have an undeniable problem in the city, state and the country with obesity,” said Eric Goldstein, the chief of the office of school support services. “During the school day, we have to focus on what is healthy for the mind and the body.”
Unsurprisingly, the rationale is getting a cool reception among students. At Fiorello H. La Guardia High School on the Upper West Side, students are used to having bake sales several times a month. Now, Yardain Amron, a sophomore basketball player, laments that his team will not be able to raise money for a new scoreboard.
Another La Guardia student, Eli Salamon-Abrams, 14, said that when the soccer team held a bake sale in May, his blueberry muffins sold out in 15 minutes. He said of the ban: “I think it’s kind of pointless. I mean, why can’t we have bake sales?”
Today, I ask: Is this really the best solution, Mayor? Don't get me wrong, I'm a big Bloomberg fan and definitely appreciate and applaud his efforts in this case as well as the case against plastic bags but I gotta say that a bake sale ban seems a bit misdirected. Perhaps it addresses a small symptom that may or may not mean obesity for some percentage of brownie bakers or buyers - but it certainly isn't the root of the problem.
EDUCATE these children. Granted, putting the lesser of snack evils in the vending machines and saying no to sodas are steps in the right direction, but steering kids away from baking and fundraising for their sports teams? Not so cool. Give a kid $5 for school lunch (healthy or not) and you feed him for a day. Teach a kid to cultivate, garden, harvest, cook, spice, BAKE, dice, mix, braise... put work into making something edible with real, whole foods and you feed him for a lifetime. Just saying.
I received a great message in my inbox last night and absolutely have to share it. It comes from David Wase, president of Metropolitan Gallery and gardener extraordinaire.
Arlington, VA 10/02/2009 7:57 p.m.
Another giant step for bacteria! The Wases of 7th St South announce the inception of a new composter at their mini-micro, sub-atomic sized farm in South Arlington. Utilizing the vegetative remains from human sustenance including coffee grounds, vegetables, a modest contribution from the office cellulose shredder and carefully selected organic contributions from garden cuttings, the Wases' expect a biotic enhancement of significant proportions. This action was taken in recognition of the need to reduce biomass contributions to landfills and deal with the heavy and compacted clay-based soil structure of the (extremely) limited tillable area available at the mini micro farm. The compost production equipment is based on a standard trash container modified to accomplish rapid and complete breakdown- (a process that was tried by ex-spouses but never achieved). The resulting "black gold" will be added to the Wase's vegetable gardens to further enhance their nutrient and water-retention capabilities as well as contribute significantly to soil health and guilt-free gardening.
Those of you who are not only readers but are also regular visitors to the Clover (aka: the house) may have met Judee but for those of you who aren't, let me tell you about the sweetest little sparrow who has made herself welcome in my home and heart.
I first discovered Judee a little more than a month ago when she failed to fly away during my dog's daily squirrel surveillance around the bird feeder. Unlike the rest of the feathered brood, she opted to hop/flutter/flail away rather pathetically and even then didn't go far. As the cardinals and chickadees came and went, Judee was never more than 50 feet from the house. She appears to have a problematic wing and while she can get off the ground, she can't sustain flight too long. Surprisingly, early encounters with the dog didn't even seem to bother her. Unable to fly up and away, she simply learned that Jack (the dog) couldn't squeeze under a car so that became a safe and easy refuge. And over time, Jack seems to have learned that he isn't going to catch her and has lost interest in trying.
For the last week or two, I've noticed that Judee has made herself at home in the dense ground-cover between the front door and the feeder and has been singing and enjoying a daily bath in what used to be Jack's outdoor water dish. This morning, however, she has taken her residence a step further. She hopped right into the house.
I so wish I had a video camera handy to capture the expression on Jack's face when they crossed paths at the door - him heading out, her heading in. While I realize that she can't stay forever and that creating a "birdie door" (in hopes she will learn she is welcome to come and go as she pleases) may not fly with the homeowners association, I certainly didn't mind the visit.
My research indicates that Judee is a relative of the Weaver Finch Family and although I am not sure what that means, it may explain why I have been calling her a "fantastically friendly finch" for the last month. I'll try and get some snapshots of Judee up here on JustSaying soon.
So I am a few seasons behind on my spring cleaning but have been going strong these past few days and check out what I just came across:
You may be asking yourselves,"What the what?!?!" I, too, said this very phrase. How did the Monsanto name infiltrate the home of this blogger so blatantly? I've since traced the items back to the gift bags given at the Illinois State Society Inaugural Ball in January of this year. Looks like they were a major sponsor. Interesting.