July 2011 - Our Daily Green

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Food, Inc. Green

For as frequently as Our Daily Green talks about our lifelong healthy eating habits, growing up on an organic farm, making good choices, we would be remiss if we didn't say that we never truly understood "WHY", but rather that we just "DID". In an era of informed decision making, challenging the status quo is possibly the strongest weapon a consumer has.

After becoming a parent, despite a commitment to healthy, eco friendly living, we must confess something. It. Is. Exhausting. Parenting, that is, not necessarily the eco friendly choices. But in absolute exhaustion, admittedly, our kids ate Crap Mac'n'Cheeze. FrootRollUps, and JooseBags. It was the stuff they had at friend's houses, preschool, and it was familiar. Even though it went against the organic grain, we justified it mentally by simply "choosing my battles", with a nonchalant, yeah, but... to explain less than stellar food choices.

Enter two documentaries that changed our nonchalant, yeah but attitude forever. The first one was SuperSize Me with Morgan Spurlock. Then a few years ago, to reinforce our views was the incredible documentary Food, Inc. Both these movies not only strengthened our resolve, it also impacted the mini Greens profoundly, as evidenced by two guest posts they shared with Our Daily Green this spring.

If we ever were lackadaisical about what we ate or what we fed our children, we have not been since then. We receive daily emails about food recalls by the USDA and most recalls are a result of a single diseased animal contaminating an entire lot of food. Factory farming is a reason so much food is recalled. When we write about shopping local and growing your own food, we are also talking a life or death matter.

PBS is airing Food, Inc. on August 9 and 10 as well as offering a free discussion guide. Local airings may vary, but check your directory for exact dates and times.

Watch the full episode. See more POV.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Gardening Green

Our Daily Green has been somewhat remiss in blogging duties. The weather and garden have been far too tempting. The first photo is from yesterday's bounty. Clockwise beginning at noon: wild blackberries, jalapeno and hot Italian peppers, beefmaster tomato, sweet hungarian peppers, genovese basil, plum tomatoes, blue lake green beans.  We thought we'd share a few tips for your fresh produce and some of the nutritional benefits as well. 
  • Blackberries: selenium, vitamin C and fiber
  • Jalapeno peppers and hot peppers: capascin (which is what makes them hot) helps with sinuses, migraines and blood pressure, high in vitamin C and antioxidants
  • Tomatoes: Excellent source of lycopene, high in vitamin C
  • Sweet peppers: Potassium, vitamin A, and calcium
  • Basil: high in beta carotene, vitamin A, and vitamin K
  • Green Beans: high in vitamin A, vitamin K, and fiber

Fresh foods also reduce our exposure to BPA plastics. In fact, according to several studies cited in April 2011's Psychology Today,
A study by the Breast Cancer Fund and the Silent Spring Institute published in the peer-reviewed journal Environmental Health Perspectives found that food packaging is a major source of hormone-disrupting chemicals such as bisphenol A (BPA) and plastic softener DEHP, and that a fresh food diet can reduce levels of these chemicals by half in just three days.
Today, breakfast was unsweetened Greek yogurt, local honey, and wild blackberries. Local honey is a folk remedy for seasonal allergy relief. We choose to sweeten with honey as it is relatively unprocessed and natural.

Additionally, honey contains vitamins B6, thiamin, niacin, riboflavin, pantothenic acid and minerals like calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, potassium, and zinc. Honey also contains antioxidants and vitamin C.

If you don't have a garden, you still can enjoy fresh food from a local farmer or farm market. To find one near you, simply enter your zipcode in Local Harvest's comprehensive site.

(we also want to point out that our copper strainer and botanical bowl were thrift shop finds, our favorite way to shop in a green way!)

Friday, July 15, 2011

Eating Healthy Green

As a wrap-up to Our Daily Green's How We Spent Our Summer Vacation series, we had the distinct pleasure of visiting the National Archives. The National Archives are best known for the Big Three of our nation's history, The Constitution, The Declaration of Independence, and The Bill of Rights. No visit would be complete without reverently viewing The Charters of Freedom, as the exhibit is named, and realizing the nation the documents inspired.

Admittedly, popular culture played a role as well, as the Mini Green's relived the movie National Treasure and pointed out the inaccuracies between the real life storage site of the Declaration and the fictionalized account.

But in addition to the big three, The National Archives currently has another exhibit, What's Cooking, Uncle Sam? The exhibit contains documentation dating as early as the Revolutionary War about the different ways the government regulates and controls the food we eat. Over the ages, the government has issued many edicts about what to eat and how to eat it.

Our government monitors food safety, underwrites food production, establishes dietary guidelines and in many ways controls all food consumption in the United States. From the farm, factory, kitchen to the table, our government has something to do with our food. Food choices are an important step to a greener life. It's a way to stay healthy as well as avoid chemicals. We can choose local, minimally packaged/transported food and less processed more natural food.

The engaging Chef José Andrés has partnered with the National Archives with a new restaurant, America Eats Tavern. Chef Andrés has initiated many green and healthy crusades not only in Washington DC, but around the world. He helped launch the non-profit Hope for the Sun in Haiti, by setting up solar kitchens after the devastating earthquake. After being named Best Chef in the U.S. by the James Beard Foundation this past May 2011, Chef Andrés said,
"Food is the most powerful thing we have in our hands," accepting his reward at a ceremony in New York City. "We have the responsibility to make sure that not only our great nation, but the world will always be using food in the right way."
In a 60 Minutes interview, Chef Andrés spoke highly of his love of vegetables in the diet. While in DC, we had the pleasure of eating a meal at one of his restaurants, and were able to sample a delicious vegan soup, the white gazpacho, featuring SuperFoods such as almonds, garlic, and olive oil.

Because Our Daily Green's first love is food, we encourage our readers take time to learn about what we use to fuel our bodies. We agree with Chef Andrés that FOOD is the most powerful thing we have, and by beginning with what we eat, we take the first step to a greener tomorrow.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Public Transportation Green

DuPont Metro
photo courtesy of jenny8lee
During Our Daily Green's trip to Washington DC, one of the first things we acquainted ourselves with was the Metro. For a family of Midwestern suburbanites, it was a bit daunting, but before long we knew what color train lines stopped where and the stations where to change color lines, as well as a rough idea of the wait and how to find a decent seat. (walk to the very front or back of the train while waiting for the train, instead of the middle with the masses). 

We spared ourselves the stress of driving in an unfamiliar city, the high cost of parking and fuel consumption (not to mention trying to find a place to park in the first place), and got a little extra exercise, especially at the DuPont Metro station, where the broken escalator had 130 steps to walk up and down. We counted.

Our experience in the nation's capital reminded us why public transportation a good idea. Moving many people from point A to point B at the same time in the same vehicle is imminently more efficient and cost effective than via single vehicles. According to a Sharable report by Jay Walljasper from April 2011,
Public transit has experienced a quiet renaissance over the past two decades as the number of transit systems nationally has jumped from 1044 to 7700.  He mentions the 13 Best U.S. Cities for Public Transportation by expanding upon the U.S. News and World Report Top 10:  
  1. Portland, Oregon
  2. Salt Lake City
  3. New York
  4. Boston
  5. Minneapolis-St. Paul
  6. San Francisco
  7. Los Angeles
  8. Honolulu
  9. Denver
  10. Austin
  11. Washington

public transportation

PublicTransportation.org is an online resource from the APTA (American Public Transportation Association). It is devoted to information about public transportation. The site offers a Fuel Savings Calculator, a Carbon Savings Calculator and Public Transportation Search tools as well as frequently updated news from the world of public transportation.

Have you ever used public transportation? What is it like in your part of the world?

For additional reading, the APTA publishes an annual Fact Book, available in a free PDF download. 

Monday, July 11, 2011

Recycle that Bottle Green

Good morning to Our Daily Green's faithful readers.

We've been on vacation for the past week and have returned filled with ideas and inspiration to share with you. Our Daily Green had the pleasure of spending a week in Washington DC, the epicenter of all things politically correct and progressive for our nation.

One of the things that we noticed were dual trash cans, one for recycling and one for regular trash. We also noticed that as the recycling one began to overflow, the cans and bottles migrated to the regular trash can. Or were never separated in the first place. Then upon even further examination, the recycle bins were put in place by none other than a Major Beverage Company, Inc. Complete with corporate logos and accolades about how they are doing their part to reduce waste by plying us with single use bottled beverages at every turn, BUT giving us a special trash can that we may or may not use to possibly eventually recycle the single use bottles. It's a dream, all right. 

Our Daily Green has ranted about this before but it bears repeating. The Other Major Beverage Company has a goal of recycling 30% of their bottles and they wax poetic about how socially responsible they are on their corporate site. I have to wonder what happens to the other 70%? This same company does reuse refillable packaging in some nations, but not the Disposable States of America. It's gotten so out of control. As a kid, we drank water from a hose, not a sealed plastic bottle. 

In absolute fairness to these companies, while their efforts are certainly worthy, it still smacks of greenwashing, where the consumer is made to feel more responsible than they are by throwing a plastic bottle in one bin and not the other. Encouraging disposal of single use bottles in no way deals with the problem of all the bottles. It has become increasingly difficult to find water fountains and due to increased security in many public areas it's not even legal to bring your own refillable container with you.  Take heart, there actually is a free APP for water fountain locating

Our Daily Green is not prepared to give up and join the disposable nation. We think there are ways to quench thirst without drowning our landfills with garbage. What are some of the ways you try to reduce bottled water usage? Do you recycle them when you do use them? Or do you even worry about it? 

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Celebration Green

Celebration Green

(this is a repost from Independence Day two years ago ... with a reminder that I saw on my Facebook page)
The American flag does not fly because the wind moves past it. The American flag flies from the last breath of each military member who has died protecting it. American soldiers don't fight because they hate what's in front of them...they fight because they love what's behind them." 

Happy Independence Day!

With the holiday weekend fast approaching, thoughts of picnics and barbeques run rampant. Parties can be somewhat eco-unfriendly, without some forethought. I've listed a few of my favorite ways to enjoy the company of friends and family without trampling on our planet.

Have labeled trash cans so that cans and bottles can be recycled. Invest in inexpensive flatware that can be reused year after year, instead of disposable plastic utensils. It's so much nicer to eat with real utensils. Use a vinyl tablecover instead of throwaway paper. Anything that is disposable only adds to the growing landfills and is a recurring expense. Instead make a one time investment in party supplies that can be used over and over. Flatware doesn't wear out, reusable dishes last year after year. A one time investment can become a life long tradition.

Have a safe and festive holiday, and this year, instead of just Stars and Stripes, fly the Green flag, also!

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Recycled Paper Green

A short and sweet tidbit from Our Daily Green for the weekend. Do you know a simple way to tell if cardboard is from recycled paper? It's grey or tan. If it's white cardboard, it's usually from virgin pulp. Paper fibers can be recycled  several times, so save your cardboard packages the same way you save newspaper.

If your community does not accept cardboard through curbside recycling, it's easy to find a drop off location via Earth911's site. You probably drive by it and don't even realize it. So today's easy tips are to first look for brown or tan cardboard for packages (not white) and second save your cardboard to recycle.

Have a wonderful holiday weekend! 

Friday, July 1, 2011

Refill Green

Our Daily Green frequently mentions the 3 R's: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. Today we've added a fourth R to our musketeers of environmentally friendly living, Refill.

With industry leaders admitting that up to 40% of a product's selling price is packaging cost, a wise consumer can search for ways to purchase products in bulk or high concentration, which results in less packaging. Another factor is the actual rising cost of the raw material to produce the packages. Material costs are approximately 80% of the expense. Factoring in the cost of the packages in addition to the additional resources required to transport packaged goods takes a toll on both the environment and the wallet.

Traditionally, Americans have been slow refill empty containers, citing inconvenience and messiness as the primary reasons. But with containers and packaging accounting for nearly one third of a municipality's solid waste, it's worth it to examine refilling already manufactured containers. Refilling with concentrated product and adding water at home reduces the weight of shipping costs as well as packaging. Currently, window cleaner refills are being test marketed via mail order by Windex®.

According to SC Johnson CEO, Fisk Johnson,
“By conservative estimates, a flexible pouch saves six times as much plastic waste that goes into a landfill compared to a traditional bottle. Refilling with a concentrate is an example of a very small behavior change that could make a real difference in minimizing waste. But many people don't want the inconvenience. We want to crack the code and figure out what it would take to make concentrated refills an accepted – even demanded – choice.”
Concentrated cleaners save the consumer from spending money on water that is already available to them. As we've stated in the past, there is no reason to pay for additional water in products when it is so easy to add at home.

reduced packagingOther manufacturers are also working to reduce their packaging as DuPont's chart demonstrates with efforts to use sustainable material as well as weight reduction.

There are some precautions to take into account when refilling containers, beginning with checking the type of plastic that is used. #1 plastics should not be reused for food, as they may leach DEHP, a known carcinogen. However, for cleaning products and other inedible goods, reusing the bottles is a wise choice.

Bulk shopping offers another alternative to prepackaged merchandise, and the shopper can purchase the exact amount they need and try new products without a big investment.

With a little mindful shopping, a consumer can easily adopt the 4th R of living that is friendly to both the environment and the wallet. REfill!

Today's Wall Street Journal examines the refill issue at great length in Little Package, Small Problem