November 2013 - Our Daily Green

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Rethinking food and nature (guest post)

More than 70% of our global freshwater is used for agriculture and aquaculture every year. This makes sense right? Fish, fruits and vegetables have always been a huge part of our diet and we need resources like fresh water to produce these products.

But what if the vegetables we’re eating are covered in pesticides and the farmed fish we are eating are pumped with growth hormones, artificially colored and have lived in filthy environments their entire lives? What if while we are producing our food, we are actually destroying the natural world around us? Releasing excess fertilizer and pesticides into our lakes and rivers and dumping billions of gallons of waste water into our oceans.

It’s time to take a step back and rethink the way we are feeding our growing populations. We need something efficient, sustainable, and organic.

The future of this kind of food is in aquaponics.

Aquaponics is the combination of plant farming and fish farming. The fish provide fertilizer and nutrients to the plants from their waste and the fish filter and clean the water the fish live in. This creates a sustainable ecosystem that produces almost no waste, uses over 90% less water than traditional agriculture, and grows vegetables up to twice as fast.
With all of these benefits, how is it that no one seems to know anything about aquaponics? Aside from a few enthusiasts here and there, most of America just seems to look over such a simple yet brilliant method of food production.

Aqua Design Innovations is an undergraduate startup from UC San Diego that wants to spread awareness and educate more people about aquaponics.

They did so by scaling down a commercial aquaponics system into an accessible, compact aquarium kit that grows plants like herbs and flowers. They call it the EcoQube.

photo courtesy of: EcoQube
By introducing a beautiful, easy to maintain aquatic ecosystem into people’s homes, Aqua Design Innovations hopes to inspire people to learn more about aquaponics and live closer to nature.

“We believe that the first steps to solving any problem, is being aware and then to be educated. Help us make aquaponics mainstream and a part of everyone’s homes by supporting our Kickstarter campaign where you can pre-order an EcoQube” 

-Eric and the ADI team.
Eric and Kevin, company founders

Our Daily Green donated space to EcoQube to promote their Kickstarter campaign.We received no compensation for the post. 

Who deserves our thanks for truly American food? (reprint from

Until 1492, Europeans had never tried potatoes, cranberries, corn, or turkey.

Jill Richardson
What do turkey, sweet potatoes, and cranberries have in common?
Yes, you eat them on Thanksgiving. Additionally, they are all distinctly American foods. So are potatoes and the corn in your corn bread.
Believe it or not, the day that Columbus blundered into the Americas back in 1492, Europeans (and Asians and Africans) had none of those foods.
Thanksgiving is perhaps the one day a year when we Americans celebrate with truly American food.
For me, and many Americans, Thanksgiving isn’t really a time for remembering the saccharine and inaccurate historical event we are supposedly commemorating. (You know, the Pilgrims and the Indians.) Nor is it really a time to celebrate a bountiful harvest. In this age of supermarkets, few of us rely on the whims of nature to produce enough to make it through the winter.
In our family, Thanksgiving means celebrating being together. We cherish the warmth generated by love as much as the delicious meal. There’s no distraction of Santa Claus or anything else. We’re all there for the food — and for each other. (And, for some, for the football on TV.)
But what about those Pilgrims and Indians?
Perhaps you haven’t thought too much about them since grade school, back when you made paper turkeys by tracing your hand in art class. But they are more relevant than you might guess.
No part of the traditional Thanksgiving meal would be possible — save perhaps the cranberries — without the ingenuity of Native Americans. Centuries before the Pilgrims arrived on American shores, Native Americans domesticated all the crops (and turkeys) we now take for granted.
For Native American cultures, the arrival of the Pilgrims wasn’t exactly the beginning of the end — because Native Americans and their cultures are still alive today — but it did mark a moment when their continent was no longer their own.
Truthfully, the turning point had already come and gone. Tisquantum, the friendly Indian that children learn about as “Squanto” in the Thanksgiving story, was actually a Patuxet man whom Europeans kidnapped and brought to Europe long before the Pilgrims sailed to Plymouth.
Years later, when he returned to his home in Massachusetts, he found that his people had been wiped out by an infectious disease brought by Europeans.
As Europeans fanned out on this continent, they displaced Native Americans as they went. Often, they destroyed the ecosystems the Native Americans relied upon to survive.
I’ve been fortunate enough to get to know the tribe near my home in San Diego, the Kumeyaay. I consider myself lucky not only because they offer fantastic classes on their language and culture, but also because they are here, in their homeland. Many tribes were forced to give up their land and move somewhere else — often to Oklahoma.
Another stroke of luck: The ecosystems of San Diego remain relatively intact in large stretches of the county. It’s not too hard to find elderberry, mesquite, acorns, quail, or anything else one needs to cook up a Kumeyaay feast. Tribes that once relied on bison cannot say the same.
The very plants, animals, and landmarks of Southern California represent more to the Kumeyaay than their food or building materials. Their religion is also based on this very land. It’s a part of their identity.
The Native Americans we superficially commemorate on Thanksgiving aren’t just a part of this country’s history. They are here in the present, and often the injustices against them from the past remain uncorrected.
This year, we should all give thanks to Native Americans, who have contributed so much to your holiday meal and to this nation. And consider: How can we right the wrongs of the past committed against them?
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.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Monday, November 18, 2013

eMeals: save money, time, and your health by cooking at home

Our Daily Green readers save 35%: use code cyber35
Our Daily Green was recently invited to review the eMeals menu planning and recipe service. With our continual encouragement for our readers to cook more at home and eat healthier, this was a perfect fit. In order to properly review this service, Our Daily Green received an entire year's worth of eMeal plans, courtesy of the company. One of the things that struck us most was how easy it is to customize and subscribe to meals based around not just your family size, but also your food preferences and lifestyle.

eMeals offers 12 different meal plans, including Low Carb, Low Fat, Slow Cooker, Simple Gourmet, Gluten Free, and Vegetarian to cite a few. There is a menu for every eating style. We chose the Natural and Organic menu plan.

What really stood out to us was the comprehensive meal planning service, including shopping lists and coupon links. Armed with our list, we headed to the grocery store, after checking for items already in our pantry. Following our list was easy and we shopped for exactly what we needed, avoiding the temptation of picking up something "in case" we needed it. eMeals told us what we needed, removing the guess work to menu planning. Shopping went quickly and painlessly and our bill was approximately 10% less, simply by following the list. This confirms advice of financial planning experts, such as TV show host, Dave Ramsey, who endorses eMeals, suggesting it will help families save around $1,000/year.

We really appreciated the simple and quick meals. So many times, families think fast food is the answer to a harried lifestyle. Instead, a little pre-planning and system is the true answer. Our Daily Green's family generally eats at home and we have a few "go-to" quick dinners. eMeals gave us several more options. Here is a new, quick, one-pot favorite:

Vermicelli with Sausage and Spinach

2 teaspoons olive oil
12 oz package smoked sausage, cut in half
1 cup chopped onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
32 oz carton reduced-sodium chicken broth
8 oz uncooked vermicelli, broken in half
15 oz package fresh baby spinach
¼ teaspoon pepper
⅓ cup heavy cream

Heat oil in a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Cut sausage into ½-inch thick slices. Add sausage to oil with onion and garlic. 

Cook, stirring occasionally, 8 minutes or until onion is tender.

Add broth and ¼ cup water; bring to a boil. Add pasta; cook 3 minutes, stirring frequently.
 Add spinach, stirring in a little at a time until wilted, and pepper; cook 1 minute.

Stir in cream and cook until thoroughly heated.

 It was that simple! Not to mention tasty and healthy. One pot, 30 minutes, dinner is ready. 

disclosure: Our Daily Green was compensated for this post, including 1 year of eMeals for free. 

Efficient home heating with rocket stove mass heaters

A few years ago, a family member bought a small "as seen on TV" newspaper grill. It was a novelty item that got hauled out at family get togethers to cook a few items with only newspaper for fuel. The newspaper grills have quite a cult following among outdoorsman and survivalist sorts. The newspaper grill is based on the engineering of a rocket stove.

A rocket stove is a specially designed efficient wood burning stove with a well insulated chimney and a side feeding fuel space. The rocket stove concentrates the heat that burns off the noxious smoke from the high temperatures. Rocket stoves have grown in popularity with permaculturists and they have been adapted to whole house heating systems. The first time I saw a rocket stove was when Our Daily Green visited the Community Greenhouse Partners in Cleveland, Ohio. They utilize a rocket stove system to winterize one of their hoop houses.

Rocket stove mass heaters revolutionize the way we heat our homes with fuel. While they are not available to a mass market, with good instructions and a few simple supplies, many folks have built their own.
illustration: Wikimedia Commons

Rocket stoves are not commercially available, but have been utilized around the world to cook and heat. The fire burns sideways and the stove pipe/combustion chamber ensures a high temperature and efficient burn. The resulting heating system is similar to a condensing gas boiler.

Paul Weaton has developed a series of 4 DVDs either available as live streams or via mail order. He has worked closely with Ernie and Erica Wisner, who have built over 700 rocket stove mass heaters. The videos detail exact plans on building a rocket stove mass heater, as well as the physics of how it works and the implications for sustainable heating. Safety measures are discussed throughout the series. Done properly, a home can be heated with minimal fuel and maximum heat. A rocket stove mass heater can heat a home with 10% of the fuel a conventional wood stove uses.

Our Daily Green has worked closely with the permaculture forum, to bring our readers information about rocket stove mass heaters. We have received a live streaming code of the DVDs as well as financial compensation. All opinions are our own and all information has been carefully researched. We recommend learning as much as possible before you begin building a rocket stove for home heating. Paul Weaton's comprehensive video series covers every possible question someone interested in building a rocket stove mass heater could potentially have.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

JayBird Sports BlueBuds giveaway

For many athletes, listening to music helps with training in the way of motivation as well as diversion. An informal survey among friends indicated a variety of ways music motivates them during their training.
Power walker Linda explains, "I power walk to HEART. Even if I ran, I would probably listen to them. Empowering. Motivating. Keeps me moving at a fast pace," while bike rider Robert finds another sort of music motivating, "I tend to listen to soundtrack scores...James Bond, Man of Steel, etc. The action movie music is intense, I visualize myself as the characters, and it motivates me to be them. Weird, but effective." Marathon runner Annmarie finds that "[she] listen[s] to all types of genres, depending on [her] mood and how far [she has] to run," and distance runner Molly explains her, "love [of] high energy dance music! [She] ran track in high school, kind of fell away from running and picked it back up in her early 30's....have been running at least 3-4 days a week since, sometimes more..."
BlueBuds Headphones

Whatever the genre of music, one thing is certain among many athletes. Music is an integral part of the workout. Jaybird headphones are designed with the athlete in mind. In fact, their BlueBuds X Bluetooth Headphones are the official training headphones of the USA Triathlon.

Jaybird headphones are state of the art. Beginning with the unique, patent pending customized X-FIT™, the wearer can use the versatile buds either over or under the ear with nothing on the neck, but still maintaining a secure fit. Patented voice prompt technology allows for hands-free operation, keeping the training stride smooth and unhampered by the need to manually adjust volume or music. The SHIFT premium bluetooth audio™ brings state of the art sound through a custom implementation of the native Bluetooth SBC codec to deliver a level of pure sound that is often only heard in wired headphones. Lastly the Jaybird BlueBuds have a lifetime warranty against damage from sweat, by utilizing Liquipel, a super hydrophobic process that provides added protection from exposure to sweat and the elements. With a remarkable battery life of 8 hours, Jaybird headphones leave nothing to chance to elevate an athlete's training from mundane to inspired.

Jaybird has a special promotion giving away one set of BlueBudsX Bluetooth Headphones, daily. To enter to win, click the drop down menu on the top right corner of their home page. With a retail value of $169.95, they can be used with any blu-tooth enabled device. Whatever sport you choose, if music moves you, this is the headphone for you.

By submitting your information, you agree to receive communication from JayBird about this giveaway, as well as occasional JayBird products & lifestyle information. We DO NOT send spam, & do NOT share your personal information with any 3rd parties. NO PURCHASE NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN. MUST BE 18+ YEAR S OF AGE TO ENTER. ONLY ONE ENTRY PER DAY ALLOWED. EVEN THOUGH PRODUCT IS GIVEN FREE TO WINNER THE STANDARD TERMS OF SALE APPLY. USA & CANADA RESIDENTS ONLY.

Our Daily Green has been compensated for sharing this giveaway. Good luck! 

Winterizing lawn sprinklers saves water

Ways to set your sprinkler system timer for Arizona's winter

Picture courtesy of: AZ Sprinkler
Grass is difficult enough to grow in Arizona because of the unique climate. We deal with cracked mud, intense hot temperatures, and so much more that is a killer on your backyard landscape. Then when winter comes it is a whole other issue. Many people have to plant a different type of grass for the winter season. If you are planning on tackling winter grass this year at your Arizona home, here are ways to set your sprinkler timer.

It seems like common sense to think that in the winter months your sprinklers will use less water, less often and help avoid freezing or root rot. In the summer months you also have to set your set the timer to be reoccurring, but on a much more frequent basis. The less water used, the more efficient you are.

The first way to prep the system for winter is to turn off the water supply. This can be done by turning off the water supply to the main valve. Usually for anti-freezing purposes, the main valve is buried a bit into the ground or soil. This will keep water from remaining in the pipe as well, which will easily freeze. 

Timers can be extremely confusing when it comes to sprinkler systems, so knowing you can worry less about configuring it in the winter is a big relief. If you are lucky enough to have a “smart” timer then it can set itself based on the current weather at that time. The winter grass in Arizona, also called Rye grass, can be watered much less frequently than summer or spring grass in this climate. From the months between December and March, you can get away with not watering Rye grass anywhere between 7 and 14 days. Even in the months before that, like October and November, you can go nearly two weeks without watering.

It is not just grass being watered either. You have to think about the timing set up for the trees, shrubs and maybe even cacti. Cacti, which are prevalent in Arizona, do not even need watering in the winter months, and this can save you a lot of money. The timer should be set on the first date of the beginning of the season. In Arizona that can be March, May, October and December. Even though setting up the timer can be a pain, it is a necessity for landscape in all seasons that Arizona faces.

If your attempt at timer set up did not go well, consider reaching out to a local sprinkler repair company in Arizona. AZ Sprinkler is one of the most known sprinkler repair specialists in Arizona and specializes in setting up your timer system for the appropriate climates. 

FTC disclosure: today's post has been brought to you by a sponsor 

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Saving lives by addressing severe acute malnutrition

One of the most useful treatments in cultural cases of Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM) is Ready-to-Use Therapeutic Foods (RUTF). RUTF is a peanut based spread that meets specifications set forth by UNICEF to supply nutritional therapy for severely malnourished children. SAM is the number one cause of death to children under the age of 5 years, over 3.5 million annually.

Ready-to-Use Therapeutic Foods do not need water to be prepared. They are soft or crushable and can be easily eaten by children of 6 months of age up. Peanut butter paste is a popular ingredient in RUTFs along with a blend of powdered milk, sugar, vegetable oil, and nutrients. The mono-saturated fats are easy to digest and contain high levels of zinc and protein, which help the immune system. Additionally, this food does not require refrigeration or cooking.
In March 2012, humanitarian and business person Stan Smith partnered with four other concerned friends (Brian Hunsaker, Donna Wertz, Heather Premac, and Haley Hunsaker) to pool resources and time to find a sustainable solution for production and distribution of RUTFs. They founded PB+J Foods, Inc., a non-profit organization established to combat SAM in a way that not only nourishes the children, but also helps nurture the local economy where SAM is most prevalent.

photo courtesy of Swathi_Sridharan 
licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0
PB+J's first efforts were in impoverished Republic of Malawi, a landlocked area of southeastern Africa, bordered by Zambia to the northwest, Tanzania to the northeast, and Mozambique on the east, south and west. Their success in Malawi saved nearly 1,200 lives from March 2012 to August 2013, 17 months. Encouraged by their success, they want to expand the work of PB+J to work more closely with local hospitals, farmers, and manufacturers.

In 2012, PB+J increased production and partnered with the Nkhoma Hospital to expand from 600 square feet to 1600. Based on this expansion, their projections for 2014 are promising. PB+J hopes to serve over 11,000 children, including 1,000 children at Nkhoma Hospital for no charge and increase Malawian Employment at the production facility.

In addition to physical food, PB+J Program participants will also be educated about food safety and storage, malnutrition management, hygiene and sanitation, family planning, HIV/AIDS prevention, childcare, nutrition, and agriculture, to promote broad scale healthy habits.

Because PB+J is a non-profit (EIN #46-0893794), monies raised directly benefit the children and families in the African villages. PB+J's dedication to saving and improving lives, starting with the very smallest people through adulthood is a noble cause. To learn more about supporting this non-profit, PB+J has a tax deductible program for either a recurring or one time donation to support their important work in the prevention of SAM. Follow along with their Facebook or Twitter accounts to track their progress, including recent photos of their newest production equipment.

A special thank you to PB+J for sponsoring Our Daily Green to share their message. 

Friday, November 1, 2013

Controlling natural light in a home

skylight deals
image courtesy of Wikimedia commons
When potential home buyers make a wish list of features they desire in a home, rooms with a lot of natural light are often on the list. No doubt, walking into a room filled with sunlight has a more positive affect on one's mood that entering a dark, depressing room with tiny windows. Large windows and skylights are also frequently included in a home remodeling project to make a room feel more spacious.

There are two sides to almost everything,
and a flood of natural light in a room is one of those two-sided home design features. The warm sunlight that you consider a bonus on a winter day can be a contributing factor to higher utilities bills in the summer. The glare from the sun that makes viewing the TV or computer difficult can be a source of frustration. While there isn't always an easy solution to a two-sided problem, that isn't the case with windows that allow natural sunlight to fill your home.

Once you discover convenient Velux window blinds at, you will have no regrets about choosing a home with lots of natural light or including skylights in your home remodeling design. These easily manipulated blinds put you in control of the lighting situation. You can darken a room or allow a flood of sunlight in anytime you wish with a wall mounted keypad or a manual or electric controlled Velux blind. These blinds can make a positive impact on your utility bills in all seasons.

Today's post has been brought to you by a sponsor