April 2013 - Our Daily Green

Sunday, April 28, 2013

How to Send Less Trash to the Landfill (reprint from OtherWords.org)

Make a down payment on your own soil's fertility by composting.

Jill RichardsonMy new neighbor knocked on my door and introduced herself as the vice president of the local homeowner’s association. “How friendly!” I thought. “She’s welcoming me to the neighborhood.”
Then she wrinkled her nose and motioned toward an enclosed bin on my porch, saying, “Your — what is it? Came-post? That’s not allowed here. You’ll need to get rid of it.”
My compost bin, designed to allow air and water in while keeping rodents out, was no nuisance whatsoever, but the HOA had decided it was unsightly. In my opinion, they had pretty odd standards about what constituted “unsightly” since they banned basketball hoops too.
That incident happened years ago when I first started composting. I never gave up, but I’ve encountered plenty of pushback despite the spread of this increasingly routine waste management practice. Once, a neighbor actually dumped rat poison into my compost bin after blaming it for her home’s rat problems. I have three cats and they hunt. We were not harboring rats, I guarantee it.
Another person I met while trying to be “green” and efficient paid over $100 for an electric compost machine that accomplishes the same thing that nature does for free.
Why are we so squeamish about our waste, especially when our food and yard waste turns into such a valuable gardening resource? Often, it’s the fear of foul odors.
When it’s done wrong, compost can certainly stink. But when done right, compost doesn't stink. It has a mild, earthy aroma that I actually like. The solution is simple. Just add more cardboard, paper, twigs, wood chips, dead leaves, and other carbon-rich materials that will freshen the pile as they decompose. Plus, you can build or buy a bin that keeps rodents out if you worry about that.
Out of the 250 million tons of waste Americans produced in 2010, compostable materials like yard waste and food scraps made up 27 percent. Another 29 percent was paper and cardboard and six percent was wood. Together, compostable materials make up more than half of our waste — 155 million tons. And, while we recycle and compost some of it, a lot of it goes into landfills.
Then, after throwing away these valuable resources, Americans go out and buy garden and landscape products like compost, topsoil, and fertilizer. Why don’t we simply compost the food scraps, yard waste, and cardboard that we routinely throw away instead?
Besides, composting feels magical. You toss your unwanted waste into a pile or a bin, wait several months, and — voila! — you've got something that will make your soil amazing. Your old banana peels and coffee grounds can help grow food and flowers in your garden.
I admit I’m a little weird, but I love digging through my pile to smell the earthy aroma, feel the heat of my food breaking down, see how my waste is turning into rich, valuable compost, and check out what kinds of worms and other beneficial critters are making their homes there.
If you want to have even more fun, make a worm bin with a group of kids. I've never seen second graders pay such rapt attention to anything like they did to the red wriggler worms and the apple cores, grass trimmings, and newspaper scraps we fed them. The kids got so excited that they even began naming the individual worms and proposing to take them home as pets.
This spring, make a down payment on your own soil’s fertility by starting a compost pile. You’ll send less trash to the landfill, keep the stuff that rots and stinks out of your garbage can, and if you garden, your finished compost is sure to help you grow juicy heirloom tomatoes and delicious herbs.
OtherWords columnist Jill Richardson is the author of Recipe for America: Why Our Food System Is Broken and What We Can Do to Fix It. OtherWords.org

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Acting Green versus Buying Green

Yesterday's Earth Day post encouraged us to truly consider the "stuff" we generate. For the consumer who chooses not to buy new "green" things, here are some ways to get the same energy efficiency from your current showerhead, lightbulbs, air conditioner, washer, and toilet. Mindful behavior is as good as mindful purchasing.

Acting Green vs. Buying Green
Source: eLocal.com

Monday, April 22, 2013

Get your garden going with Sprout It!

What day is better to start your garden than Earth Day? Well, interestingly enough, depending on where you live, today may NOT be the best day to start a garden. You may have missed the day or it may be in a few weeks. 

Gardening is not difficult, but it does take a little planning. With increasing concern for locally sourced food, it's tough to get much more local than your own yard. Our Daily Green has always had some sort of little garden because I truly cannot imagine a summer without picking a tomato right off the vine and eating it in the sunshine. In fact, my oldest child's first food was actually a tomato. I had seated her in her high chair out on our the covered deck of our first home. As I was picking fresh tomatoes, she grabbed one right off the ledge and started gumming it. I couldn't believe when I looked up to see her toothless smiling face with tomato seeds dripping down her chin. What a great gardening memory! Over the years, we've grown an assortment of herbs and vegetables for our family, although some years were more successful than others. 

Sprout ItI grew up on a farm so I always "knew" or could ask Mom any gardening question I had. That isn't the case with most beginning gardeners. It can also be a bit intimidating as an amateur to try to formulate questions for an expert gardener. Don't fear, now there is an app for that! The folks at Sprout It! have formulated a gardening app for anyone from novice to expert gardener. You can learn when to plant seeds outdoors, what gardening zone you're in, and how to care for your new plants from seed to food. 

And according to the experts at Sprout It, today is a great day to start my basil indoors, but not to sow seeds outdoors. I can almost taste the fresh pesto! 

If you're ready to start a garden, Sprout It is ready to help you succeed. 

Happy Growing! 

Earth Day 2013

Once again, the world rallies around itself today on Earth Day. Earth Day has gone from an activist led event in Washington DC to a marketing expo of month long proportions. Make no mistake, Our Daily Green has benefited nicely from the intense focus on earth friendly products in the way of increased reviews and blog sponsors. We are not going to bite the hand that feeds us.

But we want to be clear, beyond the array of products and giveaways, beyond the contests and promotions, beyond painting the town green (undoubtedly with non-toxic paint), Earth Day should be about genuinely changing habits and lifestyles. It should be about mindful purchasing, if we even purchase. It should be about using what we have, buying what we need, and questioning our rampant disposable consumer society. 

This past week, our local garbage collectors were on strike and nobody's rubbish was collected. Several of my fellow townsfolk left their garbage at the curb, waiting for the strike to break, while it seemed that daily the mound of trash at the end of each driveway increased by a bag. Not to be smug, but our bin wasn't even 1/3 full (and that still felt like a little too much). Even after another week, the strike could continue with little personal effect on Our Daily Green's home. 

Owly ImagesI was a little disgusted as I saw the mountains of trash grow in my own neighborhood each day. In one week, my entire area seemed buried in its own wastefulness. It was a sad statement to what we have begun to take for granted, the world of disposables. We don't think twice about drinking from a bottle once and throwing it out, or carrying food home in a container and immediately throwing it out. We wipe up spills with paper and throw it out, we sip coffee from a styrofoam cup and throw it out, we leave a path of trash and waste in our wake. And in one week, we were overflowing. 

Annie Leonard, of The Story of Stuff fame had a poignant reminder, There is no such thing as "away". When we throw anything away it must go somewhere. This past week, with the garbage strike, that somewhere was "right here", at the end of our own driveways. The trash generated in only one week was overflowing.

To celebrate Earth Day, Our Daily Green again urges our readers to reconsider every purchase and action they make, from the coffee in a disposable cup to start the day, to the paper towel to wipe up the spills, the plastic bottle of water we open before we turn on the faucet,  to the plastic bags used to carry home the stuff we purchase, we need to start making a conscientious change in our actions. Slow down and think how long your item will last and if it's something intended for single use, rethink it. Stop throwing out so much stuff.

Several recent movies depict a world far in the future that is either overflowing with trash or completely uninhabitable due to the trash. I used to think that was an alarmist view. After one week, I realize the only part of the movies that was unrealistic was the far in the future part. It's a lot closer and lot sooner than we realize and we need to reverse that trend. 

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Eco-advantages to Paper Cartons: Infographic and Contest Announcement

While recycling is becoming more commonplace around the nation, now the question remains what sorts of materials are the easiest to recycle. Our Daily Green has discouraged the use of plastic whenever possible because while it can be recycled, the demand for replacements remains, as plastic bottles and bags do not become plastic bottles or bags again. In order to make more plastic bottles and bags, new virgin petroleum must be used. Paper cartons are a much better consumer choice from an earth-friendly view.


Our friends at Choose Cartons want to hear from you! They want to know how YOU make earth-friendly choices when you shop. Tell them how on their Facebook page and you will be entered to win a weekly prize as well as the grand prize of a Trek bicycle valued at $900. The Trek bicycle is built in a way that reduces manufacturing impact and shipped with packing made from 70-90% recycled materials.

  • Weekly Prize #1 – TraveLite Messenger Bag from GoLite
  • Weekly Prize #2 – 2 Organic cotton t-shirts from Green Living Daily
  • Weekly Prize #3 – Proof Eyewear Gift Card for $75.00 
  • Weekly Prize #4 – REI Gift Card for $75.00
  • GRAND PRIZE - Trek bicycle! 

Friday, April 19, 2013

Share and Tell for Earth Week

Did you know that for every pound of new goods produced, 71 pounds of waste are generated during manufacturing? This Earth Week, NBCUniversal is partnering with the sharing site yerdle to help you minimize your impact on the planet by sharing your stuff. One person’s stuff is another person’s story!

Share and Tell
Borrowed Cupcake Tree
Our Daily Green has several sharing stories. One of the formal dresses in our house has been worn to three different dances, by three different girls. I love their sense of ingenuity! They all looked wonderful and different in the same dress!

We also love to entertain at our house, but entertaining can be expensive with serving dishes, punch bowls, utensils, tableclothes, etc. We have gotten in the habit of asking to borrow or offering to share anything we have to the point where we have a rotating party pack. 

Yesterday, I just borrowed the beautiful cupcake tree shown in this photo to use for an upcoming party. It's one of the prettiest serving items I've ever seen and what was fantastic was before I even asked if I could borrow it, my friend offered. Seems like she knew I would ask! 

For Earth Week, our friends at yerdle and NBCUniversal are have some fun games for our readers and a chance to win. Just leave a comment telling us about something you either borrow or lend someone on a regular basis to qualify for a special Green is Universal gift pack. Let's "shop" in each other's houses. If you want to share this promotion with friends, we also encourage that activity as well. 

Happy Share and Tell week! 

Our winner will be chosen on April 30th, at midnight EST. Promotional consideration in partnership with NBCUniversal and yerdle sharing site. 

Thursday, April 18, 2013

The Army Goes Off the Grid (from OtherWords.org)

Do you know about “net zero”? That’s the wonky phrase attached to an elegant idea: converting communities to total renewable energy, complete recycling, and a culture of conservation to bring humankind’s carbon footprint into a sustainable balance with a healthy earth.
Now, imagine the last place you’d expect this ideal to take root…and even flourish. How about an Army base? In Texas? Well, astonishingly enough, the Army is pioneering America’s net-zero future. Fort Bliss, a sprawling military base accommodating 35,000 soldiers in El Paso, is one of our armed forces’ leading hotbeds of energy conservation and creativity.
The post already has a 1.4-megawatt solar array and has placed rooftop solar panels on enough base housing to generate 13.4-megawatts of energy. It’s partnering with El Paso Electric to add a 200-acre, 20-megawatt solar farm by 2015. The base’s managers plan to convert its own waste into energy. Oh, and it’s engaged in wind power, geothermal, and conservation projects while promoting energy-efficient vehicles and building bicycle lanes.
The Army! Who knew they cared?
At Fort Bliss, the rank and file, as well as the brass, are committed to achieving the goal of net zero by 2018. By that date, the base is supposed to generate all of the energy it uses — solely relying on renewable alternatives. Fort Hood, in Killeen, Texas, aims to get there by 2020.
The troops have earned their green stripes by planting nearly 15,000 trees and embracing recycling. To encourage the latter, base commander Gen. Dana Pittard has invested the revenue from recycling into skate parks, gyms, and other morale-boosting recreation projects.
hightower-netzero-USACE HQ

“Everybody is getting involved,” he says, noting that the effort is changing behavior and fostering a conservation culture, which he hopes “our soldiers will then take with them when they go on.”
There’s hope for the Earth when even the Army begins to care, take action, and change attitudes.
OtherWords columnist Jim Hightower is a radio commentator, writer, and public speaker. He's also editor of the populist newsletter, The Hightower Lowdown. OtherWords.org

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Five Keys to Reading and Understanding Food Labels

One of the most confusing things a consumer has to do is read labels in the grocery store. With loosely or completely unregulated terms allowed on packaging, the frustration behind understanding the meaning of each term and how it's used can aggravate even the most conscientious shopper. Today, Our Daily Green wants to explain five terms that may sound good on a label but mean virtually nothing in terms of safety or healthy eating.

*Hormone Free

The USDA prohibits the use of hormones in raising poultry or hogs. Any pork or poultry that advertises itself as hormone free is merely complying with regulations in place already and must state as much. To draw an analogy, it would be like a restaurant saying their employees washed their hands before serving food. It's a given that poultry and pork are not raised with hormones. 
Where that gets confusing is regarding beef. The USDA does allow for hormones in the production of beef, therefore a label on beef that says "no hormones administered" is of value for the consumer. It indicates that they were fed a hormone-free diet. 


The USDA standard for free-range is actually rather contrived. The only regulation is that the birds have "access to the outside". In large scale, factory sorts of operations, they may be kept in the coop for the first five weeks of their lives. Many times the only access to outside is a small opening, not necessarily an open pasture or field. Since most poultry is slaughtered at seven weeks, the feeding habits are already established and the birds most likely have never set foot outdoors. The only way to ensure the poultry you purchase is truly allowed to roam outdoors, eating bugs and getting fresh air and sunshine is to actually know the farmer.


There is no regulation regarding the term lean. In other words, beef that has 30% fat can still call itself lean. The label may say something like 70% lean. Looking at percentages is vital to knowing how much fat is actually in the beef. Lean is simply the amount of edible muscle in the beef and merely represents the ratio of fat to beef. 


All Natural LabelThere are no standards for the word natural when it comes to food. Natural pretty much means whatever the company wants it to mean. In terms of meat, it means nothing was added to the meat after the slaughter to enhance the color or taste, although it says nothing about the conditions under which the meat was raised or the food it was fed, which could be far from natural. Even that term has been twisted, as chicken is often injected with a "natural" saltwater to plump up the color, taste and appearance. 
There are even more loopholes regarding the natural label for non-meat food. In fact, marketers have been trying to convince consumers that high fructose corn syrup is natural since it is derived from corn. Even more ironic, a popular lemon-lime flavored soda once billed itself as "All Natural". To simplify all this for the consumer? The word natural is meaningless on food labels. 

*Read the entire description

Juice drinks, cocktails, punches, or ades are not 100% juice. In fact, probably very little of the product actually came from the fruit. It simply means that part of the beverage is juice, sometimes as little as 5%. Usually the rest is water and sugar. 
Cheese food, cheese product, or cheese spread is not cheese. Cheese has federal guidelines for milk fat and moisture. If it's called a food, product, or spread, then it has not met those guidelines. Usually the difference is made up with oil or water to dilute the actual amount of cheese in the product. 

Monday, April 15, 2013

Balance Dark review and giveaway

Balance Bar Dark
Balance Bar on Facebook
Our Daily Green has mentioned our busy, on-the-go family in the past. We occasionally have to rely on quick to grab, easy to eat snacks throughout the week. Any opportunity to find a healthy and tasty snack is a bonus.

A few weeks ago, the folks at Balance sent us some samples of their latest product, one that was right up my alley. Dark chocolate Balance bars. These bars are absolutely decadent and they also are a quick and easy snack to have handy when you're on the run.

As pioneers in the energy bar market, Balance is committed to offering a nutritionally sound product. The bars have a 40-30-30 represents the balanced caloric ratio contained in our products. Specifically, this means that 40% of calories come from carbohydrates, 30% from protein and 30% from dietary fat. This ratio provides your body with the fuel it needs for lasting, healthy energy.

That all sounds fantastic on paper, but what about in the mouth? Well, we tried the Dark Chocolate Crunch, the Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter and the Dark Chocolate Coconut bars.

They are a great alternative to the usual vending machine junk. I kept them in my purse when I knew I was going to be out and about during the day and they staved my hunger and also nourished my body. Additionally, the cocoa they use in the products is Rainforest Alliance Certified™. What that means is that Balance participates in verification standards that source their cocoa in a sustainable way. Please know that Rainforest Alliance is not the same verification as Fairtrade Certified. Our Daily Green supports understanding of labels and sound alike certification. There is a difference and it's important for thoughtful consumers to know what Rainforest Alliance Certified™ means. (see comparison chart at the bottom of this post). 

balance bar dark
The folks at Balance have graciously offered Our Daily Green readers a chance to try their newest product line of dark chocolate bars. In order to qualify for the drawing, follow along with their Facebook and Twitter pages. Balance is also hosting a Twitter party on Earth Day (April 22nd) with giveaways for participants. #GreenBalance.

To enter to win:

* follow Balance on Facebook
* follow Balance on Twitter

Leave a comment on this post so we know you entered. Winners will be drawn on April 22nd, midnight EST, US only. One winner per household, email address or home address. If you have won this prize on another blog you are ineligible to win again. Good Luck!

disclosure: Our Daily Green received samples of the Balance Dark to sample for this honest review. Our opinions are our own and we have received no financial compensation to state them. 

from: Fair Expectations: Rainforest Alliance v. Fairtrade

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Why the Most Powerful Thing in the World Is a Seed (reprint from YES! Magazine)

“The Seed Underground” is a love letter to the quiet revolutionaries who are saving our food heritage.

cument Actionsby 
Cowpea Seeds photo courtesy of IITA
Photo courtesy of IITA.
Janisse Ray celebrates the local, organic food movement but fears we’re forgetting something elemental: the seeds. According to Ray, what is happening with our seeds is not pretty. Ninety-four percent of vintage open-pollinated fruit and vegetable varieties have vanished over the last century.
The Seed Underground Cover
The Seed Underground: A Growing Revolution to Save Food
by Janisse Ray
Chelsea Green, $17.95, 240 pages
Ray begins The Seed Underground: A Growing Revolution to Save Food by explaining how we lost our seeds. Feeding ourselves has always been a burden for humans, she explains. “So when somebody came along and said, ‘I’ll do that cultivating for you. I’ll save the seeds. You do something else,’ most of us jumped at the chance to be free.”
But, according to Ray, when the dwindling number of farmers who stayed on the land gave up on saving seeds and embraced hybridization, genetically modified organisms, and seed patents in order to make money, we became slaves to multinational corporations like Monsanto and Syngenta, which now control our food supply.
In 2007, 10 companies owned 67 percent of the seed market. These corporations control the playing field, because they influence the government regulators. They've been known to snatch up little-known varieties of seeds, patent them, and demand royalties from farmers whose ancestors have grown the crops for centuries. The result is that our seeds are disappearing, and we miss out on the exquisite tastes and smells of an enormous variety of fruits and vegetables. More alarmingly, “we strip our crops of the ability to adapt to change and we put the entire food supply at risk,” Ray writes. “The more varieties we lose, the closer we slide to the tipping point of disaster.”
However, The Seed Underground is not a grim story. It’s a story about seeds, after all, which Ray calls “the most hopeful thing in the world.” Moreover, it’s a story about a handful of quirky, charismatic, “quiet, under-the-radar” revolutionaries, who harvest and stow seeds in the back of refrigerators and freezers across America. Sylvia Davatz, a Vermont gardener who advocates that local food movements produce and promote locally grown seeds, calls herself the Imelda Marcos of seeds, because she has a thousand varieties in her closet. Yanna Fishman, the so-called sweet-potato queen, toils over a wild garden in the highlands of western North Carolina, where she grows 40 varieties of sweet potatoes. Dave Cavagnaro, an Iowan photographer, teaches people to hand-pollinate squash with masking tape to keep vintage varieties pure.
Seeds, it turns out, don’t just grow plants—they build stories, heritage, and history, which tend to be shared every time seeds pass from hand to hand. So it’s fitting that Ray, an accomplished nature writer and activist, shares some of her own story in The Seed Underground. When she was just a child, Ray got her first heirloom seeds from her grandmother—Jack beans, which resembled eyeballs. At 12 she set a brush fire trying to clear land for a garden. At 22 she joined Seed Savers Exchange.
#65 Cover
Perhaps we learn the most about Ray from her present-day gardens at Red Earth, her Georgia farm. Ray writes that in the garden, she is “an animal with a hundred different senses and all of them are switched on.” She grows crops like Fife Creek Cowhorn okra, Running Conch cowpea, and Green Glaze collard. Her barn is filled with drying seed heads; her kitchen is stinky with seeds fermenting. “Seeds proliferate in the freezer, in my office, in the seed bank, in the garden shed—in jars, credit card envelopes, coffee cans, medicine bottles, recycled seed packets.”
Ray outlines the basics of seed saving in The Seed Underground, but it is not a how-to book. It’s a call to action, which often reads like a lyrical love letter to the land and to varieties of squash and peas most of us have never tasted. It’s also a love letter to us, Ray’s readers. “Even though I may not know you, I have fallen in love with you, you who understand that a relationship to the land is powerful,” she writes.
The truth is, Janisse Ray is on a mission to turn you into a quiet, under-the-radar revolutionary, and if you read The Seed Underground, she just might succeed. At the very least, you will look at seeds—tiny, but vital to our survival —differently.
“A seed makes itself. A seed doesn't need a geneticist or hybridist or publicist or matchmaker. But it needs help,” she writes. “Sometimes it needs a moth or a wasp or a gust of wind. Sometimes it needs a farm and it needs a farmer. It needs a garden and a gardener. It needs you.”

Abby Quillen wrote this article for How Cooperatives Are Driving the New Economy, the Spring 2013 issue of YES! Magazine. Abby is a freelance writer in Eugene, Ore. She blogs at newurbanhabitat.com.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

1800*Recycling Mobile App now available

Recycling App

Just in time for Spring cleaning, 1*800*Recycling has debuted their newest app. We've written about their first version, here. Instead of throwing things out in our attempts to clear away clutter, there is an app available to tell you exactly who can reuse or recycle your cast-offs. The zip code search engine tells folks where to recycle electronics, plastic, metal, paper, glass, household, hazardous, automobile and yard waste. From their email blast:

The all-new 1800Recycling.com mobile app - formerly known as "My Recycle List" - helps you quickly find recycling locations nearest you.
The app combines the best of My Recycle List's features with a brand new user interface. 
New and intuitive features to make the most complete recycling app available. 
This free app is still the easiest way to find convenient drop-off locations and organize your recyclables quickly and effectively. You can even share and rate your recycling experiences to help others recycle better!
Features of the all-new 1800Recycling.com mobile app

  • Easily find recycling centers by searching for whole groups of materials, or find specialized recyclers for specific materials.
  • Find nearby recycling locations using GPS, or search at a specific location.
  • In-app interactive maps and web browser.
  • Sort results by relevance, distance, or name.
  • Call recycling locations directly in-app.
  • Share your recycling locations with others via e-mail, Facebook, Twitter or text.
  • Works directly with 1800Recycling.com to search nearly 140,000 locations.
  • Covers the entire U.S. and parts of Canada.
What is new in Version 2.0

  • Optimized for iOS 6/iPhone 5 and Android Ice Cream Sandwich and Jelly Bean. 
  • Completely redesigned app interface and icon.
  • Choose multiple recyclable materials and sort by relevance.
  • Rate a recycling location and send feedback from within the app.
  • Share feature that allows individuals to share via text message, email, Facebook and Twitter.
  • One-tap access to our blogFacebook,Twitter and Pinterest pages.
The app is currently available for download in the Apple App Store for iOS devices and the Google Play Store for Android devices.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Bulk Is Green Infographic

How often do you purchase foods in bulk? You save money and packaging. Click on this infographic to sign the pledge to buy bulk once a week during the month of April. By pledging, you're also eligible to win a $50 bulk starter kit. 

Bulk Foods