Thursday, July 30, 2009

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

"You're turning Violet, Violet!"

I'm no PhD but I think it is safe to say that the scientists University of Rochester Medical Center who discovered that a compound called Brilliant Blue G, found in blue M&Ms, did not set out in their experimentation thinking, "Hmmm... I wonder... Does Brilliant Blue G have any impact on recovery from secondary spinal cord injuries?" Chances are, they were investigating whether any of the dye used in those unsustainable yet irresistible morsels causes cancer and after lots of trial and error they ended up with blue rats, wonderful hopes for the human trials set to start in September, and great news for M&M lovers worldwide: M&Ms dye is fairly safe. Woo hoo!!! Read more here.

Soda Tax

While he says that he was "just presenting the science," CDC chief Dr. Thomas Freiden seems to approve of the proposal for a three-cent sales tax on soda and other sugary drinks - pointing out that increasing the price of unhealthy foods "would be effective" at combating the nation's obesity problem. Considering obesity-related health spending reaches $147 billion a year, double what it was nearly a decade ago, the $24 billion the tax is estimated to generate over the next four years could certainly come in handy.

What do you all think about a soda tax? or sugar tax? Will vending machines start taking pennies?

Sunday, July 26, 2009

For the Indecisive Diner

Pretty cool. And it seems that the designers attempt to keep fast food and chain restaurants off the wheel. Now... if we could just get them to add "Make it Meatless." Click here to spin.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Man vs. Squirrel

A loyal reader recently alerted me to the latest anti-squirrel propaganda circulating the Interweb: this article. I can't believe suburbanites are waging war with these adorable little creatures! Especially considering the Maryland/DC/Virginia area experienced a major acorn shortage last year!

All kidding aside, there are actually folks out there that want to deter the little guys as opposed to attract them with corn cobs and love, and the suggestions in the article are far more humane than that awful Rodenator Pro we learned about a few months back, so I suppose I should post a few.

Christopher Soloman for MSN writes:

An ounce of prevention
The best way to keep squirrels away is to thwart them in the first place. There are several effective ways to do this:

  • Cut back: “Squirrels can climb wood siding or brick siding pretty effectively, but the most common thing they’ll climb is tree limbs,” McNeely says. So a good rule of thumb is to cut branches until they’re six feet away from a home’s roof lines – too far for most (nondaredevil) squirrels to leap.
  • Collar that tree: Stop squirrels from climbing trees or even power poles by wrapping them with a 2-foot-wide collar of metal, six feet off the ground, says the University of California: “Attach metal using encircling wires held together with springs to allow for tree growth.”
  • Trip up tightrope-walking rodents: Wildlife expert Jackson says you can stop squirrels from running along electrical wires by installing 2-foot sections of lightweight, 2- to 3-inch diameter plastic pipe. Slit the pipe lengthwise, spread it open and place it over the wire. Since this outer pipe fits only loosely, it spins on the wire, and squirrels can’t cross it.
  • Fix that feeder: If the home’s birdfeeder is the attraction, put an end to that by buying one of several varieties of squirrel-proof feeders. Or, give the squirrels something else to target: Nail up a corncob farther away, Jackson suggests.
  • Block ’em out: You need to seal out the varmints so they won’t waltz back inside. How? “Areas of concern should be covered with metal flashing, or quarter-inch mesh or even half-inch mesh,” McNeely says. Extend the patch several inches beyond the hole in all directions to stop the squirrel from gnawing around it.

Caution: “One should always make sure that the squirrels are not present before sealing a hole,” he says. Translation: Don’t accidentally block them inside! Here’s how to make sure you don’t: Ball up a newspaper. Put it in the hole the squirrels have been using. Now wait, probably two days. If the newspaper remains intact, McNeely says, you can be more certain the squirrels are outside. Now seal up the hole.

Repellents
People badly want to believe in a magic bullet – or make that a stinky bullet – some product
that drives away squirrels because it smells bad, tastes bad or imparts fear.

  • Hot sauce: There are products on the market that use capsaicin, the “hot” ingredient in pepper, to discourage squirrels from gnawing, for example. But the experts are skeptical about the effectiveness. “That may have some effect,” Jackson says of a pepper-based spray.
  • Sticky stuff: Products that contain polybutenes, or sticky materials that can be applied to buildings, railings, downspouts and other areas to prevent squirrels from climbing, may also be effective because animals don’t like to walk on them. But it’s not exactly desirable to have strips all around your house like a sticky moat.
  • Mothballs: The University of California says that napthalene (mothballs) used at a rate of five pounds per 2,000 cubic feet of air space may temporarily discourage squirrels from entering attics and other enclosed spaces. However, the smell of mothballs also can irritate humans, and some experts don’t advise this.
For pro-squirrel news, be sure and check out some previous JustSaying posts.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

"Eat This, Not That"

Editor of Men's Health Magazine and author of Eat This, Not That, David Zinczenko, has been all over the place lately. On the Today Show yesterday morning talking about foods that improve your sex life. Hanging out and promoting his new book on Ellen. Even pointing out the pitfalls of bottled water on Yahoo! Health. So I got to thinking: Decoding food in America is a HUGE undertaking and while I wish everyone had time to plant their own gardens and search for local farmers markets, the truth is that we've all grown accustomed to the convenience of restaurants so perhaps it's time to address those inevitable drive-thru decisions.

Find tons of Zinczenko's Best & Worst lists here. Wondering what he deems the absolute worst food in America? Brace yourself, Outback fans:

1. The Worst Food in America: Outback Steakhouse Aussie Cheese Fries with Ranch Dressing (2,900 calories 182 g fat 240 g carbs This weapon of mass construction is the caloric equivalent of eating 14 Krispy Kreme doughnuts, before your dinner arrives. Even if you split this "starter" with 3 friends, you'll have downed a meal's worth of calories.)

And just think, that disturbing factoid is only a sample of what the website has to offer! So far I think my favorite feature is the Menu Decoder.
*Note: Unless specified, Zinczenko's suggestions regard personal health, not environmentally friendly choices.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Salad Season

Check out 101 awesome summer salad recipes by Mark Bittman for the New York Times. I'm really digging 10, 11, 18, 32, 38, 41... who am I kidding? They all sound wonderfully delicious and simple. Well, at least until the meat comes in at #70.

Revisiting the Footprint of Flowers

A loyal reader out in Seattle contacted me recently to rave about the town's massive, year-round farmers' market that boasts some beautiful, locally grown bouquets and we got to talking about the smartest and most environmentally friendly way to purchase flowers. Like everything else grown on this good earth, knowing the grower is ideal, but not all of us get to the local farmers' markets regularly or purchase flowers in person, so here are a few tips and suggestions to minimize the carbon footprint of your blooms.

- Always buy in season (theflowerexpert.com)

- I highly recommend flowerpetal.com. Based on their total flower sales every quarter, they contribute to carbonfund.org, a carbon offset program.

- Look for FTD-certifies shops and websites such as 1-800-FLOWERS, Flowerbud, Organic Bouquet and TransFair.

- To ensure the flower was grown sustainably, with fair labor practices, and minimal application of pesticides, look for the eco-labels: Florverde, VeriFlora and FlorEquador.

For more on the sustainability of flowers, check out my previous post, a thorn in my side, or Carolyn Whelan's recent article from Earth 3.0, The Real Price of Flowers.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Green Ratings

Yesterday, Wal-Mart unveiled their new environmental labeling program requiring suppliers to calculate and disclose the full environmental cost of their products. The ratings will be displayed alongside prices. Hopefully these green ratings will become another point for shoppers to consider while comparing items, forcing suppliers to reassess their production. The New York Times reports:

The idea is to create a universal rating system that scores products based on how environmentally and socially sustainable they are over the course of their lives. Consider it the green equivalent to nutrition labels.

Rather than a retailer or a product supplier’s focusing on only a few sustainability goals — lower emissions or water conservation or waste reduction — the index would help them take a broader view of sustainability by scrutinizing and rating all sorts of environmental and social implications.

Did this T-shirt come from a cotton crop that was sprayed with pesticide? Was excessive packaging used to ship these diapers?

Wal-Mart’s goal is to have other retailers eventually adopt the indexing system, which will be created over the next five years.


I suppose I owe Wal-Mart a "tip o' the hat," huh? Is there such a thing as "sustainable consumption" with a retailer of this magnitude?

Click here for Wal-Mart's press release or here for the web cast from their Sustainability Milestone Meeting.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Playin' cards and makin' love

Writer, scholar and documentary filmmaker Douglas Rushkoff talks about his book, Life Inc. How The World Became A Corporation And How To Take it Back, with Stephen Colbert and it sounds wonderful. Check it out. I mean that literally. Check out the clip then check out the book from the library. And then check out activities that aren't just economic stimulus. Oh and of course check out Life Inc The Movie on Rushkoff's website.

Thinking of going Ecotarian?

There is a nice feature up on Treehugger about how our food choices, in terms of growth, choice and consumption, affect the environment. It covers many of the topics touched upon here on Just Saying so if you are new to this blog, think of it as a crash course.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Just recycle, folks.

I can not believe how upset Baltimore City residents are about the recent changes to the trash schedule. In case you've been living under a rock and have not seen the plethora of mailings, news coverage on the topic and resident reactions, recycling pick up will increase from twice monthly to once weekly in Baltimore City, in an effort to reduce waste, cleanup the streets, and of course promote recycling.

This is great news, folks. Sure, it means one less trash pick up day a week but c'mon and get into the spirit of recycling already and get motivated with this fun game!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Green Pet, Good Pet

If you can't already tell, I'm for pets. Furry ones. Slippery, scaly ones. Ones that aren't really pets but hang out on your lawn and enjoy regular meals you've laid out for them. I like to think that while they sometimes take a toll on your wallet and perhaps the environment (think black-market slider turtles released into Maryland waters), the companionship, activity and love they provide is paramount to any gaming system or whatever else kids play with these days. But I digress. The question that keeps me up at night is this: What's a dog-loving, eco-activist to do about the doo doo? And can I enjoy the company of a friendly little fish while I blog without pangs of guilt about the two gallons of water required weekly to keep his bowl clean and clear?

Luckily, there are others out there like me. You'll notice a new addition to my list of suggested books, Green Dog, Good Dog: Reducing Your Best Friend's Carbon Paw Print, by Dominique De Vito. My mom discovered this gem the other day and while I am proud to report that I already opt for biodegradable bags, I learned that a Canine Cleanup day is long overdue in my neighborhood and intend to dedicate an entire post to www.flushpuppies.com in the near future. I'd also like to suggest a recent post by Slate's Green Lantern contributor, Nina Shen Rastogi, addressing the environmental impact of our aquatic friends. As you would guess, the greenest fish are freshwater, low-maintenance, and fairly small.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Save a Journalist

Gardening Sans Pesticides

Whether you strive to be an organic gardener and keep pesticides far from your food and local waters, or dislike the idea of poisoning innocent little bugs, there are a few simple tricks to keeping the insect population in your garden at a healthy and manageable level:

- Don't invite them. Minimize bug breeding grounds. Clear away any dead plants and pull weeds on a regular basis and avoid leaving any standing water in your watering can.

-
Research and rotate your crops. Some plants are more likely to attract pests and a varied mix lowers the risk of a pest uprising.

-
Mix in some herbs and flowers. Coriander, dill, caraway chervil, fennel, and parsley naturally ward off pests. Sunflowers and sweet asylum attract pest-eating bugs and marigolds emit a strong stench that deters pests.

-
Wetness encourages fungus and insects. Water early in the day so that plants are dry throughout most of the day.

-
If slugs and snails are your problem pests, try spreading some coffee grounds around the infested areas.

-
When all else fails, there is always homemade bug spray. Mix one tablespoon of liquid dish washing soap and one cup of vegetable oil. Add one or two teaspoons of that mixture to per cup of water in a spray bottle and shake well. Spray the infected plants early in the morning or after the hottest part of the day has passed because vegetable oil can burn plants in hot weather.

-
And if your pests are of a different breed and have four legs and some sort of fur, try cleaning out your hairbrush near your veggies. It sounds gross, but a little human hair along the way keeps the deer at bay.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

PopSci's Green Guide

Looking for 99 ways to save energy and money this summer? Check out the all-digital Green Home Guide available for free and easy browsing on the Popular Science website. You will need to provide a name and email address but that's it.

Browse through it. Save money. Kill some time at the office. Reduce your footprint on this great planet. Everybody wins.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Baby Camel Burgers?

I definitely need to classify this as "very uncool." A fast food restaurant in Saudi Arabia is now selling "Hashi" burgers:

The camel is celebrated as a symbol of the country’s nomadic tradition. And because “it doesn’t have much fat, it’s light and has a delicate taste,” said one patron of Local Hashi Meals—“Hashi” being the Saudi word for “baby camel,” as he happily scarfed down his burger.

Granted, there is a chance that using camels... gulp... is local and sustainable... gulp... but come on... baby ones?!

Monday, July 6, 2009

Really?!

Treehugger put up a slide show of absurd over-packaging that is rather entertaining (find it here) and reminded me of something ridiculous that I came across at Target the other day: Glass Mug Jars. Really?! I can't believe that people actually buy that which can be found in any recycling bin. Ugh.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Food for Fuel

Tara Parker-Pope talked to Leslie Bonci, the director of sports nutrition at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and a certified specialist in sports dietetics, about eating for exercise in a recent post. According to Bonci, the most common mistakes are not eating anything or eating too much too close to a workout. Her advice is to drink 20 ounces of water and eat something the size of a fist (think granola bar or a snack containing carbs in the range of 150-200 calories) about an hour before you exercise. Bonci also addresses the fact that when you are actively exercising, you really do need to refuel more often. I'm sure this is common sense to some regular exercisers out there but I needed a refresher and thought I'd pass it on. Read more here.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Sustainable Style

I have to admit, there is a chance that I am a recovering shopaholic. I think. What I mean is, I am certainly guilty of picking up a trendy top or cute pair of jeans that I truly don't need and that look second-hand but are shamefully brand new and overpriced. Although I do my best to make local, sustainable, low-impact choices - I am still a girl in my 20s and enjoy a bit of fashion in my life. For this reason, I am thrilled to report that Project Runway winner, Leanne Marshall, has teamed up with Bluefly, an online clothing distributor, and designed a sustainable clothing collection on sale July 8th. Pretty cool, huh?

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Hybrid Salamanders

Maureen E. Ryan and Jarrett R. Johnson, from UC Davis, and Benjamin M. Fitzpatrick from the University of Tennessee are studying the impact of the California tiger salamanders and barred tiger salamanders hybrids. The latter was brought to California 60 years ago by Texas bait dealers and have been gulping other pond larvae down rapidly with their big mouths but the hybrids spell even more trouble for native species. Henry Fountain reports:

The researchers built artificial ponds, stocked them with salamanders and other species, notably the California newt and the Pacific chorus frog (both of which are found in the Salinas Valley) and monitored what happened. Their findings appear in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Hybrid larvae had a greater effect on the newts and frogs than native salamander larvae did, nearly wiping them out. Hybrids even affected the survival of native salamanders in the ponds. “The implication is they’re ecologically quite different than the native species,” Ms. Ryan said.

That could spell trouble for other “third-party” species in the valley, like the California red-legged frog and the Santa Cruz long-toed salamander.