Sunday, December 27, 2009

On Break...

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.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Merry Christmas, Finches!

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)

Monday, December 21, 2009

Cookie Monster to become Veggie Monster?

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).

Worst case scenario?

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Crazy Cardinal is always at it...

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!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Uh oh

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.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Would ya look at that. Hmph.

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)?

This is headline news, folks. Tara Parker-Pope reports:

" ...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.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Love Birds

Look who I spotted dining together yesterday! Judee and the territorial cardinal. Cute!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Warming Debate

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.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Baltimore's Recycling Contest

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?

Luvin' LUSH

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.

Friday, December 4, 2009

You're not foolin' me, FarmVille.

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."

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

A Very Merry Un-Birthday - To Squirrels!!

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.