Monday, November 28, 2011

Food for Thought Part II

Last time I talked about how our food supply chain has changed dramatically in the last 50 years or so, and why this should be a matter of concern to us. It’s very ironic that while the large food producing companies are becoming more efficient and profitable, we are becoming sick more often from food-related illnesses. In a study funded by the Pew Charitable Trust, it was found that in 2010, there were 76 million food-related illnesses, 325,000 hospitalizations and 5,000 deaths. The money cost to the U.S. was about $152 billion a year, or roughly $1,850 each time someone gets sick from food, I think we need to develop more awareness around these issues and take small but practical steps at the individual level, so that collectively we can start to make a difference. We have to be aware of what the food does to us, what it does to the environment, and whether humane labor and animal practices were followed.
In terms of reading material, you can find works from some leading thinkers on this topic at or your local library. These include:
Michael Pollan:

1. The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals

2. The Omnivore's Dilemma for Kids: The Secrets Behind What You Eat

3. In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto

4. Food Rules: An Eater's Manual
Eric Schlosser:

1. Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal

2. Chew On This: Everything You Don't Want to Know About Fast Food
Gary Hirshberg:

1. Stirring It Up: How to Make Money and Save the World

2. Anything But Neutral About Going (Carbon) Neutral
Incidentally, Gary Hirshberg runs Stonyfield farms that makes dairy products that are wholesome in every way ( The company is very successful, showing that you can do well by doing good.
You can also find a number of related videos on this topic. Some of them are:

1. Forks Over Knives

2. Food Matters

3. King Corn: You Are What You Eat

4. Food Beware: The French Organic Revolution

5. Food, Inc.

At home, here are some steps you can take on an everyday level. In the supermarket see if you can buy organic foods (may be a little more pricey), avoid canned and heavily packaged foods, take your own bags to cut down on plastic, check labels, buy foods that are in season locally (a good way to do this is to see if there are any local farmers’ markets in your area), and plan your shopping to reduce the number of driving trips to the supermarket.


Monday, November 14, 2011

When I Get that Feeling, I Want NATURAL Healing

Tis’ the season. No, it’s not the holiday season to which I am referring. It’s the season of chills and coughs, fever and fatigue, headaches and body aches. Some time soon, our kids will develop a runny nose that seems to run until about mid February. That’s right. Cold and flu season is upon us.

When faced with a nasty cold or flu virus, many of us reach for our favorite bottle of over the counter or prescription medicine, particularly if it’s your child who is sick. As a parent, it is heart breaking to see your kid suffer through a dreadful virus. Parents will do anything just to help them feel better. However, many people do not realize the lasting effects modern medicine has on the environment.

The extraction of raw materials, the production and packaging, transportation, and sale of these medicines all leave their impact on the environment. Even more alarming, is what happens when the medicines are discarded. Whether thrown out or excreted by the body in waste, these medicines enter our water supply.

Water treatment plants remove most conventional pollutants, but do not remove man made pollutants, like medicine. Steroids, hormones, pain killers, and antibiotics are just a few of the medicines now being found in rivers, lakes, and streams. Not only is this contaminating the water we drink every day, but we use these bodies of water for recreational purposes every day for swimming, boating, rafting or fishing. Our water supply is our most precious resource and we have to preserve and protect it.

What options do we have when we get sick???

There are hundreds of natural ways to combat sickness. Homeopathic medicine, vitamins, herbs, and even certain foods can help assist our immune system in combating the nasty infections. These methods have been used for centuries, and they have a much smaller environmental impact than modern medicine. Some people may even find that natural means of healing is more effective at lessoning the severity and duration of our sickness. I will begin posting a series of articles on the most popular and most effective means of natural healing. Check back often to learn more about what you can do to feel better while protecting the environment this cold and flu season.


Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Recycling in the Kitchen

Hey readers, so for the next couple of weeks I've decided to a series of articles that cover different areas of your house and backyard that will list out the many things you can do to recycle in those particular areas. This idea was inspired by a video project we're doing in the environmental club at my school, so thank you environmental club! (: This week, we'll be covering the kitchen. The kitchen is a place that is just teeming with activity, resulting in many, many instances, where we could be making greener choices.

Paper towels, we all use them for anything that comes by us. Whether it's wiping the table clean, the counter top, or just drying your hands, our handy friend, the paper towel, is always there to save us. Instead, why not try using a towel? Just hang the towel by the sink in your kitchen, and every time you have to dry your hands just use that. Replace paper towels for wiping off surfaces with sponges. You can always squeeze out the dirty water from the sponge, so it'll never become too unclean to use, and it is a perfect replacement for your paper towel.

We all wash dishes, but the trick is in how you wash them. When you wash your dirty plates and utensils, do you leave the water running while you scrub at them and put them in the dishwasher, or do you turn the water off? If you turn the water off, than good for you! However, if you don't then we've got a little talking to do. (: While you're washing the dishes, rinse them with water, then use a sponge or a similar thing to scrub the residual food off, give it one last rinse at the end and then make sure to turn off the faucet once more while you put the dish into the dishwasher. This way, when you don't really need the water, the faucet will be off and you won't be wasting any of it.

Filter contaminants such as lead and chloroform, along with the taste of chlorine, from your tap water with a water-filtering pitcher or a faucet-mounted system. You'll also save money over buying bottled water, and reduce the energy used and pollution created in producing, shipping, and disposing of all those plastic containers.

Don't' feel guilty about running your dishwasher, you should use it. The dishwasher actually uses less water than doing dishes by hand. Just make sure to run it only when it is completely full, otherwise you'll have to do lighter loads at more frequent intervals. Also, when the dishwasher is being run, try to run it at its lowest setting-choose light instead of heavy and air dry rather than heat.

Throwing food into the trash can wastes a valuable resource. Turn your coffee grounds, banana peels, and eggshells into a rich soil conditioner for houseplants, lawn, and garden by composting them. Keep a small bucket near your prep area to collect waste and then just add the contents to a backyard compost bin.

Rather than storing leftovers in plastic, try old fashioned glass, ceramic, or stainless-steel containers. While many types of plastic can be recycled, they're all made from petroleum, a nonrenewable resource. So cook a recipe of a favorite dish and pack it in your Pyrex or glass covered dishes.

Until next time,
greengirl (:

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Food for Thought

Are we losing control over the food we eat? Over the last 50 to 60 years, farming in the U.S. has undergone a dramatic change. Farmers who used to cultivate their own lands have been almost completely replaced by corporate farming. Huge areas have been bought by a few large companies and they have used economies of scale and aggressive techniques like chemical pesticides and genetically modified crops to boost their profits. Produce is also being moved across vast distances from farm to supermarket, so that customers get all kinds of produce all year round. This convenience is coming at the cost of a high carbon footprint created by the transportation of these items. So is there no place for the small local farmer who has a direct relationship with his land, and who uses natural methods to grow fresh produce for his local customers?

Fortunately there seems to be a growing movement among small farmers and consumers who are willing to follow older and healthier ways of growing and consuming food products. The debate for most consumers is whether to pay more for food that is healthier for us and the environment. For farmers, it is the choice between pure profits and concern for quality of their produce.