Tuesday, March 31, 2009

excellent resource

I'm not sure if I've alerted you all to the interactive the NY Times put together for their special series called Choking on Growth. It's a collection of articles, photographs, maps and data examining the pollution crisis in China and an excellent resource for anyone interested in gaining a broader understanding of the global impact of industrialization.

"Give me your seeds!"

DW emailed this squirrel snapshot and I love it.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Ain't gardening great?

Today, in The Baltimore Sun, Mary Gail Hare highlights an urban gardening project with students from a local job-training center for at risk youth and the Samaritan Women home in Baltimore County. From the article:

About 8 acres of the property are suited to farming, with the rest of the land wooded. Initial plans call for planting about 3 acres of vegetables this year, everything from arugula to zucchini. Allert will donate the produce to area soup kitchens, food pantries and homeless shelters. As the garden expands, she envisions individual plots for residents of the surrounding community.


If ever you are feeling down, might I suggest visiting the grocery store with your nuclear family. It is sort of like going back in time. If you're lucky, your mom may even buy you the most awesome, roaring, LED T-Rex key chain you never knew you wanted. Another perk: You get to discover silly food-like-substances, like the one pictured below, and their equally absurd (and upsetting) marketing strategies.

There is so much that I want to say about this but perhaps it is one of those cases where a picture is worth a thousand words. But seriously, who thought this was a good idea?

Friday, March 27, 2009

Stephen Colbert on SHMEAT

This is great. The clip that is - Not sure how I feel about meat being "grown" just yet, although PETA has given a million bucks to the pioneers of this research so perhaps I'll have to look into it further.

Shmeat segment starts about 1:20 in.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Nuts about these...

There are plenty of things I should be reporting on in terms of sustainability, for instance slow gardening and Maldives' goals to achieve carbon-neutrality, but I can't stop thinking about the peanuts I picked up at the local natural market last night and therefore absolutely have to plug them!

The all-natural Handcooked Virginia Peanuts from The Peanut Shop of Williamsburg surpass any peanut experience I've had to date. The photo above doesn't remotely do them justice. I had no idea this is what peanuts are supposed to taste or crunch like or that a human being could actually crave peanuts (without the chocolate MnM coating, that is).

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

fun read

Catherine Price wrote a cute article for Slate about how to handle the abundance of produce dropped off by her local CSA each week. Instead of letting the parsley, cabbage, kale, squash and bok choy slowly wilt away in the fridge, she challenges Mark Bittman to a game of "vegetable free association." Aside from wrongfully lumping bok choy and kale into the "problematic vegetable" category, Price does a fine job capturing that guilty pang of produce-gone-uneaten and Bittman offers his classic expertise. As for the bok choy image above: it's completely unrelated but pretty darn cool if you ask me.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Words can't describe...

... how excited I am to report that the stems born from peony roots I planted in the fall are emerging! Many of you know that despite numerous lunch hours spent among blooms at Lord Baltimore Florist, no flower has captivated me the way a bright white Marie Lemoine Peony can - and the season for these gorgeous specimens, with blooms so fragrant and dense the stalks barely support them, is almost upon us.

It may not look like much, but the small stalk (pictured) is the first success I have had in the peony department to date. I mean, sure, I've purchased an already-flowering plant from Home Depot and suffered incredible disappointment after all two of the buds/blooms quickly wither away in the Maryland heat, but never before have I been present from the very beginning. And I must say, I am enjoying the anticipation and looking forward to an even greater appreciation for the flowers come late April and May.

Years ago, my sister wrote to me in an email: You've got to plant your own garden instead of waiting for someone to bring you flowers. It took a while to germinate and of course she was speaking figuratively, but here I am, and I'm going to give her the first bloom.

not simply organic...

This recent article by Mark Bittman reminds me of so many conversations I've had of late that I simply have to recommend it.

Monday, March 23, 2009

food news

I really wish I was at the Knight Fellowship Food Science Boot Camp going on at MIT this week because I couldn't imagine a more pertinent time to be discussing the industry of food and agribusiness with folks like Marian Nestle and everyone else up there. Feel free to call and conference me in, guys. (I wish!)

As regularly discussed here on justsaying, the new administration has been incredibly receptive to once-considered revolutionary movement towards sustainability, biodiversity, and stricter safety regulations, and seems to be leaning away from the industrial and often hazardous model that has created a culture too reliant on convenience to bother purchasing peanut butter and jelly separately (also see here).

The NY Times published a wonderful article offering an overview about what's been going on in the movement, from Alice Waters, whose name has been floating around in conjunction with the White House kitchen, to Michael Pollan, who is, well, in my opinion, one of the pioneers of this "food revolution," and of course the Obama family.

Here's what I think is so great about all this: Right now eating organic and going green is trendy and as you all know, organic doesn't necessarily mean sustainable or the most eco-friendly AND trends don't always stick around for decades. So what we need are influencers and the Obama family has that power. Let's face it, there is an air of celebrity around our first family and celebrities have a major influence on the "now" generation. If they can keep up this momentum I truly believe the next few years will be paramount in shaping the future of the food industry and capturing the attention and interest of young minds whose future involvement and inertia is critical.

Sunday, March 22, 2009


Guess what's about to become popular? Leashes that make jogging with your dog awesomely hands-free. I just tried out my recent REI purchase for the first time and am guessing the NY Times will likely publish an Op-Ed about this chinDOGu invention before the end of April.

Saturday, March 21, 2009


Earlier on this beautiful Saturday morning, while sipping my tea and popularizing whoopie pies, I glanced out the window at the adjacent wooded area and saw something horrifying. A bright yellow, plastic peanut MnM bag that was - without a doubt - in my recycling bin earlier this week. That's right, plastic as in the "throwing a party" sized bags. I buy them in bulk and keep them in a giant jar because that is how many I consume. Admitting the problem is the first step.

Anywho, there it was at the base of a tree, smothering the seedlings that are only strong enough to push their way through the fallen leaves, and it hurt my heart. As you could guess, I got my bum out there with a trash bag and decided to do a little spring cleaning. Don't get me wrong, I pick up windblown or carelessly tossed garbage on a regular basis, but today I just felt the urge to take those efforts to another level and thought I'd report on what and how much I found.

18 plastic bags (from grocery to fruit/veggie to shopping to Ziploc)
2 boxes from cases of beer
A 40 ounce Heineken bottle that I intend to reuse as a vase (sans the label of course)
A huge plasticy-cloth-type zip up bag that must have held a blanket for an elephant
3 condom wrappers (no condoms - thankfully)
4 damp, unread, poorly-delivered newspapers
A broken, plastic Slurpee cup
2 bottled waters (one of which was half full, or half empty depending on how you look at it)
2 disposable coffee cups
2 pizza boxes
An offer to refinance
3 turtle doves (kidding)
A few 'yard sale' and 'futon for sale' fliers
At least five take-out menus
3 crushed beer cans (no where near or related to aforementioned beer boxes)
A pile of duct tape and plastic that made me want to call the cops
And the ever-so-hard-to-swallow: peanut MnM bag

I couldn't have covered more than half an acre and my trash bag was full. I'm not sure where I'm headed with this... I guess I'm just saying... I've never seen a 40 ounce beer bottle being carried by the wind.

Friday, March 20, 2009


Great news, everybody! The Obamas are planting a vegetable garden at the White House. I am so happy it actually brings tears to my eyes. Oh and... Need I point out that this, like the whoopie pies, could have happened because of my endorsement? Or that perhaps Michelle and I are clearly trendsetters? The NY Times reports:

While the organic garden will provide food for the first family’s meals and formal dinners, its most important role, Mrs. Obama said, will be to educate children about healthful, locally grown fruit and vegetables at time when obesity has become a national concern.

In an interview in her office, Mrs. Obama said, “My hope is that through children, they will begin to educate their families and that will, in turn, begin to educate our communities.”

Twenty-three students from a nearby middle school will be helping Michelle cultivate and eventually harvest veggies, berries and herbs in a 1,100-square-foot plot that will be visible from E Street. As for the rest of the first family, they will be pulling weeds throughout the growing season. Even Barack. Love this!

The decision to plant a White House garden carries political and environmental symbolism and a message that is not only healthful but, I believe, will encourage local, sustainable choices. Read the details here and here.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

point the pin right here, folks

If you know me at all, it will come as no surprise to you that while I feel some measure of guilt about my unsustainable dessert choices, I will never walk away from a cupcake or whoopie pie eating challenge (at least not without a terrible stomach ache). You will also know that once I grow fond of something it becomes a national sensation, the most obvious example clearly being the phrase: Just Saying. Not "I'm just saying," but simply "Just saying." You've got to drop the "I'm." Two words. Just saying.

Why am I reminding y'all of things you already know, you ask? Because there is a certain brother-in-law of mine who doubts my trendsetting capabilities and for that reason, I would like to direct you all (especially him) to the following article in today's NY Times:

Whoopie! Cookie, Pie or Cake, It's Having Its Moment
Published: March 18, 2009
The classic snacks are migrating across the country, often appearing in the same specialty shops and grocery aisles that recently made room for cupcakes.

Perhaps the most pertinent excerpt from the article:

"Whoopie pies have been on the rise for several years, and nobody can pinpoint the reason they finally broke into the national consciousness."

Right here, folks. Right here. I ate four of them in a single afternoon less than two weeks ago. I should also say, aside from confirming my trendsetter status, the article offers a brief history of the mysterious dessert and will leave you wishing for a 16 inch pie from Labadie’s Bakery.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009


Jennifer S. Holland (senior writer) and Joel Sartore (photographer) have put together a haunting yet hopeful feature for the April issue of National Geographic about the vanishing frog population that is an absolute must-read.

If you remember from previous posts, not only have habitat loss, climate change and pollution delivered fatal blows to many amphibians, but the fungal infection known commonly as chytrid has devastated frog populations worldwide.

From the article:

Why care about frogs? "I could give you a thousand reasons," says herpetologist Luis Coloma. Because their skin acts not only as a protective barrier but also as a lung and kidney, they can provide and early warning of pollutants. Their insect prey carries human pathogens, so frogs are an ally against disease. They serve as food for snakes, birds, even humans, playing a key role in both freshwater and terrestrial ecosystems. "There are places where the biomass of amphibians was once higher than all other vertebrates combined," says University of California, Berkeley, biologist David Wake. "How can you take that out of the ecosystem without changing it in a major way? There will be ecological consequences that we haven't yet grasped."

Find the full article and incredible photographs online here.

(Note: The frog pictured in this post is not from Nat Geo. He is my neighbor.)

diggin' the BigBelly trash cans

A few things going on here that I like:

1.) Efficiency
2.) Solar Power
3.) Text Messages

Check it out

Here's a fun one...

In honor of the Saint Patrick's Day holiday, Slate's Green Lantern has taken on the topic of ecologically responsible drinking. What's greener: drinking beer from a can or a bottle? Neither really. The greenest option is draft beer, because kegs last between 15 and 20 years and their packaging per pint ratio is the best.

Regardless, it's a fun read that encourages tapping into local brews and will perhaps give you some fun facts to share with all those folks celebrating the sixteenth of their heritage that is Irish.

Find the article here.

Sunday, March 15, 2009


Although entirely unrelated to the regular subject matter discussed on justsaying, how awesome is this new commercial for the Kia Soul? I mean, not so much the portrayal of all of us on our hamster wheels and in identical mcMansions etc, just the hamsters themselves. Particularly the ones rocking out in the Soul.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Never. Eating. Pork. Again.

A recent Op-Ed piece, Our Pigs, Our Food, Our Health, by Nicholas D. Kristof (NY Times) pretty much sealed the deal for me. I sent this article out to some friends earlier this week and have been debating about whether or not to post it to the blog. It's, well, in a word: gross. However in light of President Obama's recent promise to "bolster and reorganize the nation’s fractured food-safety system" I am hopeful that methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, aka: flesh eating bacteria, in pigs will be addressed.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009


While washing my car this weekend, which is an admittedly wasteful American activity I do perhaps too often, I noticed a man sorting through the trash cans pulling out aluminum cans, plastic bottles and some other items. Not a homeless man or a seemingly needy man - just a man. Being the perhaps too friendly person that I am, I commended him for his recycling efforts and sparked up a conversation about trash versus treasure. He showed me a handful of bar codes from discarded cigarette boxes and said, "I mail these in a get $25 gift cards to all sorts of places. You'd never believe what sorta stuff I find in here."

Unfortunately the conversation then took a different and uncomfortable turn, and I have since vowed not to talk to strangers digging in trash cans anymore, but the whole event did make me pause and reflect on the "ewww gross" attitude so many people have about their own garbage and the irony that our country actually sells our waste. I know I've mentioned this many times before but doesn't it amaze you how quick we are to discard and replace? When is the last time you repaired anything?

Anywho, I just came across this article in the NY Times about the sagging recycling market and overabundance of garbage in China and can't refrain from doing something I try to avoid here on justsaying: preach. There is such an abundance of garbage out there... I'm not even suggesting that recycling is the answer anymore. I'm merely suggesting that you, my loyal JSers, family and friends, think twice before getting the latest macbook, no matter how green Apple claims it to be, and use reusable water bottles and shopping bags. Every little bit helps, folks.

Lovin' Michelle's Message!

Within her first weeks at the White House, Michelle Obama is gladly becoming the first lady of healthy, sustainable living. Not only is she encouraging fresh, local choices for her own family and publicizing that fact, she is urging Americans to bring fresh produce to those in need.

The NY Times reports:

“You know, we want to make sure our guests here and across the nation are eating nutritious items,” said Mrs. Obama, who served lunch to several homeless men and women and delivered eight cases of fresh fruit to the soup kitchen, all donated by White House employees.

“Collect some fruits and vegetables; bring by some good healthy food,” she said. “We can provide this kind of healthy food for communities across the country, and we can do it by each of us lending a hand.”

In her first weeks in the White House, Mrs. Obama has emerged as a champion of healthy food and healthy living. She has praised community vegetable gardens, opened up her own kitchen to show off the White House chefs’ prowess with vegetables and told stories about feeding less fattening foods to her daughters.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Pollan to Compile Food Rules

Michael Pollan is asking his readers and followers to share the traditions and wisdom that guide their daily decisions about food (via TPP's Well Blog in the NY Times). From his post:

I want to create a compendium of such rules, across cultures and also time. Some of the rules readers have sent me so far are specifically about navigating the modern food landscape: “It’s not food if it comes to you through the window of a car.” “Don’t eat at any restaurant of which there is more than just one.” “A snack is not the same thing as a treat.” “If a bug won’t eat it, why would you?” and so on.

Folks are encouraged to submit their rules via the blog comments. Here are some of my favorites (from the first couple pages of comments):

Don’t eat anything you can buy at a gas station.— Jesse Montgomery

Nevermind what McDonald’s says, it is NOT OK to eat chicken for breakfast.— Ralphinjersey

Don’t eat anything you see advertised on TV.— wc

Don’t eat the icicles off the back of the car.— Liz

Don’t buy sushi out of the trunk of a car.— Alan

Perhaps a rule should be, “Eat a food in inverse proportion to how much its lobby spends to push it.”— KW

“If you don’t eat your green vegatables, you will turn purple.”-mindyn

The great cartoonist Kliban wrote, long ago, “Never eat anything bigger than your head.” That is good advice for all of us…— David Binger

And in case you were wondering, here's what I posted:

If you can't learn the equivalent title for it in a foreign language dictionary, it probably isn't food. Perhaps I should also mention that if it's title is the same worldwide it may not be food. For example: Cheetos, Big Mac. Seriously... go to Google Translator and type in Big Mac. You will get: Big Mac. Type in simply "big" and you will get grande, gandisimo, mayor, gran.... hmmm....

Post a suggestion of your own here

Monday, March 9, 2009

ideal bite for moms...

I just found out that Ideal Bite has a site specifically for moms! Find it here.

And just in case I haven't mentioned the fun, "sassier shade of green" site, Ideal Bite, in a previous post - let me do so now by suggesting that you sign up for their "bite-sized ideas for green living" email tips.

(thnx Lisa)

Paul Roberts on the future of food

In my opinion, Paul Roberts ranks right up there with Michael Pollan and Thomas L. Friedman when it comes to influencing positive change in the global food economy, so I am happy to link y'all up to a great article he wrote for Mother Jones, Spoiled: Organic and Local Is So 2008 that examines the lesser known realities and complexities of alternative farming practices. It's sort of like a condensed version of his recent book, The End of Food. There is definitely a disconnect between the mass media push of organic and local foods and the actual impact, or reduced impact, that these choices may or may not represent.

I am particularly fond of what Fred Kirschenmann, former director of the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture had to say to Roberts about sustainability: "Real sustainability is defined not by a food system's capacity to ensure happy workers or organic lima beans, but by whether the food system can sustain itself—that is, keep going, indefinitely, in a world of finite resources. A truly sustainable food system is inherently resilient—more capable of self-correction and self-revitalization than its industrial rival."

Definitely read the entire article (found here) because there is far too many important pieces for me to highlight here on JS. For now, as always, I offer the following excerpt:

Food is not simple. To make it, you have to balance myriad variables—soil, water, and nutrients, of course, but also various social, political, and economic realities. But because our consumer culture favors fixes that are fast and easy, our approaches toward food advocacy have been built around one or two dimensions of production, such as reducing energy use or eliminating pesticides, while overlooking factors that are harder to define (and ditto to market), such as worker safety.

Consider our love affair with food miles. In theory, locally grown foods have traveled shorter distances and thus represent less fuel use and lower carbon emissions—their resource footprint is smaller. And yet, for all the benefits of a local diet, eating locally doesn't always translate into more sustainability. Because the typical farmers market is supplied by dozens of different farms, each transporting its crops in a separate van or truck, a 20-pound shopping basket of locally grown produce might actually represent a larger carbon footprint than the same volume of produce purchased at a chain retailer, which gets its produce en masse, via large trucks.

And for all our focus on the cost of moving food, transportation accounts for barely one-tenth of a food product's greenhouse gas emissions. Far more significant is how the food was produced—its so-called resource intensity. Certain foods, like meat and cheese, suck up so many resources regardless of where they're produced (a pound of conventional grain-fed beef requires nearly a gallon of fuel and 5,169 gallons of water) that you can shrink your footprint far more by changing what you eat, rather than where the food came from. According to a 2008 report from Carnegie Mellon University, going meat- and dairyless one day a week is more environmentally beneficial than eating locally every single day.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

this may sting a little...

An interesting piece in NewScientist regarding the future of seafood in world that fails to properly respond to the effects of overfishing, climate change and pollution. What is the future, you ask? Oceans and menus dominated by jellyfish! They are low in fat (unfortunately also low in protein) and high in copper, iron and selenium (and a tad too high in sodium). The Chinese have been eating them for more than 1,000 years - sometimes as sushi, in soup, on top of salads, and even disguised as a type of crunchy noodle or hidden in cookies. Of course jellyfish aren't the only alternative in our oceans. Marine phytoplankton, squid steak, algae cake... Tell me those don't get your taste buds tingling?!

Anywho, there are far too many factoids in the article for me to paraphrase so here are a few excerpts about world jellyfish domination:

"If we do empty the oceans of fish, it will leave a gaping hole in our diet. Fish provide around 20 per cent of our intake of animal proteins, according to a 2007 estimate of the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). That means each of us wolfs down an average of 16.4 kilograms of fish per year. National figures vary widely, from virtually none in some landlocked nations like Afghanistan, to about 20 kilograms per person per year in the UK and US and a whopping 180 kilograms in the Maldives.... This demand is increasing rapidly, as a result of the rising global population and increasing prosperity in the developing world. Maintaining catches at current levels is becoming difficult, let alone increasing them. According to the FAO, more than 75 per cent of the world's fish stocks are either fully exploited, over-exploited, or recovering from past depletion."

"The reasons for these changes are complex. Shifts in climate, currents and sea temperature will have played a part, but a major factor is the collapse of the once abundant sardine and anchovy fisheries. In the late 1970s, the total fish catch was around 17 million tonnes per year. Now it is closer to 1 million tonnes. And since jellyfish eat fish eggs and larvae, as well as compete with young fish for food, the shift to a jellyfish-dominated ecosystem rather than a fish-dominated one may be irreversible, say the team.... Blooms of jellyfish have also appeared in the overfished waters of the Black Sea, Alaska, the Mediterranean and the Gulf of Mexico. In the Sea of Japan, overfishing of sardines and anchovies, plus blooms of phytoplankton caused by nutrient-rich coastal run-off, have led to a jellyfish problem of epic proportions: autumn blooms of the giant jellyfish Nemopilema nomurai, which can grow to more than 2 metres in diameter. In 2003 alone this jellyfish cost the Japanese fishing industry over $100 million, "clogging and bursting nets, causing high mortality of the catch due to venom, increasing the risk of capsizing trawlers and giving fishermen painful stings", says Masato Kawahara, a marine ecologist at Hiroshima University in Japan."

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

you guessed it...

Freegans! What are they? Are you one? Am I? Learn the answers to these questions and more on the Freegan Website.

I'll give you a hint though, I am not a freegan. The term is compounded from "free" and "vegan" and I am not a vegan and I fall short of freeing myself from the conventional economy in other ways, specifically automotive.