Check out my new book, The Non-Toxic Avenger: What You Don't Know Can Hurt You, available from Amazon.

2012 Silver winner in the Health/Medicine/Nutrition Category of the Independent Publishers Book Awards

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Green Book Week - In Defense of Food giveaway

Green book week!If you aren't submitting your name to this giveaway of the book, In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto you:

1. Already own and have read the book
2. Have a copy from the library and are reading it
3. Have a copy on loan from a friend and are reading it
4. Are completely insane

From Publisher's Weekly:
Examining the question of what to eat from the perspective of health, this powerfully argued, thoroughly researched and elegant manifesto cuts straight to the chase with a maxim that is deceptively simple: Eat food, not too much, mostly plants. But as Pollan explains, food in a country that is driven by a thirty-two billion-dollar marketing machine is both a loaded term and, in its purest sense, a holy grail.

In Defense of FoodThe first section of his three-part essay refutes the authority of the diet bullies, pointing up the confluence of interests among manufacturers of processed foods, marketers and nutritional scientists—a cabal whose nutritional advice has given rise to a notably unhealthy preoccupation with nutrition and diet and the idea of eating healthily.

The second portion vivisects the Western diet, questioning, among other sacred cows, the idea that dietary fat leads to chronic illness. A writer of great subtlety, Pollan doesn't preach to the choir; in fact, rarely does he preach at all, preferring to lets the facts speak for themselves.

Enough said. Add your name to the comments for a chance to win this fantastic new book from Michael Pollan, author of The Omnivore's Dilemma.

The contest ends Friday, May 2nd, at 6:00 pm PST. I'll announce the winner on Saturday! Time's up!

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Green Book Week - Affluenza giveaway

Green book week!Have you been following along with the Affluenza book club discussion posts, itching to get your grubby paws on a copy but didn't want to buy it for yourself because it goes counter to the whole message from the book?

Have you been dutifully participating in April's Buy Nothing Challenge and want to read more about how consumerism affects us all?

Did the reader submitted interview with David Wann (one of the authors of Affluenza), make you desperate to read his seminal work before diving into Simple Prosperity?

Are you ready to read more from this life-changing book? Are you ready for me to stop asking so many goddamned questions?

Affluenza: The All-Consuming EpidemicWell, now's your chance to get a copy of the book, guilt-free. Sure, it's a mildly used copy (I'm real gentle on my books), but isn't that better than buying it new?

All you need to do to enter the giveaway is add your name to the comments section of this post. The contest ends Friday, May 2nd, at 6:00 pm PST. I'll announce the winner on Saturday! Time's up!

Monday, April 28, 2008

Green book week!

Green book week!Since my husband starts his stem cell transplant chemo today (three days of super high dosages), I'll be pretty busy and won't have much time for in-depth posts. So, I'm designating this week as Green book week! Hopefully, a little book fun and merriment will break up the excitement of twelve hour infusions, hair loss, nausea and vomiting...

Anyway, last week we finished off the discussion posts for the book, In Defense of Food, and next Tuesday I'm hoping to put up the final discussion post for Affluenza. As such, today there's a poll about the book club.

Be a bookworm!The rest of the week will be green book giveaways! If you are participating in Green Bean Dream's Bookworm Challenge in May, now's your chance to get the book you're signing up for for free!

Here's the book club giveaway schedule:

Tuesday: Affluenza: The All-Consuming Epidemic, by John de Graaf, David Wann and Thomas Naylor

Wednesday: In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto, by Michael Pollan

Thursday: Simple Prosperity: Finding Real Wealth in a Sustainable Lifestyle, by David Wann

Friday: Green Chic: Saving the Earth in Style, by Christie Matheson

All giveaways will be randomly chosen. You can enter one or all of them by adding your name to the comments for the book you are interested in on the day I announce the giveaway (in other words, don't enter them today). The contest closes for all the giveaways on Friday, May 2nd, 6:00 pm PST. I'll announce the winners on Saturday, May 3rd.

The following poll is multiple choice, so you can pick your top 3 or whatever you want.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Sunday confessional - Week 4

Sunday confessionalHoly moley, I can't believe there's only a few days left of the Buy Nothing Challenge. For me, the first week was kinda tough, the second one a little easier and the last two have been no brainers. Our credit card bill is vastly smaller than usual.

Of course, I've spent a lot of the last two weeks at the "cancer spa" where shopping opportunities are rather minimal, but still. I can honestly say that I haven't purchased anything besides food, necessary sundries and an occasional coffee. We didn't even eat out this week!

I suspect the next week will go by without a hitch. I am concerned a little about some of you who are "saving" your purchases until May. I hope you don't blow a hole in your credit cards making up for holding off on purchasing things for a month.

The idea was to have you focus on things you didn't really need, not in the hopes of staving off the desire for a few weeks, but in convincing you that you didn't actually need that item. Hopefully, for some of you, having to wait a few weeks has lessened the desire.

But, enough about me, how are you doing with the challenge?

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Five brand new Divas

DivaCup Challenge 2008Thanks to all of you who have signed up for the DivaCup Challenge 2008. There's still time to add yourself to the growing list of women who are finally taking the plunge and giving the DivaCup a try.

For those of you who pledged to do the challenge up until yesterday, you were entered in a drawing. Five lucky women are winners of a brand spankin' new DivaCup:

1. S.N. of the blog, Saidlian Nataly
2. JenRob of the blog, Greening Middle America
3. ANewDay of the blog, With a turn...
4. FrugalNut of the blog, Frugal Nuts are Green
5. Gsgranola of the blog, Garden State Granola

Winners, please email me at crunchychickenblog@gmail.com with your mailing information and what size you want.

There are two choices:

Model 1 - for the tight and tiny
Model 2 - for the double wide

The rule of thumb is, if you are under 30 and haven't had children, choose Model 1. If you are over 30 or have had chitlins, then choose Model 2. The length of the cup is about the same with both models it's the girth that's different. For more information on choosing your size, please check with the experts.

For those of you who have signed up for the DivaCup Challenge and are still looking to buy one and/or can't find one locally, I'm in the process of setting up a discount for DivaCups through Lunapads. So stay tuned!

Congratulations winners! You are about to begin a journey toward menstrual freedom!

Friday, April 25, 2008

Boob ball winner

flip n tumblesThe winner of the fabulous flip & tumble sack ball thingy is:

artbystrongheart of the blog, Learning to Step Lightly

Congratulations! You have one pink 24-7 bag coming your way!

I'll be announcing the winners of the five DivaCups for the DivaCup Challenge 2008 tomorrow, so stay tuned!

I'll also be doing at least one more product review and giveaway next week, so do not despair if you didn't win the boob ball, there will be other opportunities soon!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Flip & tumble review & giveaway

flip & tumbleWell, after Monday's screed, I thought it was great timing to review some green products. And I might as well give something away while I'm at it.

I am regularly contacted by companies hawking their new, improved green products or books, most of which I generally ignore. This one, however, caught my eye. I mean, any company that has a tagline of, "for those oh #@*! moments at the checkout line" should at least be given a chance, no?

The flip & tumble is a bag that is designed for those of you who constantly forget to bring your reusable bags to the store. This little number can be stashed in your purse or backpack. It has a stretchy pouch that conceals it into a small ball when, in fact, it is a full size bag. It takes a few minutes to figure out how to origami it bag into it's compact, ball-like shape, but once you do, it's a cinch.

It reportedly holds 25 lbs, although I haven't yet tested it to that weight. It has a little felty shoulder pad that really doesn't do much and makes the strap look a little hokey, but I would imagine it would be uncomfortable without it. The stretchy pouch doubles nicely as a small cell phone holder and it really does hold a lot. When the bag is unfolded it measures 12" x 14" x 5". In it's origami shape, it's about 3" in diameter.

flip & tumble storageMy big problem with the bags is that I generally don't carry a purse and so I don't actually have anywhere to stash the balls. But, as you can see from the photo on the right, I have found the perfect place to store them. Plus, they serve a dual purpose - no disfiguring plastic surgery required. I'm sure you men out there have an equally suitable area for enhancement, I mean, storage.

Anyway, once the bag reaches the end of its life, you can even send it back to the company and they'll recycle it for you.

Since I know you aren't buying anything this month, I'm having a giveaway! If you are interested in trying out the flip & tumble, you can enter to win a pink one by adding your name to the comments. I'll have a random drawing on Thursday. Time's up!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

In Defense of Food book discussion (Part III)

In Defense of FoodThis week's book club post is the fifth installment of the In Defense of Food discussion posts. This week's post wraps up the longest book club for the shortest book ever!

Chapter 1. Escape from the Western Diet - This chapter recaps what has been covered in the earlier sections of the book and sets up what we are to read in the remaining chapters. The main concept is reiterated: People eating a Western diet are prone to a complex of chronic diseases that seldom strike people eating more traditional diets. No matter what infighting occurs between scientists, the take home message is to stop eating a Western diet.

How do we go about doing this? Pollan isn't expecting us to truly go back to a "traditional" diet because how can you define traditional for each person? The genetic makeup of each individual and their ability to process certain foods relies tremendously on the environment in which their ancestors adapted to the local foodsheds.

So, what is he recommending? Well, to start off, choose whole foods. But how can we determine if that whole food is really unadulterated? Is that CAFO beef really a whole food? What about vegetables grown in nutrient depleted soil under a host of chemical pesticides and petroleum fertilizers? Is that a whole food?


Chapter 2. Eat Food: Food Defined - What the heck should we be eating then? Here are some rules of thumb:

Don't eat anything your great-grandma wouldn't recognize. Squeeze yogurts, cheese food products, Twinkies, non-dairy creamers - all of these can be readily identified as something not "whole".

Avoid foods containing unfamiliar or unpronounceable ingredients or high fructose corn syrup. This doesn't mean so much that the ingredients are inherently harmful, but they are good indicators of food quality.

Avoid food products that make health claims. This is a big neon sign screaming "processed". Generally, only big food companies have the wherewithal to secure FDA-approved health claims for their products.

Shop the peripheries of the supermarket. You know what's lurking in the middle - packaged, boxed, processed foods. Stick to the outside where produce, dairy, meats and bulk items live.

Get out of the supermarket if you can. Farmers markets generally don't sell highly processed foods, neither do farm stands or U-pick farms. Shop from your garden and you're assured of getting whole foods.

Do you focus on buying mostly whole foods or are you more concerned with buying healthy or organic even if it's processed (like cereals, crackers, soups, etc.)? There are a number of highly processed foods that are marketed as "healthy" - do you think they are? Do you really need to eat whole foods or are products found in the natural foods section okay?


Chapter 3. Mostly Plants: What to Eat - Okay, so we're supposed to eat whole foods. Any more words of wisdom?

Eat mostly plants, especially leaves. Plants are chock full of nutrients, vitamins, fiber and antioxidants all delivered in a format that our bodies are evolved to uptake most effectively. Antioxidants help us get rid of toxins and the rest are necessary for health and function. Enriched foods just don't get processed the same way and plants supply us with these necessities.

You are what what you eat eats too. WTF? In other words, the diet of the animals we eat has a bearing on the nutritional quality, and healthfulness, of the food itself. The same thing can be said for plant based foods - poor soils make for nutritionally poor plants.

If you have the space, buy a freezer. If you can buy foods at the height of the season and store them for year-round consumption, you are ensuring that you are getting the most nutrition from your foods. Eating those anemic tomatoes in February just doesn't cut it.

Eat like an omnivore. If you eat a wide and varied diet, you are more likely to get the full range of nutrients that these foods supply.

Eat well-grown food from healthy soils. Again, soils rich in organic matter produce more nutritious food: higher levels of anti-oxidants, flavonoids, vitamins, etc.

Have a glass of wine with dinner. I love Michael Pollan.


Chapter 4. Not Too Much: How to Eat - First of all, focus on quality over quantity. Shake off the idea of supersizing your meals or trying to maximize the food you get for your dollar. Instead, spend more money on less. You'll find the quality of the food and it's improved taste will satisfy you with less.

Second, eat meals. No more eating in the car, at your desk, in front of the TV or computer, standing at the sink or sitting on the toilet or wherever you grab your meals. Sit down at the table for crying out loud and enjoy your food. Preferably with family and friends.

Thirdly, eat slowly and listen to your belly. Don't hoark down your food so fast that your brain doesn't recognize that you ate so much that you have to unbutton your pants. Or, worse yet, you're so full that you can't stand up and walk upright without discomfort. It takes your brain about twenty minutes to catch up with your gut, so give them time to communicate with each other.

Lastly, become a cook and grow a garden. Doing both gives you an appreciation between the plants and the soil and between the ingredients and those you are feeding.

How many meals do you eat at home? How many with your family? Are you so overly busy that you don't have time to cook or eat with others?

Well, that concludes the In Defense of Food book club posts. How has reading this book changed the way you think about food and eating?

Monday, April 21, 2008

Jumping on the environmental bandwagon

What will you be doing tomorrow for Earth Day? Over the years, this annual event has turned into just a gesture, punctuated mostly by green marketing rhetoric. Even at the biggest green events, like the Green Festival held here recently in Seattle, the focus was on consumerism. "Over 300 eco-friendly vendors!"

You can't buy your way to sustainability, no matter what the manufacturers tell you. Sure, you can replace things with more ecologically sound products or you can choose to buy the environmentally friendly item over the conventional one and I'm certainly behind that. But...

This Earth Day's events include many a commercial bent rather than an environmental one. Sure, there are educational elements to them, but most of the focus is on purchasing items to save the environment rather on good old wholesome conservation. What happened to the Earth Day activities where you get together and plant a tree and discuss current issues and how to resolve them?

Yet, it all comes back to buying. What happened to just being? Back before everything was dirt cheap, there was a focus on quality over quantity, enjoying what you had and not buying stuff just for the sake of having it. We've discussed the slippery slope of consumerism in the Affluenza book club posts, and most of the people reading this blog have only experienced the age of Affluenza, not WWII conservation.

I suppose over the last year, I've matured from focusing on doing green things that tend to be product based, to really focusing on the necessity of products in achieving a greener lifestyle. It is extremely easy to get sucked into buying into a new lifestyle and there are tons of products and companies out there to help you purchase your way into greener living. But, when you step back, it's not really an improvement if you're still just purchasing stuff you don't really need. Even if it's environmentally friendly, you don't need those new bamboo clothes, the hemp shoes, the gadgets, appliances, tools and other things.

For the most part, with many products, even so called "green" ones, the environmental cost of manufacturing (energy, oil, mining, shipping, water and industrial waste) outweighs keeping your carbon-unfriendly version. And when that product goes teets up, you should really be considering whether you actually needed it in the first place.

Where am I going with this? Well, let's just say that I'm getting a little sick of seeing all the "eco" friendly products and articles in magazines, in the papers and on TV. These vendors are selling you the idea of green, but in actuality, you are just getting sucked in. Again. The message is a feel-good, placation of fears of global warming and all it's scary antecedents.

If you really want to do something for the environment, stop consuming. I don't mean stop eating or buying the basics for clothing and cleaning, just stop buying crap you don't need and end up having to get rid of later. If you really want to do something for the environment, pledge to Stop Buying. You'll find it a lot easier than you thought and with all the money you save, you can spend it on spending time with your friends and family instead of working hard to pay for your green, product driven lifestyle.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Sunday confessional - Week 3

Sunday confessionalIt has been 7 days since my last confessional and I haven't spent anything except for food and a bottle of wine. The wine isn't exactly essential, but after reading In Defense of Food, I'm gonna argue that it's a medical necessity. Well, maybe not.

I got my two books from the library and that has sated my interest in buying something. My daughter is asking for new dresses as she's outgrown last year's spring/summer dresses but we didn't find any at the second-hand store, so no purchases there. I have been drooling over a food mill but will wait and most likely the desire will pass.

Other than that, I've gotten into the groove of not purchasing crap I don't really need. I can't say that my husband is following suit, but I have little control over that.

How was your week?

Friday, April 18, 2008

Eco Hottie of the Week #4

Mr. Guillermo PayetWhew! It's been a few weeks and now it's time to get back on track. This week's eco-hottie is a "regular" person, but I'd say there's nothing regular about him.

Who: Guillermo Payet

What: Founder of LocalHarvest

Why: Although I must admit, I have certain prejudices against LocalHarvest only because it directly competes with my project Puget Sound Fresh on a local level (okay, so it's not exactly my project, but I've worked on it for seven years). Anyway a little competition is good, no? But I digress. El Sr. Payet muy guapo es el fundador del sitio web que promueve comprando alimento de granjas locales.

Sr. Guillermo PayetLocalHarvest is America's #1 organic and local food website. They maintain a public nationwide directory of small farms, farmers markets, and other local food sources.

Their search engine helps people find products from family farms, local sources of sustainably grown food, and encourages them to establish direct contact with small farms in their local area. Their online store helps small farms develop markets for some of their products beyond their local area.

Quotable: "I wash my hair with handmade soap. Sometimes I even brush my teeth with it. I like to keep chemicals away from my body."

"I've had girlfriends who wear a pair of jeans once and wash them immediately. I'm like 'You're polluting the water and wasting electricity.'"



Who knew that imports from Peru could be so tasty? No carbon food miles here!

If you would like to nominate someone as an Eco Hottie, email me.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Busting Brita's balls

Take Back the FilterFake Plastique Fish has taken on a new effort to force responsibility back on Brita for recycling their enormously wasteful water filter cartridges. I'm pretty sure I haven't discussed water filters on my blog since I don't really use them.

I'm more of a tap water gal, even though we have filtered water through our refrigerator. Either way, I'm appalled at the fact that Brita doesn't have a recycling program in the U.S. yet they have one in Europe. This is a point that has always ground my crackers and I'm surprised I never got around to bitching, I mean, blogging about it before.

Anyway, Brita is the #1 water filter in the U.S. and Canada and I'm sure between both countries we blow through tons of water filters that head directly to the landfill to ooze out their chemical goodness.

For those of you who do use water filters, I urge you to reconsider whether or not this is truly necessary. Have you had your water tested? Does it taste bad enough to warrant so much waste? Either way, git on over to the Take Back the Filter site to sign the petition.

Ms. Plastique has also set up a way for you to send her your used filters. It is my understanding that at this time she is only accepting filters from Brita. I'm not suggesting that you switch since you'll have to do something with your old system, but this is a start.

If you're feeling adventurous, you can try to refill the disposable filter. I don't know how easy or safe this is, but thought I'd let you check it out for yourself. I, personally, wouldn't feel comfortable doing this, but that's just me.

This sounds like a great time for a poll! Or two.



Wednesday, April 16, 2008

DivaCup Challenge 2008

DivaCup Challenge 2008It's been almost a year since the first DivaCup Challenge started. I love, love, love my DivaCup and cannot imagine going back to disposables.

To be honest, I was completely abhorred by the idea of this little piece of silicone at first, but once I took the plunge (so to speak) I was immediately enamored. I only hope that other women will try it for themselves. It's been totally life changing. And I don't say that about just anything.

At this time, about 43% of the almost 500 people that answered my latest poll used the DivaCup or the Keeper. The total for reusable menstrual products is 57%. First of all, I must say I am astounded that the percentage is as high as it is. It is probably due to the crunchiness of my readers, but even still. That's wonderful! Consider the savings to the environment, the sewage treatment plants, the landfills and to your bodies!

If I had any influence on the number of DivaCups being used I would be quite pleased, yet I'm not sure if I can take much credit in these numbers. Either way, I hope to increase that number even more if I can.

As such, I'm holding another DivaCup Challenge and giveaway for those who do not want to risk spending the money on something they are not sure about. But I'm not giving away just one DivaCup but five.

What's the catch? Well, to sign up to win a DivaCup you must pledge to use it for 3 months regardless of whether or not you win one. (For those of you participating in the Buy Nothing Challenge, since this replaces a whole bunch of disposable "necessities", it's an acceptable purchase.)

The challenge starts May 2008 to coincide with the Extreme Eco Challenge for those trying to eliminate their usage of paper products. To join the challenge, sign up in the comments. To enter the giveaway, you must have signed up by April 25th.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Extreme Eco Throwdown

Last month I ran a poll regarding what people were willing to give up in order to be able to afford increased prices in food, energy, oil, etc. We are definitely looking at tightening the belt in many ways as food and energy prices climb.

One common comment on the post was people saying they couldn't do such and such or that it wasn't realistic. Well, since I like to push your buttons, I want to show you that, in many cases, it's not a case of not being able to do something, but not wanting to do it.

I want you to try to do something you otherwise thought would be impossible. In order to help you commit to this I'm running a new challenge. It's not until May, so you have a few weeks to prepare yourselves, both mentally and otherwise. You can choose to do one or more of the following suggested changes for a week or for the whole month.

For those of you who want to try a variety of things, you can do a different one each week or keep adding a new one per week. In any case, you have to go cold turkey on it. No halvsies, partial attempts or whatnot. What you do get, however, is a day of rest each week (if you want).

Here are the challenges. They get increasingly harder the higher the number:

1. No plastic - Don't buy or consume anything (purchases, food, etc.) that is encased in plastic. I don't care if it's recyclable. If you want to go all the way, this will include your shampoo, toothpaste, deodorant, etc. In other words, when in doubt, ask yourself, WWFPFD?

2. No paper products - This encompasses the obvious: no newspapers, paper towels, toilet paper, pads or tampons, paper plates, paper or coffee cups.

3. No driving - This one is pretty straightforward. Check out your public transit and bus routes, get yourself a monthly bus pass, get your bike tuned up or dust off those walking/running shoes.

4. Local food only - Depending on where you live, this may be fairly easy or quite difficult. For those of you with plenty of farmers markets to choose from and tons of different foods coming into season, it won't be too hard. Local bakery items (unless Sara Lee is local to you), local organic or sustainable dairy products, eggs, meats and wineries and breweries are all acceptable. Don't be afraid to forage for those dandelions!

5. No garbage output - You should only be producing waste that is compostable and it should go into your compost pile or your municipal food waste pickup.

6. No excessive water usage - Now, I'm not expecting you to dehydrate yourselves. What this one is about is conserving water. That means, very little water for showering, bathing, washing. Try to use the least amount of gallons of water you can. Pretend like there is a severe water shortage. Drink as much as you need to, just imagine you have to retrieve all your water in buckets from a stream 1 mile away.

7. No electricity - For some of you this may be easier if you rely on gas for heating and cooking. But for the most case, this will give you an idea what it will be like to not rely on power for a period of time. If you only want to try this one out for a day or a week, that's fine. It will be like a self-imposed power outage. For those of you who want to do this one, but don't want to clear out your fridge/freezer, you can leave it running - I'm not expecting you to go off the grid.

Are you crazy enough to try this one? Remember, you can take one day off per week. Think about it and if you're up for it, sign up by leaving a comment with which changes you are thinking about making and I'll add you to the sidebar. Like the Buy Nothing Challenge, I'll be having weekly check-ins to see how people are surviving.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Let it all hang out

Happy people clothespinsNo, I'm not talking about going commando, I'm talking about National Hanging Out Day on April 19th. Promoted by Project Laundry List, NHOD is an effort to get people to hang their clothes out on a line rather than using their clothes dryers.

For some, hanging laundry out to dry poses a big challenge. Clotheslines are banned or restricted by many of the roughly 300,000 homeowners’ associations that set rules for about 60 million people. The very act of hanging clothes out to dry becomes one of subversion, with people sneaking around in their yards and trying to hide their illicit lines. It's really a pity when you look at some stats:

  • Electric dryers use five to ten percent of residential electricity in the United States
  • There are 88 million dryers in America, and if everyone converted to lines 1/2 the year it could reduce residential output of CO2 by 3.3%.
  • Clothes last longer when air dried
  • Indoor racks can humidify your home in dry winter weather
  • Clothes dryer fires account for about 15,600 structure fires, 15 deaths, and 400 injuries annually



    For those of you who don't believe you have enough space to dry your clothes inside, consider the fact that very few Parisians and Europeans living in densely populated cities rely on clothes dryers - they line dry their clothes.
  • Sunday, April 13, 2008

    Sunday confessional - Week 2

    Sunday confessionalOkay people, I have not spent. It has been 7 days since my last confessional.

    I actually didn't buy anything this week except for essential food items. Well, that and a few cappuccinos during the week with my husband on his last day of work and while at the cancer center. But other than those, that's it!

    Because of the scheduling of all my husband's appointments gearing up to his stem cell transplant, I didn't end up going to the Seattle Green Festival. Since it was 76 and sunny yesterday (the first time since last September) I chose to spend the day with my family at the park and playing with my kids. Oh, well. At least I wasn't tempted to buy anything.

    How are you doing? What did you end up buying?

    Friday, April 11, 2008

    Head shavin' update

    While this donation drive is going on, I'll be regaling you with pictures of the bald and the beautiful.

    Anyway, for those of you trying to donate to get me to Shave my Head and are having problems with the donation site, you can now donate via my blog.

    See the donation button on the right navbar...

    What's the difference? Well, if you donate from this blog, I'll be acting as the middle man, but I don't charge any handling fees (the donation site charges a certain percentage for handling).

    How does it work? I've set up a separate account in PayPal, so after May 10th I'll directly donate the money to the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation. I'll update the counter here and on the donation site so there's a running total in both places.

    Also, if you want to send me a check instead, drop me an email at crunchychickenblog@gmail.com.

    Thanks to everyone who had such a hard time trying to donate yesterday. Please let me know if you run into any problems again.

    Cleanin' up Questionnaire

    Scrub them pits!Last summer I asked a few questions about personal cleaning habits, mostly out of curiosity but also because there is such a huge focus in our culture on bathing and bath products and sterilizing everything.

    One thing that stuck in my mind the other day was the commercial from the late 1970s for Mitchum anti-perspirant. The ad's tagline was "so effective, you can even skip a day." Back then, the concept of not showering everyday wasn't such a big deal.

    Well, there's no way in hell you'd see the same sort of ad campaign today. What has changed in the last 30 years that people are so averse to appearing not up to "standards"? That is: showering, shaving, shampooing and getting all gussied up every. single. day?

    Here's a new questionnaire for you.

    What are your personal cleaning habits?

    1. How often do you shower/bathe?
    2. How often do you wash your hair?
    3. How often do you brush your teeth?
    4. How often do you floss?
    5. How often do you get your hair cut?
    6. Do you use "natural" products or conventional ones?
    7. Have any of these habits changed as you've tried to live a greener lifestyle? If so, which ones and how?

    Wednesday, April 9, 2008

    Green Festival + free ticket giveaway!

    Seattle Green FestivalI'm planning on attending the Green Festival this weekend, which just so happens to be coming to Seattle this year. It is the nation's largest green living event and is a two-day deal that features tons of great speakers (more than 125 renowned authors, leaders and educators), how-to workshops as well as more than 300 eco-friendly businesses.

    I'll be meeting up with John de Graaf, author of Affluenza and filmmaker extraordinaire, on Saturday. On Sunday, I'm planning on going to the viewing of King Corn, which is followed by discussion with the filmmakers and local experts on food and agriculture.

    The hard part will be planning what else I want to go to. Beyond that, the rest of the time I'll be drooling over representatives from supercool vendors and magazines. Did I mention that I get in free?

    So, expect a whirlwind of reporting from me next week on the array of things I explore.

    Anyone else planning on coming? If you are going to be there, let us all know which presentations you will be attending in case people want to meet up and be all friendly like. I'll be the one carrying around a Crunchy Chicken tote bag. If I can find the damn thing.

    The first person who emails me after 12:00 p.m. PST Wednesday 4/9/08 gets a free admission ticket to the Seattle Green Fest.

    Protection of a different sort

    Not quite convinced yet to try a DivaCup? Still unsure of using cloth menstrual pads?

    Well, you're in luck. There's a new kind of environmentally friendly feminine protection that's now available. Check it out!

    Tuesday, April 8, 2008

    Affluenza book discussion (chapters 22 - 25)

    Affluenza: The All-Consuming EpidemicHere is the discussion post for the sixth installment of the Affluenza, The All-Consuming Epidemic book club.

    Chapter 22. Bed rest - One of the first steps in curing yourself of affluenza is to do an assessment of your finances. Many people don't know how to manage their money. In other words, spending their paycheck in an intelligent way that creates savings rather than debt. It's a skill that seems to have been lost in the last few generations.

    For those who are not living paycheck to paycheck, paying close attention to their finances may result in being able to achieve financial independence years earlier. For those on a low-income it can be the difference between putting money in the bank versus stressing about their monthly bills.

    What do you do or have you done to control your finances? Do you keep a spreadsheet of your expenses or use a computer program like Quicken or Money? Does keeping close tabs on your finances prevent you from overspending?

    Chapter 23. Aspirin and chicken soup - This chapter mentions several study programs that focus on the premise that simplifying one's life is easier when you have the support and encouragement of others. Instead of the pressure to consume as we are constantly bombarded with by media and advertising, groups that follow Voluntary Simplicity and Choices for Sustainable Living provide the benefit of that support.

    Have you read books like Voluntary Simplicity, Simple Prosperity, or Your Money or Your Life; have you browsed websites like The Simple Living Network or joined challenges like the Buy Nothing Challenge? How helpful have they been in helping you achieve your goals of spending less and saving more? Do you prefer reading books or joining in with a group? What sort of groups or tools would help support your financial goals that you haven't been able to find?

    Chapter 24. Fresh air - In 2003, thirty-four percent of Americans ranked shopping as their favorite activity. I just want you to let that sink in.

    The idea that the more money you make, the less you need to know or have contact with nature is a misnomer. In fact, the more contact with nature you have, the less money you'll need, or want to make. This chapter advises getting out into the fresh air to help cure your affluenza.

    For the most part, outdoor activities can be rather inexpensive unless you get caught up in buying tons of expensive gear (do you really need all that stuff to enjoy camping, hiking or other activities?). Plus, the more you feel in touch with the outdoors, the more you'll want to protect it.

    Having that connection with nature changes your attitude in a number of ways. Have you experienced a time when going outside has rejuvenated you? Even if it's just spending some time weeding the yard after a long winter? How does that feeling compare to the exhilaration (or stress) of shopping?

    Chapter 25. The right medicine - Buying to save the Earth is not a new concept but it seems to have taken on a new focus lately. We see so many new products out almost weekly sporting how "green" they are. We've all heard of greenwashing, but can you really save the environment by buying?

    Surely, if you must purchase a new item or appliance, it makes sense to choose the one with the least impact (whether that be carbon output or less energy expensive) or the one that is organic, sustainable, fair-trade, etc.

    When you do buy something, how much time and research do you put into making sure that the product you are buying is the best for the environment? Is it an afterthought? How much does cost affect your decision making?

    Simple Prosperity winners!


    Simple ProsperityThe two winners of Dave Wann's new book, Simple Prosperity are:

    1. tk
    2. kadnkadnk

    Congratulations to you both and thanks for submitting questions!

    Winners - please email me with your contact info at crunchychickenblog@gmail.com.

    Monday, April 7, 2008

    Dave Wann Q & A

    Mr. David WannI submitted six of your questions to Dave Wann, one of the authors of the book we are reading in our book club, Affluenza. Here are the six questions I selected, including Dave's answers. Enjoy!

    1. What can parents specifically do to help their kids value simplicity and NOT develop the attitude that all that glitters is gold?
    Kids need to be mentored, just like wolf cubs or baby birds. To learn how to make it on their own, they first need to feel safe and connected – with parents, peers, ideas, teachers, nature, adventures, ways to be creative and expressive, ways to feel confident. They don’t want to feel like an obligation, they want to feel valued. So the best way for parents to help is make time for them, even if that means earning/spending less. What parents get in return is priceless.

    If kids see their parents getting really involved in something, whether it’s car mechanics, cooking, or kayaking, they’ll learn to seek a similar joy in being engaged and connected, possibly the best antidote of all to affluenza. I think one of my best moments as a parent was to see early on that my daughter had a real connection to playing soccer. I wasn’t a soccer nut myself, but I knew one thing -- to get the most out of the sport, she needed to be free of hesitation. "Be the player who wants the ball to come to her," I urged. I’ll never forget the intensity and focus she brought, every time she played.

    Choosing a school that celebrates experiential learning and outdoor exploration is a real gift to our kids. To outgrow the story that’s told on TV and given shape in many of our daily activities, kids need to understand that "there’s more to life than increasing its speed," as Gandhi observed. By being exposed to nature, kids gradually learn a much wider story than Play Stations and Disney movies. Again, they absorb what they see. If parents are gardeners or nature photographers, outdoor experiences may become moments of magic. Most of the world’s biologists and natural scientists were led to nature by mentors, and many artists and musicians were inspired by personal heroes, too.

    It’s true that peers influence our kids with the "code of cool," but a child who’s received an immunization of connection will eventually move beyond that to create the real cool. I remember seeing friends become immersed in drawing or history or some other nerdy subject in Junior High and reacting to that as "uncool." But by the time I was in college, I realized that finding your own way no matter what others thought was freedom.


    2. I believe there is much that individuals can do to "inoculate" against Affluenza. However, what would you suggest is the best course of action to get our government "on board" with the idea that over-consumption is unhealthy?
    To get government on board, we need to be part of the government, not only writing persistent letters and emails to representatives but running for city council and state legislature ourselves. We need to insist that our elected officials state clearly what steps they’ll take to create a cultural tidal wave to wash away obsolete ideas, such as "the environment is inside the economy." (Read Collapse, and The World Without Us). Governmental decisions are heavily biased toward propping up the economy, but the end result is too often a "quantity of life" approach that distracts and insulates us from the real wealth.

    We need to ask, together, What do PEOPLE need, especially our kids? What does NATURE need? As Dana Meadows poignantly phrased it, "Since the Earth is finite and we’ll have to stop expanding some time, should we do it before or after the world’s biological diversity is gone?"

    Mainstream economists and politicians often behave like a family that mindlessly burns da Vinci or Matisse masterpieces to stay warm when they could be opening the blinds and letting the sun in! Beneath the economic bottom line is the ecological bottom line that’s often ignored by our well-funded leaders. Fortunately, there are at least 50 million "cultural creatives" in America committed to preserving and regenerating the environment; to promoting civil rights, gender rights, universal health and literacy, global peace, and other core issues. And there are many more waiting in the wings for this cultural revolution to set them free – a little like the dancing Munchkins singing "Ding Dong the witch is dead."

    In short, we are quickly coming back to our senses; changing the metrics for evaluating national success. Instead of wealth and "hellness," we may soon be measuring health and wellness, in humans as well as the environment. In groups of eight and ten, let’s pay informed visits to our Congressional representatives. I will if you will.


    3. How can we as a nation replace the consumer-driven society with that of a sustainable society when big business has such a huge influence over governmental policies?
    Even big business is at the mercy of resource realities that lie beneath the bottom line of conventional accounting. For example, Wal-Mart (as of last year, 2% of the U.S. economy) is racing to make its truck fleet more efficient, because the cost of diesel fuel is skyrocketing; its distribution empire is looking far less dominant. Oil companies are investing heavily in research on renewable energy, and even America’s "big three" vehicle manufacturers are slowly waking up. (Hybrid vehicles can be a transition technology, enabling Americans to rethink transportation. Gradually, we can replace a lot of fossil fuel consumption with human energy fueled by food and with remodeled communities that provide what we need.) If our loyalties shift back to our communities and regions, small businesses can challenge the corporate Monsters, forcing them to compete in terms of compassion, efficiency, and quality, just as thinkers like Paul Hawken, David Korten, and Rianne Eisler have advocated for years.

    As opposed to "getting government off our backs," let’s harness the incredible momentum the federal government can achieve, as we did in World War II. Let’s encourage our leaders to think about the word “success” in a different light. Maybe success is best defined as "leaving the system intact by taking only the interest, never the principle."

    Specifically, we need a progressive Farm Bill that gives incentives for agriculture that is sustainable and successful overall; a Carbon Tax that rewards a swift transition to renewable energy; a universal Health Care program that enables employees to break their addiction to corporate benefit packages (what’s left of them); Time to Care legislation that mandates European standards for sick leave, vacation, unwanted overtime, and family leave; a Producer Responsibility law that mandates that manufacturers must take back the products they make at the end of their useful lives. We need Bottle Bills in all 50 states, not just eleven; we need an Office of Technology Assessment like we used to have, to give guidance to the direction we want technology to take.

    We need to sever the leash that keeps government meekly under the control of big business, insisting, for example, that EPA regulate CO2 as a pollutant, as the U.S. Supreme Court has already directed. We need the federal government to step up and do what more than 700 American cities have already done: implement a plan to radically reduce greenhouse gas emissions. We need to change direction, quickly, and only strong cultural and political leadership can accomplish that.


    4. You talk in your book a little about what our country and world may face in the coming years and how simplicity will help us address some of those concerns. You sound very optimistic about the future, even though you also acknowledge that climate change and oil depletion will shape that future. I very much agree that simplicity will help us postpone or prevent some problems and will help us make the transition to a new kind of world. But sometimes I panic still. Do you? What keeps you so optimistic?
    I believe in human instinct, and that we will learn to use all the equipment we have, including a cerebrum that’s still largely empty, and waiting. (22% of the energy in our bodies goes into our brains, and this is where we will either make it or break it.) I believe we can rise to our species’ highest potential, and I’m hopeful (though not always optimistic) that we will become increasingly humane as well as humble -- realizing at last that "survival of the fittest" is old-brain thinking; that "survival of those who fit" is more like it. Think how much better it will feel to instinctually change direction, migrating to a new era, and washing off the grease and oil of the technologically infantile Industrial Revolution!

    We’re becoming much more adept at using culture to moderate and override genetic programming, in the process continuing our trial-and-error evolution. For example, our instinct is to protect our territory, but that territory has now become the planet itself – desperately in need of protection from us! We can use our territorial instincts to see our territory in a new light: Earth as a Sacred Garden. Though we instinctually glut ourselves with fats and sugars, in case times become lean, culture now instructs us to back off -- there are now far too many available, at subsidized, fast food prices. We should focus on what our bodies are designed to eat: slow-burn carbohydrates, fruits, vegetables, and a little meat. Our intestines, for example, are more like a deer than a tiger.

    Much of our biological energy is genetically programmed to ensure procreation, but now "anthrologic" demands restraint. Our numbers must decline, and it would be humanity’s greatest achievement to date to reduce our numbers deliberately, like a cat climbing backwards down a tree. Surely there’s a genetic "off button" that will provide birth control without any side effects. Similarly, our genes may tell us to attract mates with excessive displays of material goods and machismo, but culture is beginning to tell us that aesthetic and intellectual displays may be just as compelling.

    So the big picture of anthropology gives me some degree of hope, and part of that is the human trait of spiritual practice. By temperament, I’m closest to Buddhism as a religion, because I admire its goals of guiding human behavior toward moderation, compassion, and humility. But I think we can find a way to purge the "good and evil" aspect of other religions with so many followers, focusing instead on the collective power of hope and prayer. We are a future-creating species; we inhabit the places we have imagined. With the continuing ascent of the empathetic, imaginative side of the human brain, we may well find our way to a more peaceful, balanced existence. I’m imagining that we will.


    5. What is the best way to make my family and friends understand about the personal step to consume less without making me sound like a self-righteous yuppie? Living by example and saying nothing to judge one way or the other might be effective in keeping negative opinions down, but actively spreading the word could be more effective. Will people listen or will they only follow someone who lives the example and doesn't try to convince anyone how to live?
    No, I think we have to speak our convictions, but it may help to use a little humor. I love the Woody Allen quote, "More than at any other time in history, mankind faces a crossroads. One path leads to despair and utter hopelessness, the other to total extinction. Let us pray we have the wisdom to choose correctly."

    People have different styles and different skills; my way of speaking out is in books, articles and films, and my delivery has made a slow transition from shrill, guilt-tripping environmentalist in my younger years to suggestion giver who just prefers to "keep it simple." Since my self-image is more wrapped up in what I learn rather than what I earn, and since I have several passions (playing music, gardening, a love of great art) to keep me busy, I try to show by example that "time affluence" is worth just as much as monetary affluence. When I left the 9 to 5 world behind, I knew I was taking a chance, but I also know this: I’ve avoided a lot of stress, a lot of commuting, a lot of boring afternoons at staff meetings or filling out quarterly self-evaluation forms.

    Dennis Kucinich was quoted recently saying, "Status should be based on service, not on possessions." Those of us who sense big changes ahead are in fact doing a service to experiment with different ways of being. It helps that we know for a fact that the world of stuff doesn’t do it for us. I’ve had my radio on a lot more recently than in the past, because I’m sort of in training for next year, when I intend to take a break from TV. When the country goes digital, I’m going to say, "no thanks." With the convergence of the Internet with other media, and the ability to rent movies, I really don’t think I’ll be missing much! Maybe some of my friends and neighbors will decide they want to try that, too, so that many more perfectly good minds can be free of the static and more capable of helping in the transition.

    There are changes coming, and they can take us to a deeper understanding of ourselves, a more direct way of accessing people and things that make us truly happy. I think calmness, humor, and gladness to get out of bed each day are the best ways to help others think about consuming less. It’s a skill everyone will need to learn. As poet Gary Snyder advises in the poem, For the Children, "Stay together, Learn the Flowers, Go Light."


    6. How do you find that living in cohousing has affected your perspective on simplicity and green living? Do you find that your cohousing compatriots are on board with it all? I'm moving into cohousing at the end of the summer and am eager to develop a simple, sustainable, green community and would love any input.
    I’ve been very satisfied with the extended-family feel of cohousing. It’s not wildly different than what we’re already used to, since everyone has his/her own private space, and the ability to be just as private as Americans are supposed to be. But there’s also this great opportunity to help each other grow and develop, at our own speed. There’s a base-level support that helps a person remain buoyant even in challenging times. A person is less likely to feel lonesome in cohousing, especially if the neighborhood learns to create traditions and community culture. For example, this month we had a house concert featuring traveling musician Peter Mayer. We made little tickets and pre-sold the concert to make sure Pete’s travels were profitable. We had our traditional St. Paddy’s Day dinner, corned beef and cabbage stew; we had a second "progressive dinner" later that week that always forces everyone to clean up their houses; and we had a "Meet the Artist" night, where some very fine talent was on display and we learned from each other about aspirations, techniques, and why we create. Next week, a neighbor will show slides of his adventures on the Tibetan side of Mt. Everest.

    No, we aren’t as eco-friendly as we’d like to be. We’ve had a challenge going to see if we can be the group of people that makes it perfectly normal to bring cloth bags to our local grocery store. But the other day a neighbor confessed that she had taken her cloth bags out to the car after going to the grocery, and transferred her groceries into them so she wouldn’t be seen carrying food in seabird nooses. Several homes have solar panels on them, and several neighbors drive hybrids, but I think our greenest characteristic is that we meet many of our needs right in the neighborhood, filling up that empty place inside ourselves that used to get sucked to the mall.

    Cohousing is really just the mainstream stepping forward with some new ideas and as well as a very OLD idea: that humanity is a very social species for whom the most valuable currency of all is Trust. To get a deeper look, read Reinventing Community: Stories from the Walkways of Cohousing, a book of stories I collected from all over the country about daily life in cohousing. And have a look through the website www.cohousing.org.




    Thanks, Dave, for taking the time to answer the reader's questions!

    Tomorrow will be another installment of the Affluenza book club plus I'll be announcing who the two winners of Simple Prosperity are tomorrow.

    Sunday, April 6, 2008

    Sunday confessional - Week 1

    Forgive me people, for I have spent. It has been 6 days since my last confessional.

    This week has been going reasonably well. It started off on a low-note wherein I asked my husband to pick up some materials for cleaning the house windows. I've been meaning to do this for months and they are so disgusting you can't see out of them. I really don't want to spend the money to have someone professionally clean them and am looking forward to doing it myself. So, pole, scrubber and squeegee were the first and last non-essential items purchased this week.

    We did spend money on going to the Pacific Science Center since it was spring break for the kids. I'm okay with spending money on experiences instead of stuff because my husband will be out of commission for the next 4 months or so. We also went to The Museum of Flight (no cost - we have a membership). Telling the kids ahead of time that we weren't getting anything at the museum stores headed off a whole lot of whining. Although, I must admit I did feel guilty for not getting them what they wanted for some strange reason. Why must I doubt myself?

    To assuage some other purchasing desires, I put a hold on two books and two kid's CDs at the public library. It will probably be a while before I get them, but at least the impulse will have passed and if I have lost interest by then, I haven't spent any money. I did spend about $100 less today for this week's grocery shopping. It helps that I left everyone else at home.

    One of the things coming up on other people's blogs about Buy Nothing Month was in regards to eating out. Now, I have to admit that it is more expensive, but it could be argued that it isn't more wasteful. It just depends on what your goals of this challenge are - to waste less or to save money. If you are doing both, them eating out will pose a problem. If you are just trying to reduce your environmental impact, well then, in some cases it's allowed. Use your own discretion.

    Over here at the Crunchy household, I'm allowing eating out once a week at my husband's choice. He starts the work-up for his stem cell transplant this week. Shortly, he won't be able to eat anything, so we're getting it in while we can. If any of you want to trade in your mucous membranes for eating out, I'll be glad to arrange some sort of trade. Anyone? No? I don't blame you.

    Anyway, that's the scoop from the challenge over here. How are things going for you? Go ahead and spill it... I won't make you do any Hail Marys.

    [Note: If you don't see yerself in the sidebar, let me know and I'll add you.]

    Saturday, April 5, 2008

    Paying for the convenience

    Yummy plastic bagI'm not sure whether this will pass the City Council this year, but Seattle mayor Greg Nickels has proposed a 20 cent fee for all disposable bags (paper or plastic) at grocery, convenience and drug stores. If approved, the charge would go into effect on January 1st.

    Retailers would keep five cents of the fee to cover the cost of implementing the charge and small businesses that gross less than $1 million a year can keep the entire fee. At this time, the fee would not apply to produce bags or other small bags. Apparently, Seattle residents go through 360 million disposable bags a year, or 600 bags per person.

    Yummy styrofoam containerNickels also has proposed banning plastic and foam food containers. The proposed ban on foam containers used by the food service industry would include such items as plates, trays, "clamshells" and hot and cold beverage cups used at restaurants, delicatessens, fast food outlets and coffee shops, and meat trays and egg cartons used at grocery stores. The legislation would also require that by July 1, 2010, all food service businesses currently using disposable plastic or plastic-coated paper products to convert to packaging that is compostable or locally recyclable.

    The two proposals are part of the city's "zero-waste" strategy to increase recycling and reduce trash. Although plastic bags aren't outright banned (like they are in San Francisco) it's likely that people will switch to reusable so they don't have to pay the fee. It's about time.

    Which do you think is better? Charging a nominal fee or outright banning disposable bags?

    Friday, April 4, 2008

    Appliance freedom

    Piece of $#!^ Sharp CarouselA few months back I mentioned that our semi-brand new microwave crapped out on us. Well, it finally completely kicked the bucket at the end of January and we've been living microwave free since then.

    At first, I didn't realize how much we depended on it and it felt like we were going to be in dire straights without it. A lot of the foods we make for the kids are often heated up in the microwave. Well, as a result, they are eating a lot less of that type of food which is probably a good thing and the ones we kept are easily prepared on the stovetop or in the oven. While I miss it occasionally, it's good to know that we have completely adapted to life without it.

    Which leads me to believe that we get so accustomed to using or depending on certain appliances we get the impression that we couldn't live without it. It's been about a year since Greenpa opened my eyes to the idea of living without a refrigerator. Up until that point in time I would have told you he's nuts.

    I'll still tell you he's nuts, but this was a concept that had never crossed my mind. Now, the idea seems rather normal to me, although I wouldn't go without my fridge unless I had to. I can hear the tsk-tsking from Greenpa from a thousand miles away.

    This is turning into another poll week, but I might as well run with it! This one is multiple choice.

    Thursday, April 3, 2008

    All natural Bush

    Hair colorNot to create a psychologically damaging association between President Bush and well, let me explain.

    I ran across an ad this morning (thanks to Google adsense) extolling the virtues of coloring your hair. Hair coloring is a bit of a hot button topic among environmentalists and compactors, since they tend to be made out of harsh chemicals and they really provide zero functional purpose besides enhancing(?) one's appearance. Of course, there are some products that claim to be more natural than others, but the end result either way is that you have chemicals, packaging and other waste associated with coloring your hair. And you have to maintain the color.

    Now, let me first admit that I get my hair highlighted. It's not something I do frequently (twice a year), but it does create a lot of waste. Perhaps I could switch to some concoction of lemon and chamomile, but I imagine that the results would not be the same. I suspect when I go gray, I'll have a whole new set of issues to work through.

    What does this have to do with President Bush? He obviously doesn't color his hair since he's mostly gray and he hasn't gone the route of Ronald Reagan yet. However, speaking of politicians and gray hair, in an article from 2007, The War Over Going Gray, the author points out that of the 16 female U.S. Senators, not a single one has visible gray hair, though they range in age from 46 to 74. Of the 70 female members of the House, only seven have gray hair. In fact, we have almost no high-profile, female, gray-haired role models. (I highly recommend that you read the article in its entirety.)

    But what about the ad you ask? Well, it was for dying an altogether different sort of Bush:

    "Betty(TM) products are specially formulated color dyes for the hair down there to naturally match your hair above, cover gray or just for fun!"

    They even sell a hot pink version in their "Fun!" line so you can spruce up your beaver for special occasions. Is your Betty ready? Ummm. No, thank you. Not at this time.

    Fun BettyI'm sure there are plenty of women who are quite pleased that such a product exists, so that the carpet matches the drapes, but this seems even more superficial than head hair coloring. For the most part, few people will see your pubic hair, unless you like hanging out in the showers at the public pool or have a different sort of profession. And if you or your partner have such issues about the color of your pubic hair, well, I really think there are other problems going on.

    What's the environmental answer to a mismatched muff? Well, the obvious choice is to just go au naturel. If the color of your carpet bothers you (because it's gray or doesn't match your head), then I suppose you could do some serious bush wacking and just shave off the whole lot. Do you really need to pamper your pubes?

    All this, of course, leads me to a poll. Because how often does pubic hair come up on this blog? Okay, don't answer that question. Answer this question instead (multiple choice):

    Wednesday, April 2, 2008

    Buried alive! Preserving garbage for the future

    Cedar Hills LandfillI've been mulling over something that I wanted to get your opinion on.

    When I'm sorting through my garbage determining what I can recycle and what has to be thrown out because we don't have the technology or system to deal with those types of materials (many kinds of plastics, aluminum foil, etc.) I fantasize about the garbage going into the landfill to be recovered one day. I believe it's plausible that future generations will have better technology to deal with reusing many of the materials we can't today (or don't because of cost).

    Now, call this wishful thinking and perhaps I'm trying to assuage some of the guilt of throwing out those old shampoo bottles or other things we had been given as gifts or just end up buying and using without paying attention to the packaging. But what about the possibility of retrieving these things if and when it gets to the point where new materials aren't likely to be made?

    One of the things that strikes me is that when we run out of the cheap barrels of oil that we've relied on for the last fifty-plus years for making plastic, will it become cheaper to try to mine landfills for materials rather than make new ones out of a scarce resource? It may be cheaper to dig through the garbage rather than source new veins of metals and other materials.

    If this is a possibility, does it make sense to bury like waste so if this does occur, future generations won't have to scrounge through heaps of food scraps, dirty diapers (although there might be something usable there) and other debris to get at the plastic waste or electronic waste they are mining? In other words, bury similar materials together (all styrofoam here, all e-waste there, etc.).

    Of course, I am not suggesting that we not be absolutely careful about what we are using and throwing away, but there does exist a tremendous amount of electronic waste in the form of cell phones, computers, TVs, CFL bulbs, etc. that are chock full of hazardous but potentially valuable metals and other materials. The same thing goes for other types of waste, too.

    Does this just further push the problem onto future generations while costing the current ones more for disposal since there would need to be separate containment facilities for each type of material? Or since we can't properly dispose of them anyway, should we charge users more for their disposal and containment?

    What do you think?

    Tuesday, April 1, 2008

    Dick Cheney goes green

    A brand new, improved Dick?Well, after all this time making fun of Darth Cheney and his huge negative impact on environmental issues, it looks like he is crossing over from the dark side. This morning's New York Times reports that Dick has decided to jump on the green bandwagon and start lowering his carbon footprint.
    As vice-president, I've seen firsthand how important it is to preserve the Earth for our children and grandchildren. One of the resounding actions I want to accomplish during the rest of this term is to make a positive change in that direction. And that positive change starts with me. Lynne and I are looking into solar panels, potential geo-thermal heating and Lynn has her eye on a Tango...

    Perhaps Dick is a little concerned that Lynne is going to be swept off her feet by George Clooney and his tiny Tango. While I'm a little dubious over the sincerity of his statements, we'll have to wait and see.

    Dick also stated that he regrets voting against the Clean Water Act and air pollution sanctions in the 1980s and wishes he had started working toward a cleaner environment while he still had the chance. While he may not quite be ready to hang up his snowmobile, it's a step in the right direction.

    Anyway, I guess there's hope yet for the planet.

    In Defense of Food book discussion (Part II: chapter 3)

    In Defense of FoodThis week's book club post is the fourth installment of the In Defense of Food discussion posts. Since the third chapter of Part II is so obscenely long, this discussion will encompass one chapter only. Don't say I didn't warn you.

    Part II
    Chapter 3: The Industrialization of Eating: What We Do Know - In this chapter, Pollan discusses the relationship of food with nature. As a species we have adapted to different environments and different foods based on its availability. One example he uses illustrates the relationship between cows and some humans who have the ability to digest cow's milk beyond weaning age that occurred about five thousand years ago. This provided a nutritional benefit for those who possessed the gene to digest the milk as it provided a "terrifically nutritious new food source" and was beneficial to the cows as it created a symbiotic relationship with humans.

    The relationship between plant foods and the animals that eat them are complex as the plants are dependent on the spreading of seeds to proliferate. In turn, animals learn what foods are suitable based on color, taste and smell of ripeness. Detecting these signals is a whole lot easier when you have developed a relationship with a food over many years. It becomes a lot harder when manufactured foods are available that mimic "real" food with artificial flavors and synthetic sweeteners because the relationship was originally between the eater and whole foods, not with nutrients or chemicals.

    Do you think that it matters what food history humans have had? Is there really a difference between foods grown in nature or ones created in a lab if they have the same nutritional components and values (protein, carbohydrates, fats, etc.)? Do the sci-fi fantasies of taking a pill for all your nutritional needs ever seem plausible given the information you've read?

    Section 1. From Whole Foods to Refined - Since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, refined foods have been de rigueur. They imparted not only more prestige (due to the expense), but better digestibility and a shelf-life heretofore unseen. Flour and rice could now be stored for months and shipped over long distances. The drawback is that, with the removal of fiber among other things, the conversion to glucose was quickened when digested. The other problem with these gorgeous white powders and grains was that they were nutritionally worthless. They merely provided a quick energy rush in the form of calories, but not much else.

    After reading this section are you more inclined to seek out and purchase brown rice and whole wheat flour over white? Or do you already do so?

    Section 2. From Complexity to Simplicity - With the advent of chemical fertilizers, modern foods have been grown on a distillation of a few major macronutrients (nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium aka NPK) and little else. As a result, produce grown in this environment has lost some of its nutritional components.

    Why is this so? Well, for one, harsh chemical fertilizers depress or destroy the natural biological activity of the soil (microbes, earthworms and fungi), leaving the plants to subsist largely on a simple ration of NPK. This chemical diet also leaves the plants susceptible to pests and disease. The addition of pesticides affects the quality of the plant as well. The tendency of modern plant breeding has consistently selected for industrial characteristics (such as yield or ability to transport) over nutritional quality. Additionally, plants grow considerably quicker under chemical fertilizers and are unable to uptake as many nutrients in such a short period of time.

    Another issue is the rise of monoculture farming. Roughly two-thirds of the calories we eat come from four crops: soy, corn, wheat and rice. This is an issue because humans, as omnivores, require somewhere between fifty and one hundred different chemical compounds and elements in order to be healthy and it's unlikely we are getting all of them from such a limited diet.

    Were you aware that so much of your diet is a product of soy and corn? Will you pay more attention to your food choices in trying to achieve a balanced diet?

    Motherlode chocolate cakeSection 3. From Quality to Quantity - Our food system is at the point where the focus is on increasing yields and selling food as cheaply as possible. With the rise of "super-sized" meals, enormous portions and restaurants such as Claim Jumper that pride themselves on food gigantism, it's no wonder Americans are getting heavier. (For example, Claim Jumper's Ore Cart, I Declair and Chocolate Motherlode Cake are all obscenities of consumption.) Add in the fact that our food has less nutrition per calorie, one needs to eat more in order to gain the proper amount of nutrients. As a result, people on a Western diet are overweight and malnourished.

    When buying food or meal-planning, do you take into consideration the nutritional components of the food you eat or do you think of it in terms of the food pyramid? Will you focus on getting a wider range of fruits and vegetables in your diet and will you choose organic foods to help supply those missing nutrients?

    Section 4. From Leaves to Seeds - This section goes into great detail regarding the benefits of omega-3 fatty acids versus the potentially harmful effects of omega-6s. I won't reiterate it as there's a lot of information there, but suffice it to say that we are eating more seeds and less leaves and, as a result, we aren't getting enough omega-3s. A growing number of researchers believe that the Western diet is grossly deficient in omega-3s.

    Section 5. From Food Culture to Food Science - The gist of this section is the fact that industrialization of food (i.e. the Western diet) is systematically and deliberately undermining traditional food cultures everywhere.

    Do you think it's too late to maintain traditional food cultures or is the draw of the novelty and glamour of the Western diet too hard to resist with its emphasis on sugars and fats?

    LinkWithin