After the Canadian House of Commons Standing Committee mysteriously canceled an 18 month study on tar sands tailings and water quality -- even going so far as to shred the drafts-- members of the Liberal government and Environment Canada recently released a report on tailings waste, showing dramatic increases in many toxic substances.
The shocking data released in the report is a major blow to the culture of secrecy and minimal oversight practiced by the Alberta government around tar sands tailings.
Industry has repeatedly sought to characterize the toxic lakes as benign ‘water recycling’ sites, and so far the oil royalty-soaked Alberta government has expressed little interest in regulating the massive waste ponds as toxic facilities.
The report makes public what opponents of the tar sands industry have been saying all along- that the government and industry are lying about the toxicity of tailings, and these massive poison lakes are a real threat to public heath and environment in Canada.
The report details a laundry list of rising toxic chemical concentrations in the 50,000 tons of tar sands tailings released between 2006 and 2009. Arsenic, a toxin sold as rat poison, increased 26 percent -- from 256 thousand kilograms in 2006 to 322 thousand kilograms in 2009. Other toxic heavy metals, like cadmium, surged 36 percent; nickel and lead increased 30 percent. Mercury, a potent neurotoxin, rose 13 percent in the same period. Concentrations of benzene and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, both known human carcinogens, also rose.
The report leaves out naphthenic acids -- a chemical that researchers consider the most potent toxin in tar sands tailings, but the Alberta government has resisted classifying as a pollutant because it can be hard to track and remains dangerous for decades.
These figures are especially alarming considering current plans to triple tar sands production by 2025. For every one barrel of water produced, up to six barrels of freshwater are contaminated. The resulting contaminated waste water inevitably leaks into groundwater- by some estimates at a rate of 11 million liters a day.
If the industry continues its current tailings disposal practices, levels of toxins in Canada’s water and environment will inevitably and dramatically increase.
The Alberta government will have a much tougher sell in making tar sands and its toxic byproducts seem safe in light of this study. One can only hope Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach, a longtime ally of tar sands, will take action to protect the health of Alberta’s people and environment by creating stringent standards for tailings disposal instead of propagating the fallacy of safety upheld by current lax regulations.
We cannot afford another pipeline disaster, and we don't need a multi-billion dollar project that directly undermines America's clean energy future. We must stand up and tell the State Department that another risky pipeline carrying the world’s dirtiest crude will never be in the national interest.
Main Switchboard for State Department:
TTY:1-800-877-8339 (Federal Relay Service)
You might notice that these suggestions are not anything new. But walking the talk a little at a time will go a long way. And if you're frustrated by the slow political process in Washington, click here to take action. Have a happy and safe long weekend!
Backyard gardening is something I'm yearning to get into. How great would it be to grow your own food? I stumbled upon these two helpful videos full of gardening tips:
One reason the BP oil disaster makes us sick is the flood of heartbreaking images of dead or dying wildlife and despoiled wetlands coupled with an infuriating sense of helplessness. BP's “handling” the crisis, so there's nothing we can do -- right?
Oil has infiltrated our daily lives to an astonishing degree, but that doesn't mean we can't significantly reduce our use of it. Americans burn nearly 20 million barrels of oil every single day, most of it for personal transportation.
Even for the most committed environmentalist, to go completely oil-free overnight would be next to impossible. But taking the first step toward an oil-free future -- by simply reducing our current daily consumption -- is actually incredibly easy. It's also one of the most significant things you can do to wrest control of our energy future back from the Big Oil companies, which have enjoyed cozy political relationships and big government subsidies for far too long.
Each day this week, we'll highlight a different strategy for getting oil out our lives.
1. We Are What We Eat
If the oil disaster makes you angry and you eat a lot of meat, one powerful solution is sitting right on your plate. The U.S. meat industry is a major consumer of petroleum. In fact, raising one cow in a factory farm requires about 35 gallons of oil -- just under a barrel (according to The Omnivore's Dilemma, p. 84). Processed foods and corn syrup also heavily depend on petroleum.
* Cutting meat out of your diet for just one day each week is equivalent to driving 1,000 miles less per year.
* When you do buy meat, consider the source. Grass-fed, sustainably raised livestock are a breath of fresh air compared to the filthy, industrialized feedlots that have taken over the U.S. Click here for a directory of responsibly raised meat.
* Location matters. The label “organic” doesn’t necessarily mean “oil free.” Organic apples from Chile, for instance, use as much oil as non organic domestic apples because of the required transportation. Look for produce that’s grown as close to home as possible first, then consider whether it's organic or not.
* Farmers rule! The easiest way to get healthy and low-oil-use foods is to take you reusable bags to a local farmers' market. Most of the market vendors are local, seasonal, and sustainable.
Read Part II of "Quitting Oil."
Have you got other ideas for how we can get the oil out of our diets? Share them in the comments.
The article, entitled "Meatless Mondays, A Movement That Has Legs," covers all the angles of why people are doing it, as well as the meat industry's paranoid response. An excerpt:
It's enough to make the meat industry nervous. Over the past year, lobbying groups including the American Meat Institute, the National Cattlemen's Beef Association, the National Pork Board and the Farm Bureau have launched a quiet campaign to try to reverse the momentum.
They have fired off missives to institutions that embrace the call to reduce meat consumption, and they have posted talking points for meat producers on the Internet. They are also making a final push to ensure that the government recommendation of two servings of meat per day remains enshrined in the new dietary guidelines that the Department of Agriculture will release this fall....
In response, the meat industry has stressed science...To environmentalists, they point to new research that challenges widely publicized statistics that livestock production creates more greenhouse gases than forms of automated transportation.
Nervous meat producers! Could be a good band name. Are you into Meatless Mondays?
I can't believe that with all this deep, loose soil, which has a lot of manure and compost in it, and a better watering system, I won't get a bumper crop. We'll see.
You may be thinking that all this sounds like a lot of work for someone purporting to be lazy.I like to think of myself as strategically lazy. I'm doing this work now so I will have less to do during the summer. If all goes according to plan — and of course, it often doesn't — my main task in midsummer will be to harvest the bounty of the beds, pull a random weed here and there, and sit in the shade with a glass of iced tea.
Bernard Brown of Philadelphia is the founder of the PB&J campaign, an online-based non-profit supported by Social and Environmental Entrepreneurs. The campaign’s goal is to reduce people’s carbon footprint through a simple message about food. According to the campaign, a plant-based lunch like a peanut butter and jelly sandwich will “reduce your carbon footprint by the equivalent of 2.5 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions over an average animal-based lunch like a hamburger, a tuna sandwich, grilled cheese, or chicken nuggets.” Take a PB&J pledge and read my interview with Brown:
When did the PB&J campaign start?
The Web site launched February 2007.
Do you have a staff?
It’s pretty much just me. We have a handful of loyal volunteers.
Do you do events and go to schools or is this all online?
We’ve been starting to do more events lately. For example we were at a Whole Foods in Philadelphia for PB&J Day, which was April 3rd.
Where did the idea of using peanut butter and jelly sandwiches come from?
We had an idea of doing a peanut and jelly eating contest. We would then figure out the impact of that. I was coming out of finishing a master’s degree and I had been to lectures about the impact of the poultry industry on the Chesapeake Bay. This impression was that the impact of livestock production was under-discussed. The contest didn’t end up happening, but we did all this research for it, so we launched the website.
You can do any food, really. You can do a pinto bean campaign. But it doesn’t quite have the same ring to it. PB &J is all-American, comfort food. I remember in college I ran out of money once and I just stockpiled bread, peanut butter, and jelly for a few weeks.
Are you a vegetarian?
I’ve been vegetarian for a while, but I’m not vegan. One of the things about this concept is that in practice, someone who’s not vegetarian at all and doesn’t tend to eat much red meat might have a lower footprint than a vegetarian who eats a lot of cheese. The idea here is a plant-based focus. It was never a question of vegetarianism as much as a shift in how one eats. If you’ve ever been a vegetarian or a vegan, you learn that eating animals is a luxury. It then becomes easier to conceptualize shifting to a plant-based diet.
Talk about the tone of your campaign. When it comes to eating, people are more sensitive than issues like car emissions and energy.
Step one is to not tell people what not to eat. If you can show how they’ve already been taking environmental actions and that they can do it more often, you can give them a sense of accomplishment. For example, eating a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, which they already like and eat, or something else simple like oatmeal, is a great action. And also, trying to do it in a positive tone. People kind of get in a shell about yet another diet and they tune it out. We try real hard to make this a fun and encouraging concept. This isn’t about hardship and self-denial.
What kind of criticism do you encounter?
You see it more in comments on news stories about the campaign and they see it as a plot or something. But those comments are so extreme and ridiculous that you don’t give it credence. I hear a lot from people who are not vegetarians and like the idea. That means it works in that it gets away from the black and white of either eating the standard American diet, which is heavy on animal products, or veganism. You can make a big difference on the environment with a small shift to something that’s plant-based. It doesn’t have to be a lifelong decision that you’re making.
Plenty of peanut butter products are high in sugar. Do you consider what kinds of peanut butter and jelly to use?
Not much. Sometimes on the blog we write about it. But when we get into the specifics about the sandwich itself – yes, it’s probably better to have natural peanut butter on whole grain bread with fresh fruit instead of jelly – we want to keep the focus on the concept. Whether it’s grabbing falafel or getting a bean burrito or tofu the next time you’re having Chinese food, it’s the idea of looking at whether what you’re having is coming mostly from plants.
Our friends at Rainforest Action Network made this entertaining video that calls companies out for blatant Earth Day greenwashing. The video may be funny, but the subject matter is no joke: Going green is a massive marketing craze, and many corporations insidiously exaggerate or completely fabricate their eco-credibility to cash in on well-meaning consumers.
Need evidence? Dasani (a Coca-Cola subsidiary) recently switched to plastic bottles made from "up to 30 percent" plant-based materials. Really, that could mean anything from 1 to 30 percent. The rest is regular, non-recycled plastic, rendering their eco-claim bogus. They're still making landfill-clogging, disposable plastic bottles, and causing water problems around the world.
Our next example is brought to you by McDonald's, which published an "environmental best practices" e-book. That's big talk from a company we haven't yet forgiven for cutting down Amazonian rainforest, and for being one of the biggest peddlers of the world's most polluting product.But who is stopping these companies from making baseless claims of environmental responsibility? As of now, there's no system for accountability, and marketers can bluff all they want. Fortunately, though, there are several certification and watchdog agencies out there; check out Greenwashing Index or the Greenwash Guide (PDF) to learn how to spot greenwashing.
|The Colbert Report||Mon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c|
|Thought for Food - Corn Diapers, Fatty Foods & Jamie Oliver|
Colbert has some thought for food: Corn-based diapers, junk-food addiction, and Jamie Oliver. This is quite the segment.
The Farmers' Market group on Climate Crossroads is doing great stuff. The group uses its photo gallery to create a photo map that spots where its great photos were taken. To view the whole map, click here!
Six farmers' markets were added to the photo map yesterday! There are close to 90 markets from 30 states up on the map.
Remember when viewing the map to click on a basket to view the photo taken from the market. If you don't see your local market on the map, take your camera with you on your next visit to the farmers' market, snap some pictures, post it to the photo gallery, and indicate your market's location. We'll take it from there.
March is fast approaching and the seasons are changing. Do you want to get a garden going? The I Love to Garden group here on Climate Crossroads is the place to be. Join the group, meet other gardeners, and check out some new photos like this one in the group's gallery. Another excellent group with a vibrant photo gallery is Fans of Farmers Markets.
Last week I momentarily forgot that I was a vegetarian. You see, my wife fell ill last weekend. And whenever that happens her mom delivers a giant pot of her excellent chicken soup. "Sounds delicious. Are you going to share or is that exclusive to you?" I asked my wife. There was a pause. "It's chicken soup. There's chicken in it," she said. D'oh!
A few days later, I developed my own cold. While I was blowing my nose this morning, I was thinking of some of the vegetarian dishes out there that help allay sickiness. We have a good number of soups posted here on Crossroads. You can post your own recipes here.
Do you have a planet friendly dish that you throw together when you're feeling under the weather?
(I quit meat for 2010 and I'm writing about it. Click here to join our Green Cuisine group here on Climate Crossroads.)
Here is a glimpse of the new food widget here on Climate Crossroads. The neat display is provided by our good friends at GoodGuide, who are experts in safe, healthy purchasing and eating. Keep visiting our awesome food section for sustainable recipes and tips.
My wife and I visited my Grandma's town this past weekend -- a weekend that happened to include the annual crab feed put on by the local American Legion post, which got me thinking about vegetarianism and seafood. For some reason, people seem to think seafood is not meat. "But you still eat crab, don't you?" my grandma asked. I shook my head. "What about white meat?" Uhhh.
My wife and I attended the event anyway just to be with Grandma and her friends -- and because proceeds go toward a good cause. In this town, crab feeds are among the most exciting things that happen.
Nearly 400 people packed the Legion's auditorium. Each table was waited on by Girl Scouts while some Cub Scouts bussed. Fresh Dungeness crab was served in blue buckets while the leftover shells were tossed in white buckets and carried back to the kitchen. There were a lot of buckets. I later found out that 1,200 pounds of crab total were trucked in for the feast.
About five years ago, I attended and happily participated. But now that I'm a vegetarian, my wife and I had to prepare. Pasta was also on the menu. But my instincts were proven right when it was served with meat sauce already plopped on top.
That's why my wife made our own pasta to bring. And some great sauce to boot -- regular tomato, basil sauce with cooked artichoke hearts. And she made tasty garlic bread using a sweet baguette. It was divine!
I learned from this experience that vegetarians have to be mindful of what's available when they attend events that provide prepared food. I also learned that vegetarians are expected to conform to what other people are doing, especially at something like a crab feed. Luckily we didn't get very many confused looks from people wondering what we were doing bringing our own food. Why go to a crab feed when you're not going to eat crab? Well, we don't get to see Grandma all that often!
And lastly, there are ways to eat seafood while keeping the planet in mind. Our oceans, rivers, and lakes are among the most vulnerable ecosystems out there. I recommend reading Julie Packard's (of the Monterey Bay Aquarium) recent article on sustainable seafood and taking the Sierra Club's excellent and educational "How Green is My Seafood" quiz.
|The Colbert Report||Mon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c|
|Jonathan Safran Foer|
Any of you old enough to remember the classic rock tune "My City Was Gone" by the Pretenders? Like singer Chrissie Hynde, I go back to Ohio, but my city (Akron, aka The Rubber City) is not gone. Can you imagine my surprise to find a great organic restaurant, VegiTERRANEAN, by none other than Chrissie Hynde herself, on my last visit?
While other little girls were into Barbie, I was idolizing Chrissie as the world's coolest rock chick. I think of her as a true pioneer, back in the day when MTV actually played videos. "Back on The Chain Gang" and "Middle of the Road" may have been bigger hits, but the anti-development anthem "My City Was Gone" has a blues rock riff that still inspires me.
My mother told me about VegiTERRANEAN and I was immediately on board. I must admit that despite my green leanings, kicking the meat habit has not been easy. Nevertheless, onward we went for our vegan meal.
Surprisingly, VegiTERRANEAN is not a tribute to Chrissie Hynde and the Pretenders. There are a select few bits of memorabilia, a guitar on the wall type of thing, but Hard Rock Café it is not. The room is loft-style, swank by most city standards, with concrete floors, curved chain link walls and subdued blue lighting. It is dominated by a long bar serving a great selection of local microbrews and some organic wines. A little bit of SoHo in Akron.
The interior of VegiTERRANEAN.
Intrigued by my outstanding meal of garbanzo beans and tomatoes, I set up an interview with Chrissie. I wanted to get the scope on the little veggie haunt in Akron. She is a real rock star, so I have, well, edited her comments a bit to clean up the language, lots of F-bombs. Hynde is not your typical celebrity turned restauranteur, however. She made it clear: "I am not in this to make money." Her cause celeb is to reduce meat eating and its negative impact on humans and the environment.
Have you ever been to the Ecological Farming Associations annual conference called EcoFarm?
Because it was "ecofarm," my presentation focused on the area in our book that describes ways and benefits of carbon sequestration in the soil. Being a chef and not a soil scientist -- I approach the subject from a culinary perspective. "We should think of the soil as a fine bordelaise sauce and know that as we put great ingredients into the soil, it will deliciously season all the things we take out."
Here's a good chart from our presentation that shows agricultural GHG emissions and how they can be offset.
Did you know that for every 10 carbons that are sequestered in the soil - one nitrogen is also sequestered? This chart from UC Davis (also in the book) shows the good results they have documented in this area:
Things are not always as they appear.
I quit meat for 2010 to reduce my carbon footprint. But this past week I've come to realize that vegetarianism is not a be-all, end-all. For example, the other day I noticed after the fact that the grapes I bought were from Chile. Whoops. And then I read Mr. Green's articles here and here about why purchasing meat from small farmers might be better than eating no meat at all. He makes a very persuasive "eat less meat" argument.
Meanwhile, I am in the middle of The Omnivore's Dilemma by food guru Michael Pollan. I was struck by the chapter about Big Organic and the industry's steady morph into something that resembles the conventional. I'm always leery of "organic" microwable dinners that I periodically see at my grocery store. But what Pollan writes here (p.182) really stuck out:
[P]erhaps most discouraging of all, my industrial organic meal is nearly as drenched in fossil fuel as its conventional counterpart. Asparagus traveling in a 747 from Argentina; blackberries trucked up from Mexico; a salad chilled to thirty-six degrees from the moment it was picked in Arizona [...] to the moment I walk it out the doors of my Whole Foods.[...] Today it takes between seven and ten calories of fossil fuel energy to deliver one calorie of food energy to an American plate. And while it is true that organic farmers don't spread fertilizers made from natural gas or spray pesticides made from petroleum, industrial organic farmers often wind up burning more diesel fuel than their conventional counterparts: in trucking bulky loads of compost across the countryside and weeding their fields, a particularly energy-intensive process involving extra irrigation and extra cultivation.
I guess there are a few lessons here: eat local; eat seasonal; and while quitting meat probably does wonders to one's carbon footprint, it's not the whole enchilada, so to speak. And last but not least, food labels (i.e. "organic", "cage-free") are not always what they insinuate. There's vegetarianism and then there's smart vegetarianism.
When it comes to certain activities during the calendar year, such as the holidays, meat is practically mandatory. It's ceremonial. Turkey for Thanksgiving and pot roast for Christmas. And don't forget the Memorial Day, July 4, and Labor Day barbecues. These are all a given.
But since quitting meat for the new year, I've noticed the less obvious ones. For example, for this avid sports fan, I've come to notice that meat-eating is a staple for TV viewing. The NFL playoffs are in high gear right now. In previous times, you'd find me with a beer in one hand and a chicken strip/buffalo wing (with ranch!)/pizza slice/mozzarella sticks/bacon burger in the other. This ritual is as American as apple pie.
This year I've had to re-think my approach. And with the help of my wife, I've come to appreciate the lighter and healthier alternatives that are out there.
Here is one of the tostadas my wife made this past weekend for our football-viewing pleasure. It looks amazing and tastes even better. Rice, beans, guac, salsa, shredded lettuce, and a clump of olives on top a cooked tortilla. Awesome. Are you ready for some football?
Having a life partner who has no problems cooking meatless meals is a big plus. But in terms of my own abilities, it has been a challenge. I was always comfortable cooking chicken. I could make a mean steak. I've cooked turkey before, no prob. Sausages for breakfast, yum. I always slapped lunch meat in my sandwiches. Vegetarianism has eliminated all of these basic options. It's like I'm back to the drawing board.
So I took a risk the other day and made my very first lasagna. Some of you reading this will probably mutter, "So what?" Well, if you knew me, you'd know that to be a big deal. Here's a pic of the final product. Broccoli, spinach, a dash of rice cheese, olives, and sauce. It was far from perfect, but I got the hang of it and I now know how to make it better the next time around.
While it's nice to know that my carbon footprint has shrunk since quitting meat, I still have yet to adjust. I need to do more research in terms of what I can cook and what I should buy at the store and the farmers' market.
Like any lifestyle change, you see things in retrospect. And you notice the results. After three weeks of being an herbivore, I feel healthier. And I feel even better when I read horrid stories about the meat industry.
Do you have any favorite earth-friendly, veggies recipes? Share them here or post them on Climate Crossroads here!
I’m nearly a fortnight into my new lifestyle as a vegetarian. Some days are easier than others. Yesterday, for example, was rough. I was surrounded by people eating pepperoni pizza. I kept trying to tell myself that my tomato and basil slice was just as satisfying. But who am I kidding? Of course pepperoni tastes like heaven. (Perhaps I should make myself a soy pepperoni pizza this weekend with a pinch of nostalgia?)
I really appreciated the amount of feedback my Part 1 post received last week -- more than 80 comments between Facebook and the Crossroads blog. I was especially encouraged by those who said that adopting a meatless diet gets easier over time. That’s what ex-smokers tend to say, too. Or ex-anything. That’s reassuring for someone like me who occasionally finds himself surrounded by the sweet aroma of pepperoni.
There were several comments that provided some tips and resources. Several vegans chimed in. One wrote that I should follow George Ohsawa's macrobiotic diet. Uhh, one step at a time. Only a few weeks ago I was chowing down a steak on a cruise ship!
One commenter wrote: "I'd suggest trying a variety of veg recipes from the countless sites out there....Here's one of my favorite recipes for Spicy Lentil Dahl that's quick, cheap, easy & delicious! Praise seitan. ;)"
One commenter linked to this NYT op-ed piece and wrote, "simply going vegetarian or even organic doesn't avoid environmental consequences, and that some animal products are raised in a way better for the environment than industrial soy, grains, fruits and vegetables."
One commenter had this to say: “hey, you wanna eat an animal? fine, eat it. but I think you should also have to kill it, skin it, gut it. do not remove yourself from the process. if I am ever lost in the woods, starving, damn skippy I'll eat me a rabbit! but I'll have to kill it, skin it, gut it.”
And then there were these comments: “I will never quit meat!” and “Beef yum yum don't hate me 'cause who I am.” I agree to a certain extent. I mean, that was my mentality for years and years. Meat’s delicious. For a long time I thought vegetarians were missing a party.
But after a few years of working on climate-change topics, it's safe to say the cow farm isn’t your traditional family-owned prairie anymore. The meat industry is right up there with Big Coal and Big Oil. The only difference is that it tastes better. I have nothing against meat-eaters, but I think cutting down meat intake by one day a week, which is what I did last year, is very commendable and doable.
Have veggie recipes? Share them here. Next week: I'll try some veggie cooking and post some pictures.
|The Daily Show With Jon Stewart||Mon - Thurs 11p / 10c|
We're five days into the new year. But that doesn't mean it's too late to resolve to do something. Today is just as good as any day to improve your life and the planet. The Green Life blog is posting some excellent tips this week on how to green your year.
Yeez! – what kind of question is that? Not only do I have to worry about not burning my chestnuts while they roast on an open fire, I have to worry about how many greenhouse gases they create when I do it? A carbon foodprint is the measure of CO2e (carbon dioxide equivalent) that comes from production and manufacturing of food. The higher the number – the more impact the meal could have on global warming. Food can have a substantial effect on global warming; in fact, what you eat may contribute more greenhouse gases to the environment than what you drive!
Emission totals are hard to determine however because calculations depend on a complexity of factors such as the type of food, how it is grown, transported, cooked and disposed of. The six largest contributors of greenhouse gases occurring from the food system are as follows:
Hope I’m not too late on this one. If you’re like me, you still haven’t done much of your holiday shopping. What? There are still two weeks until Christmas, and Hanukkah started only a few days ago.
So, who isn’t tempted around the holidays, with all the great sales and so many people to impress, to buy, buy, buy? I know I’m susceptible. I adore buying gifts for people. It’s one of my favorite feelings to find the perfect gift for someone, something they mentioned off-hand once months ago, and had no idea you remembered.
That being said, I strongly believe there is just way too much stuff in this world. Finding the perfect gift is great, but buying just for the sake of giving something? Not so much. Here are my five best tips for making your holiday gift-giving a little greener, both in terms of the environment, and that extra cash you’ll still have in your wallet.
1. Buy Time
I love to give the gift of time spent together. This is one of my favorite gifts to give children, especially, rather than a plastic toy they’ll just outgrow and cast away. My sister and I like to do this for my little brother, who’s 7 – we’ve taken him on a day-trip to the Monterrey Bay Aquarium, and owe him a trip to the Academy of Sciences. He might not like it as much in the moment as another set of Star Wars Legos, but we like to think he’ll remember how his cool older sisters took him places when he was a kid. Beyond kids, this is a great gift for anyone in your life – a concert, a cooking class, even a meal out together at a place they’ve been wanting to try. And it won’t clutter their house or come wrapped in plastic.
Note: If you are forced to gift-give to someone you, ahem, are not the biggest fan of, it is totally acceptable to give them a gift of something to do that you don’t have to participate in!
2. Make – or Buy – Something Homemade
Homemade gifts are all the rage, especially in this economy, and for good reason. I like homemade foodie treats, like hot fudge (this recipe is super delicious), jams and infused alcohols. If I could sew or knit, I’d be all about those kind of hand-crafted gifts, but alas, my high school offered only Foods class, and not Home Ec.
If, like me, you’re not so crafty, turn to Etsy or Foodzie for something adorable or delicious (or both!). Both sites have Buy Local options, which I’ve linked to. Foodie gifts from your local farmers market are another great option. Give jams, olive oils, or whatever your area is known for. If you’re traveling to see your family anyway, bring them a special treat made in your hometown.
3. Buy Used or Secondhand New
Who says a gift has to be brand new? I love scouring Craigslist for gift ideas. Chances are someone has whatever you need, used it once, and decided they didn’t need it. You’ll save money and reduce your impact – what’s not to love about that? Have a friend or family member you just can’t imagine giving a previously-been-owned gift? Craigslist and eBay are full of items I like to call “secondhand new,” those that someone bought, never used, and never got around to returning.
4. Buy One Less
One of my favorite rules for holiday gift giving is to buy “one less.” For example, if you have the idea for 3 perfect gifts for someone, and you’re only able to get 2 of them, they won’t know. All they’ll realize is that they got two fantastic gifts from you, and they’ll never know about that just absolutely perfect gift you had to get them but couldn’t track down in time. This has helped take the pressure off me when I’m looking for “just one more” perfect gift.
5. Ask What They Want
It’s not very romantic or mysterious, but asking what someone wants is a great way to reduce. This is admittedly hard for me, because I do love the surprise-and-delight factor. But so many times what I think is the perfect gift for someone might not be everything they ever dreamed of and more. Asking what someone wants will make the recipient happy, and you won’t have wasted your money on something they’ll never use anyway.
That about wraps it up, and speaking of wrapping? Remember that while colorful holiday wrapping paper may be cute, it’s not so adorable when you think about it being shipped overseas to be recycled or meeting its untimely death in a landfill. Try newspapers, scraps of cloth, and reusing old gift bags this season!
Are you planning to use any of these tips to “green” your holiday season? What are your best green holiday tips?
(Like what you read? Read my blog prettygreengirl.com.)
SPECIAL NOTE: Unfortunately many people don't know a lot about food and cooking. So - if you want to change the way anyone (or society) eats - don't talk to them about what NOT to eat. Teach them what TO eat. Give them options.This first blog is about a seasonal cooking class taught at the San Francisco Ferry Building Farmers Market. The market is a wonderful place to spend a Saturday - if you're around San Francisco and haven't gone yet - make a date to visit soon. The market is run by the nonprofit group - The Center for Urban Education about Sustainable Agriculture (CUESA) See CUESA.org.
The theme of the class (and the recipe) came from my recent book, Cool Cuisine - Taking the Bite Out of Global Warming.
The day started with a market trip shopping for the freshest, local ingredients around. All farms at the Ferry building are a 150 miles to the market or closer. What a dramatic improvement from the 1,500 mile trip that the average meal travels to get to your dinner plate.
Today's recipe is Autumn Tempeh Salad (recipe at the end of blog). It starts with Kabocha squash, known to be one of the sweetest winter squashes.
I’ve recently moved, and one of the unexpected perks is that with my new cable package, I now have the SOAP network. You know what that means – 90210 reruns. It’s my favorite show of all time, and I was so, so happy to discover that they are currently airing the early seasons.
So, what does this have to do with being green, or with the title of the post? Well, just yesterday they were airing one of the best episodes ever, U4EA (it’s up there with Donna Martin Graduates and when Kelly and Brenda wear the same dress to the Spring Dance). Anyway, U4EA brought us this infamous scene, where Steve and Ohhndrea try to exchange an egg in exchange for directions to an “underground” club (oh, early 90s TV, how I love you so).
See for yourself:
Well, like Sanders and Zuckerman here, I’d like to exchange an egg as well. For a better, more humane egg.
If you’ve ever bought eggs, you know how many options there are, and how confusing they can be. Cage-free, free range, Omega-3, organic. What’s the difference and what does it all mean?
I personally don’t trust a lot of the labels on the cartons. Free-range and cage-free sound great, but just because a chicken doesn’t live in a cage, doesn’t mean it can actually go outside. Can you imagine being cooped up (pun intended) your whole life? Free-range means they have free range of motion, and have access to the outside. The key word being access – it doesn’t actually mean they do, or have the opportunity to, go outside. It says nothing about the quality of the “outside” they are provided.
Your best bet, in my opinion, is to find eggs you can ask questions about. Go to the Farmers Market (find one near you at Local Harvest) and talk to your local egg farmers. Ask them how they raise their chickens – what they eat, what kind of living space they have.
Another option is to find eggs that are Certified Humane. I’m lucky that Glaum Eggs are really easy to find in this area – I can even order them through my CSA. Here’s a list of other providers of Certified Humane products – see if you can find any near you. However, I’ve recently read some conflicting information about Certified Humane eggs – including the fact that beak-cutting may be allowed. I don’t like this one bit! CH says they do it to prevent cannibalism; vegan blogs say it’s cruel and completely inhumane. I’m not sure what the answer is. I would still bet Certified Humane eggs are much better, ethically-speaking, than your generic “cage-free” or “free-range” eggs, but the question is far from simple. You can also find eggs that are American Humane Certified, an organization I need to do a little more research on as well. I have been buying Glaum and Clover eggs for awhile now, but maybe it’s time to ask more questions, and talk to the farmers who raise the chickens. It’s far from an easy or simple solution, but it’s important.
Also, humane eggs are going to be more expensive than your standard eggs from a regular grocery store. I think it’s worth it – don’t you?
White Christmas is a cultural and traditional icon of our society. Hopefully, sooner rather than later, Green Thanksgiving will also become an American standard.
Naturally, the most eco-friendly meal would be a 100 percent vegan menu. Let’s be honest, though, do you really want to celebrate with turkey-shaped soy? If you do, more power to you. But if a “tofurky” feast isn’t your thing, bear in mind you still have other savory and sustainable options: Choose a turkey that is USDA-Certified organic and free-range, meaning it is given organic feed and is free from confinement. You can find a list of farmers at Local Harvest who use organic methods to raise their birds, perhaps there is one near you?
If you do choose to enjoy soy for Thanksgiving there are many vegetarian and vegan soy “turkeys” available, or you can even try making your own. Click here for an article offering many non-meat turkey options. There are also some vegetarian gravy recipes if you want the full Thanksgiving meal experience.
It's so nice to see that basket on Louisville, KY! [...] We're really lucky here to have many neighborhood markets (26 in this listing)--a sizeable percentage of the city lives within walking distance of one or more weekly markets! The Bardstown Road FM is about three blocks from my house, and we are able to buy all our meat, cheese and eggs, and most of our vegetables, year-round, directly from the people who humanely grow them, without getting in the car. There's also honey and maple syrup, candles, cut flowers, and nursery-grown native plants and shrubs.
In case you haven't checked it out in a while, the farmers' market photo map is worth a visit. More than 80 markets are up, representing the nearly 300 pictures that are in the farmers' market group's photo gallery. Go to the map, click on baskets, and take a look at these beautiful photos! Don't see your market? Grab your camera and pay a visit before it gets too cold out there. As long as you keep posting pictures of your local markets to the gallery, we'll keep updating the map.
Here's a picture from a farmers' market in West Acton, Mass. It was posted by Climate Crossroads member Nancy Crowther.
The farmers' market group has more than 200 members and hundreds of pictures. These pics have been compiled into a photo map. If your market isn't on the map, post a picture of your market and we'll put it up!
The people behind the farmers' market group here on Crossroads are doing some cool things. Check out the group's photo map. They've asked folks to post pics of their local markets. And then they've taken some of these photos and made them the group's avatar. Here's the latest avatar: beets from a farmers' market in Santa Barbara.
Want to take part? Join the farmers' market group and post your own photos.
The University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) has been a leader in sustainable living. Efforts by administrators, students and environmentalists have helped form their success in sustainability. In April 2006, UCLA adopted a Sustainability Charter, stating that a committee will "create a culture of sustainability, in which the entire community is aware of, engaged in and committed to advancing sustainability through education, research, operations and community partnerships."
Here is a sample of some of the sustainability efforts that have been going on in Westwood:
• Sustainable Dining Halls – Trayless dining, food grown and produced on campus, and the planting of an herb garden are all elements of sustainable eating being practiced or suggested at UCLA.
• UCLA Event Sustainability Volunteer Program – A program where students, staff and faculty are able to assist and educate guests at campus events about proper disposal of waste and recyclables. The work of this “Green Team” has led campus events to become more sustainable and offered an outlet for the creation of more sustainable programs. One such idea has been to provide compostable serving utensils at campus events.
Here's a great pic of the First Lady at a new farmers' market on Vermont Ave., near the White House. The Caucus, a NYT blog, had the scoop:
“I’ve learned that when my family eats fresh food, healthy food, that it really affects how we feel, how we get through the day, and that’s whether we’re trying to get through math homework or whether there’s a Cabinet meeting or whether we’re just walking the dog,’’ Mrs. Obama said.
The market will be open on Thursdays from Sept. 17 through Oct. 29. Farmer’s market executives said that White House garden goodies will not be on sale.
But not to worry — Mrs. Obama made a point of giving the new venture her personal stamp of approval.
After giving her remarks, the first lady grabbed a straw basket and did some shopping, picking up some black kale, eggs, cherry tomatoes, mixed hot pepper, pears, fingerling potatoes, cheese and chocolate milk to bring back to the White House.
Winter is not that far off. That's why now is the perfect time to start canning. Don't know where to start? Click here for some tips. Want more food ideas? Join the Green Eggs and (Faux) Ham group here on Crossroads.
Are you an urban resident who misses the good earth? Watch this Grist video for some helpful tips.
On a related note, read the chronicles of the Lazy Organic Gardener. And join the Green Eggs and (Faux) Ham group and the I Love to Garden! group on Crossroads to chat with others about sustainable gardening, cooking, and eating.
Here's a quick clip from a farmers' market in Boulder.
Hey, don't forget! We're in the middle of a farmers' market photo drive. Join the farmers' market group and post a pic or two of your local market. We'll include it on a photo map -- which we'll unveil in a few weeks. There are some awesome pics up already. Check 'em out.
In case you missed it, the Fans of Farmers Markets group launched a photo drive this past week. And so far the pictures look great. The plan is to collect these pictures and create a photo map, which we will unveil in a few weeks.
If your market is up and running this weekend, grab your camera, head on down to the market, take a few pics, and take home some fresh, healthy goodies. By posting pictures at the farmers' market group, you'll get your market on the map.
There are already 70+ pictures up there. Excellent!
Not sure where your local market is? Try Local Harvest.
We enjoy Sierra Club Radio and this weekend's show is sure to be a good one.
- The Mayor of Los Angeles, Antonio Villaraigosa, talks with us about his pledge for a coal-free Los Angeles, and his vision for making L.A. the greenest city in the country
- Eric Simons on his new book, Darwin Slept Here: Discovery, Adventure, and Swimming Iguanas in Charles Darwin's South America
- Annie Somerville, Executive Chef at Greens Restaurant in San Francisco, gives green cuisine tips
By the way, mark your calendars. Documentary guru Ken Burns will be on next week to talk about this newest project on the national parks.
Today is the first day of the rest of your life. And what better way to begin the day than by reducing your carbon emissions 10 percent?
To be clear: the figures I'm using are only averages. People lead very different lives; a person living in a small, city-centre flat without a car may have half the emissions of someone who flies every month and lives in a large, detached house. My suggestions for CO2 savings are intended simply as a yardstick for where best to focus your attention (the annual projected savings are all calculated for an "average" energy consumer using the latest widely accepted figures). The choice of how to achieve a 10% cut in your emissions next year is down to you.
Read and learn.
Broadcast news seems to be filled with negative stories these days. Well, here's an uplifting segment about an urban farm in Pasadena. Want to make your diet more sustainable and planet-friendly? Check out our sustainable recipes and Green Eggs and (Faux) Ham a new food group here on Crossroads. And read the chronicles of our Lazy Organic Gardener.
As Heather noted earlier, it's a good news day! Los Angeles residents have cut water use 17 percent in July compared to last year; and the city has had substantial energy savings:
The DWP saved a record 318 gigawatt-hours for the fiscal year ending June 30, an amount that equals removal of 53,000 households from the grid and avoids 178,700 metric tons of greenhouses gases.
Perhaps they're all reading The Green Life's daily tips?
The UN: Less meat = less heat. Visit our sustainable recipe section for some tasty yummies that are good for the planet.
Here's some video from the Park City, Utah farmers' market. Where's your market? Join the Farmers Market Fan group here on Crossroads and tell us about it.
"You keep your fingers crossed that the sun will shine that day."
Check out this solar cookout in Seattle. Here's what's cookin': cinnamon rolls, pot roast, teriyaki chicken, and more.
On a related note, take a look at the catalogue of sustainable recipes here on Crossroads and add your own.
(Thanks, Sustainable NE Seattle.)
Here's a video about throwing an organic Mexican fiesta. There are some great pointers in there. They even have some organic tequila.
Hungry? Peruse through our awesome sustainable recipe section. And post your own if you have some recipes you'd like to share.
The year was 2002 and I was a 25-year-old interloper at the Deep Green Global Training environmental and social justice weekend tailored for teens. The young vegetarian evangelist and I were taking a class on environmentally friendly eating, taught by the renowned eco-friendly chef Laura Stec (now the author of “Cool Cuisine: Taking the Bite out of Global Warming”).
Up till now, my eating habits had pretty much mirrored my childhood – I rarely ate out, shopped at Safeway and cooked fairly healthy, traditional American meals: taco salads, chicken casseroles, pasta with tomato sauce. My family had always been environmentally conscious, but I had no idea that my eating habits had an effect on the environment until I took this class.
“Pop quiz,” Ms. Stec began. “What are the three most damaging things that we as individuals (not corporations or the government) do to the environment?”
“Driving!” we all chorused, and indeed that was #1. Imagine my surprise to find out that the second worst individual action is eating beef – it takes 16 times more energy and water to create a pound of beef than to grow a pound of grain. #3 was eating foods that are not organic.
Too embarrassed to ask, “Um, aren’t all foods organic?” I was relieved when Laura went on to explain that organic foods are grown without artificial fertilizers or pesticides. “So they’re better for your health as well as for the environment, she added. I was sold and immediately vowed to go organic.
“Where can I buy organic foods?” I wondered, and got several recommendations. Thus began my long, enduring love affair with Whole Foods Market. I switched the next week and have rarely returned to Safeway since.
Vegetarianism was a bit of a tougher sell – it would require a totally new repertoire of recipes, plus I was distraught at the prospect of giving up bacon. So I came up with a compromise: I would start shopping and cooking all vegetarian, but when I went out with a group of friends and we ordered a pizza together or shared Chinese dishes, I would eat meat so as to not be a bother to them, and to have an occasional treat.
Head to the recipe section to see two of the recipes that Laura gave us at this class (links below). She and I both still cook these amazing dishes to this day!
Next up: Part 2: The Honeymoon Period
Who doesn't love a story about robots that don't eat meat?
Thanks to Internet rumors of meat-eating robots in the works, Robotic Technology, Inc. (RTI), which is spearheading a project to build robots that feast on biomass, had to issue a statement that its creation in fact does not, I repeat, does not devour flesh.
Despite the far-reaching reports that this includes “human bodies,” the public can be assured that the engine Cyclone (Cyclone Power Technologies Inc.) has developed to power the EATR runs on fuel no scarier than twigs, grass clippings and wood chips -- small, plant-based items for which RTI’s robotic technology is designed to forage. Desecration of the dead is a war crime under Article 15 of the Geneva Conventions, and is certainly not something sanctioned by DARPA, Cyclone or RTI.
If you're interested in becoming a vegetarian robot, you can start by joining the Meatless Mondays group here on Crossroads.
In the news today, whaling negotiations in Portugal appear tepid.
The International Whaling Commission on Monday began discussing a possible compromise deal that would reduce the number of whales killed each year.
However, environmental groups expressed little hope of a breakthrough in the two-decade dispute at the start of IWC's weeklong annual meeting in Portugal's Madeira islands. Japan, Iceland and Norway run commercial whaling operations which kill around 2,000 whales a year and they are reluctant to give up the trade.
"I don't think this is the meeting of the breakthrough," Remi Parmentier of the U.S.-based Pew Whales Conservation Project said in a telephone interview from Madeira.
Which reminds me. Take our awesome "How Green Is My Seafood?" quiz.
Luke, next time you're at the grocery store, use the force. "The organic resistance is fighting back!" In the meantime, visit your farmers' market.
Baseball slugger Ryan Howard of the Philadelphia Phillies takes a tour of the White House garden with White House chef Sam Kass. Howard already has 17 home runs this season. Could it be because he eats organic?
There are always new groups, actions, and sustainable recipes on Climate Crossroads.
A new action for you: Thank the Administration for Clean Cars. On May 19th, Obama announced a huge piece of his Big Picture plan to fight climate change, the first national automobile standards for global warming emissions, which will dramatically reduce global warming pollution from our vehicles, slash our dependence on oil and make us more energy independent. Show your support by sending a thank-you message.
My wife and I think our local farmers market -- the Alemany Farmers Market -- is the best one around. A neighbor who’s head chef at a local restaurant swears by the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market in downtown San Francisco. A hiking buddy who lives down the coast a ways says the Santa Cruz Community Farmers Market is tops. And friends in my childhood hometown in Vermont wouldn’t trade the Norwich Farmers Market for any other.
Well, now you can vote for your favorite farmers market. The American Farmland Trust, a national organization working with communities and individuals to protect the land, plan for agriculture, and keep the land healthy, has just announced its “America’s Favorite Farmers Markets” contest, a nationwide challenge to see which of America’s 4,685 farmers markets can rally the most support from its customers.
Starting on June 1, shoppers can vote to support their favorite farmers market. Farmers market managers can register to join the contest here. Results will be announced during Farmers Market Week August 2 – 8, 2009.
The goal of the contest is to promote the connection between fresh local food and the local farms and farmland that supply it. “Farmers markets are one of the best ways for consumers to support local farms and farmers,” says Julia Freedgood, Managing Director for American Farmland Trust’s Growing Local Initiative. “Farmers markets also support public health and economic development opportunities in our communities.”
The 2007 U.S. Agricultural Census reports a 49 percent growth in sales from farms directly to consumers since 2002—representing $1.2 billon that stayed in local communities. But at the same time, more than one million acres of farmland are developed each year—mostly around cities where demand for local food is the greatest.
“We need to make the connection,” says Freedgood. “There’s no local food without local farms and farmland. This contest is a way for consumers to show the pride people take in their local farmers’ market, and by extension the local farmers and communities that support them."
At the end of the contest, one large, medium, and small farmers market will win the title of “America’s Favorite Farmers Market” for 2009. The reward will be a shipment of No Farms No Food tote bags for the winning market managers to distribute to the shoppers that made it happen.
Here are a couple of BU students showing us how easy it is to eat locally and think globally. If you're looking for sustainable recipes, click here.
Are you a student? Get involved with the Sierra Student Coalition.
There are a few new groups and actions on Crossroads that are worth joining.
Check out the Earth Day group. Its blog is up and running and people have posted related pictures.
The Big Picture is a new and robust group created to help the White House transition the country toward a clean energy economy. Right now they are asking everyone to send the EPA a thank-you note for the recent ruling that CO2, a global warming agent, is a pollutant under the Clean Air Act.
Here is a new action to protect the Grand Canyon from uranium mining.
And check out this new action to encourage lowering mecury levels in CFLs.
The Plastics Pledge is a pretty popular group that's dedicated to ditching blastic bags and water bottles.
Last but not least: looking for something sustainable to eat tonight on Earth Day? Check out the awesome food section.
When I first saw Henrik Ibsen's play about a town that ostracizes a doctor for publicizing the fact that the town's mineral baths are seriously contaminated, back in the 1960s, it seemed dated. According to how I had been taught American history, such a cover-up was once possible, but the Progressive era, the two Roosevelts, and the New Deal had transformed America into a modern, thoughtful public-health-committed country. How naive that reaction seems today.
You could do a relevant modern production of that play this month with only a few changes. The issue, however, is a far more massive public health threat than any Ibsen ever imagined -- it's the threat of superbugs. These are diseases that no antibiotic can control and that result from using overcrowded, factory-feedlot livestock as four-legged germ-warfare laboratories.
Seventy percent of the antibiotics used in the U.S. are fed to healthy animals -- well, animals that would be healthy if they weren't overcrowded and improperly fed. These antibiotics are used on animals that are not sick in order to prevent disease from erupting in these facilities. Such massive prophylactic use of antibiotics encourages bacteria to develop resistant strains, and now medicine is on the verge of running out of drugs that haven't been rendered useless for human health by being misused to allow animal abuse.
So New York Congresswoman Louise Slaughter -- the only microbiologist in Congress -- has assumed the role played in Ibsen's drama by Dr. Stockmann. She's introduced a bill to ban the nontherapeutic use of antibiotics in livestock. And agribusiness rose in protest. Bob Stallman, president of the American Farm Bureau, claimed that since farmers used these drugs "carefully, judiciously and according to label instructions" there was no problem."
Antibiotic use in animals does not pose a serious public health threat" he asserted.
How green is your seafood? Take this quiz and find out. There are a lot of things that may surprised you.
And for the next time you go to a seafood restaurant, an excellent resource is the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch guide.
And if you're searching for sustainable recipes in general, Crossroads has an awesome food section.