Got a lot of blackberries? Then check out this recipe for Blackberry Mojito Fruit Leather.

I'm not a huge fan of fruit leathers, but this turned out super good! And, really, you can't go wrong with blackberries, mint and rum.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Being unprepared for no heat

We returned home from San Diego yesterday afternoon, expecting the house to be coolish since we left the heat down to 60 (which means it is more like 57 in the house - I didn't want the pipes to freeze since we have a lot of cold spots in the house). My mom had complained at how cold our house was when she stopped by during our trip to check on things, but we both just figured it was because she's used to her hot, top-floor condo, which tends to run more like 75.

When I walked in, I noticed that the house was actually colder inside than outside and went over to the thermostat and noticed that, although it was set at 60, the actual temperature inside was only 48 degrees. Needless to say, it was pretty damn cold.

I turned up the heat, but nothing happened. To make a long story short, we had run out of oil in our tank while we were on vacation (normally we are on an automatic refill). We had the oil company come out and make an emergency delivery, otherwise we would have just repacked our bags and gone to a hotel.

We left for a few hours since it was so painfully cold in the house and even our space heaters weren't doing much to heat up the place. Basically, the end result is that, if we don't have oil (or electricity for that matter), we are screwed. We are woefully unprepared to deal with really cold temperatures because even if we wanted to use our fireplace, more heat would be sucked out of the room than emitted into it. If it were an emergency situation, I'm sure we could easily survive with our sleeping bags, closing off rooms, and piling on the clothes and down. But we would still be uncomfortably unprepared.

What back-up heating plan do you have for your home if you lose your main source of heat, short of leaving the house?

Side note: Since the oil guy came while we were out of the house for dinner, he was sneaking around inside and outside with a headlamp on. Our neighbor from behind us saw this, and knowing we were out of town, he called the police, which surrounded the place. I don't know exactly what ended up happening, if the oil guy was still here or what, but it's nice to know that the neighbors are watching!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Crunchy Chicken TV: Episode 1 - Farmers Market

Here is Episode 1 of Crunchy Chicken TV where I visit a Farmers Market in San Diego and talk to some of the local vendors about what kind of produce and products they sell.

To view the full width video, you can check it out on YouTube (blogger is cutting it off).

We'll be filming another episode this week so stay tuned!



Monday, December 21, 2009

San Diego & Crunchy Chicken TV

We're having a great time down here in San Diego, although the kids are a little overwhelmed with all the travel and Christmas excitement. We had a marvelous day of meltdowns yesterday while going Christmas shopping for the kids, which always makes for a highly pleasant day. Especially when we locked ourselves out of my brother's house. But, otherwise it's been great.

Saturday we went to a local farmers market (see picture above) and did a little filming, interviewing some of the farmers and generally checking out what a winter farmers market looks like in Southern California. The filming of the farmers market is part of the first of the episodes I'm producing for "Crunchy Chicken TV", which I'll post later this week. I'll be filming two episodes while I'm down here and will have them up over the next two weeks. So, stay tuned for those.

Today, we are heading out to Borrego Springs for a few days to check out the Anza Borrego Desert since my kids have a huge fascination with deserts, particularly because we live in the land of rain and trees. It has been hot since we arrived, but the temperatures are cooling. Saturday it was 81 degrees and I can't say that I minded since I've been freezing my buns off over the last few weeks. The desert should still be fairly warm, with cold temperatures overnight. I'll try to post some pictures of what we find there later this week.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

School supported CSA

I've done a CSA (community supported agriculture) subscription in the past through work, but they started doing drop-offs on days that I work from home and too late for my husband to pick up, so I haven't subscribed in years.

What's a CSA? It's basically when a farm offers a certain number of "shares" to the public, usually consisting of a box of vegetables and fruits, but other farm products may be included as well. Interested consumers purchase a share (or a "subscription") and in return receive a box of seasonal produce each week throughout the farming season.

Well, my kid's school will soon be a drop-off site for organic produce from Full Circle Farms and I'm thinking of signing back up again for a family box. The issue I've had in the past with doing a CSA subscription is the weekly lack of preparation to deal with ample amounts of foods I either don't regularly eat, don't know what to do with or don't like.

Since my kids are fairly picky when it comes to fruits and vegetables, I don't really take them into consideration on whether or not to subscribe. And, since (I'm assuming) they'll only be delivering during the school year, it won't clash with my own backyard growing season. I love the fact that they have a year-round CSA, although I'm a little concerned about where they get all their produce. I don't want something included if it's in season or organic, but shipped in from far away.

What about you? Have you ever subscribed to a CSA and what was your impression? Is it worth supporting local farmers this way even though you may not want all that they deliver? Or, does your CSA allow you to switch out foods you may not like for things you do?

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Going back to Cali

We are heading down to San Diego in a couple of days to visit family and generally have a great Christmas break, while at the same time enjoying warmer weather. I don't mind a blast of 70 since it's been in the teens up here in Seattle, so I am really looking forward to it.

And, while there will be "bikini - small; heels - tall", at least on my end (bonus points to those who know what the heck I'm talking about), there will be a bit of a carbon expended on our behalf in flying all four of us down there.

So, we went ahead and bought TerraPass carbon offsets. Since you can pick your own mix of investment, we went with clean energy, farm power and landfill gas investments. Now, I know this doesn't in the least bit assuage the carbon footprint of our vacation, but it's better than doing nothing.

Of course, not flying would be ideal, but this isn't Europe with high-speed rail at reasonable prices. The alternative is not visiting them at all, but we haven't seen them in 2.5 years and we are long overdue for a visit.

For those of you in the San Diego area who read this here blog, if you have any recommendations for sustainable restaurants, cafes, coffee shops and the like, I'd love your feedback. And, if any of y'all want to meet up for coffee, send me an email!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Eat your Christmas tree

It should come as no surprise to you that I would suggest such a thing, particularly after implying that eating plastic bottles is a fine way to dispose of the waste. Plus, I do like minimizing garbage. However, on this one I'm not kidding and Christmas trees are mighty delectable.

You see, a few years back, when my 7-year-old son was an infant, my husband and I visited the (now-defunct) restaurant Cascadia in Seattle, which focused on regional and seasonal ingredients - hence the name. It was before most of my eco-nuttiness, so I wasn't nearly as in tune to the local ingredients thing, but the second time - whoa doggie - did I ever grill the waiter. Unfortunately, he didn't have many answers to my litany of questions. But I digress.

On that first visit we tried a Douglas Fir Sorbet, mostly because of the uniqueness of it. It was fantastic - one of those flavors that, although you may not want to snack on it daily - has stuck in my mind all these years. And, that's saying something given my ADD.

Anyway, my husband recently purchased a little book called Sips & Apps: Classic and Contemporary Recipes for Cocktails and Appetizers, written by a local author, and one of the cocktails included in this fabulous little gem is a Douglas Fir drink that reminded me of that sorbet from yesteryear.

So, now that you have that fresh Douglas (or Noble) Fir Christmas tree hanging around the house (and I know that you bought an unsprayed one, didn't you?), go ahead and clip a six inch section from the tree where no one will notice it missing and make yourself some Douglas Fir infused gin or vodka and get your holiday spirits on! And, don't forget, little sprigs of Douglas Fir also make for a fantastic drink garnish.

I think a fir or spruce infused gin, vodka or brandy would also make for a nice present, particularly if you hang a drink recipe around the bottleneck.

Douglas Fir Sparkletini
1 1/2 ounce Douglas Fir infused gin (see below)
3/4 ounce white cranberry juice
1 1/2 ounce fresh Lemon Sour (see below)
Splash of dry sparkling wine (preferably local)

For garnishing:
Tiny sprig of Douglas Fir
Fresh or frozen cranberry

Fill a cocktail shaker with ice. Measure in the infused gin, cranberry juice and lemon sour mixture. Strain into a martini glass and top with a splash of dry sparkling wine. Garnish with a fir sprig and float a cranberry in the drink.

Douglas Fir Infused Gin
1 (5-6 inch) sprig of Douglas Fir branch, rinsed
1 750ml bottle gin

Put the fir branch into the gin bottle and cap and let sit for 24 hours (do not leave it in for longer). Remove the branch and discard. The infused gin can be stored at room temperature for up to 1 year.

Fresh Lemon Sour
Makes 1 cup:
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup water

In a small container with a lid, combine the ingredients. Cover and keep refrigerated for up to 2 weeks.

Another drink idea is the Pine Needle Daiquiri. If drinking trees ain't your thang, then, by all means go ahead and eat it. Here's a tasty looking recipe: Douglas Fir & Orange Blossom Butter Cookies. And, for the serious tree snacker, check out this post: Douglas fir tips bring the flavor of the forest into the kitchen.

Monday, December 14, 2009

USA Today freeze yer buns challenge

It's not polite to pointFor those of you stopping by after reading about the Freeze Yer Buns Challenge on USA Today and you are interested in participating, you can sign up and pledge what you will be keeping your thermostat at for morning and night temperatures.

As mentioned in the article, we managed to save about $800 last year on our heating costs mostly by lowering the thermostat, but also by using less oil heat and using space heaters to heat the rooms we are in rather than heating the whole house. It doesn't make sense to spend the energy and money on heating rooms we aren't occupying, so if you don't like having a cold room, but are interested in lowering your energy costs, consider the space heater option.

If you are interested to read how people are negotiating the thermostat wars in their homes, you can check out this post. I also have posts on making your own draft dodger, bed warmers and information about winter window treatments to keep the heat in and the cold out.

Finally, for those of you concerned about the environmental impact of wood heat, most consider wood to be carbon neutral because during the lifetime of the tree, it has removed as much greenhouse gases from the atmosphere as it emits when burnt. I'm not exactly advocating wood heat since I believe there are cleaner energy sources that can be used (particularly if you live in an area that has a green energy program), but it's a common comment about heating with wood.

For my regular readers, do not, I repeat, do not read the comments on the USA Today article unless you like grinding your crackers. If this is a representative sample of the opinion of most Americans regarding our collective carbon footprint we're, well, doomed.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

NY Times handmade gift giving guide

Welcome New York Times readers!

If you are looking for posts on making your own gifts, be sure to check out the posts for my Buy Hand for the Holidays Challenge, which encourages people to spend less on commercial gifts and either make them instead or buy from local artisans.

If you are looking for ideas for last minute gifts that are inexpensive and quick n' easy to make, then I've got some great gift ideas for you here.

If you've got more time, I've compiled a list of gifts you can make yourself that look interesting, but be forewarned, some are a little harder than others to make.

When in doubt, stick to the food gifts. You'll want to make sure that your gift is something special, so skip the basic cookie recipes and try to find something a little more out of the ordinary. And, I don't mean "weird' out of the ordinary, but more "Williams Sonoma" gourmet out of the ordinary, like chocolate cookies with cocoa nibs and lime. And, if you are tired of peppermint bark, give Aztec chocolate bark (with cayenne, cinnamon and ancho chile!) a try.

Oh, and if you are looking for the recipe for my Indian Masala Strawberry Jam (with Pinot Noir and Port), look no further than my food blog. You'll find other jam recipes over there as well.

Good luck! You still have enough time to make this holiday a memorable one, while saving some money at the same time!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Blow me

There's a sign above the electric hand dryers at work encouraging employees to skip the paper towels and use the blowers instead, stating that bathroom paper towel usage equates to twice as much greenhouse gas emissions as using the air dryers.

I don't mind using them these days, mostly because it's been so cold and having the hot air blow on my hands has been pleasant, helping me warm up, particularly after being outside when it's sub-20 degrees out. I'd use them more often if it were a force of habit. I'm so used to washing my hands and then grabbing the paper towels that half the time I'm just not thinking about it.

The dryers we have at work are the old school, wave your hand underneath and dry your hands kind. When we were in New York we experienced these phenomenally cool Dyson Airblade driers that you "insert" your hands into and draw them slowly out. They dry your hands in rapid time, although you feel like your skin is being stretched out in a wind tunnel. It is a 400 MPH blast of air, so that shouldn't come as a surprise. And, not too surprisingly, I made my husband take pictures of them in the bathroom at The Met.

The Dyson high-speed jet air dryer is supposed to use 80% less energy than the kind we have at work, but I'm sure they are more expensive. Hopefully, at some point, our work blowers can be replaced with a similar jet air dryer.

One thing to also consider is that our energy in Seattle comes from mostly green sources. So, not only do the dryers beat the pants (greenhouse gases-wise) off the paper towels, but since the electricity is most likely generated from wind or the like, it's a win-win hand-drying situation.

A while back, I got in the habit of either air drying my hands or using a handkerchief that I kept in my office for drying my hands. Sometime along the way, I stopped doing that and reverted back to paper towels - mostly out of habit. So, now I'm trying to make a concerted effort to use the blowers.

What about you? Do you air dry, blow dry or use paper towels when using a public restroom?

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Negotiating the thermostat wars

Okay, so you're not exactly negotiating "with" the thermostat, but with other members of your household. I had a discussion with a co-worker yesterday about this very problem.

I was telling him how I was interviewed last week by USA Today about lowering your thermostat to not only save money, but to lower your carbon footprint and he asked me how he can keep his thermostat low. At first I didn't know what he was getting at, but, apparently, his girlfriend likes to keep the thermostat at 74 degrees when she visits. At a minimum. He's happy with it at 68 or lower.

I suggested that he get her a Snuggie for Christmas so she had portable warmth. And to make sure she kept a pair of slippers and/or fleece jacket, etc. at his house. We talked a little bit more about his dilemma and then I told him that we use a space heater to warm up the rooms that we are in rather than heating up the whole house to a higher temperature. We saved about $800 last year by doing this. He remembered that he had a space heater stored in the garage and was ecstatic to try that out on her.

I hope I helped him resolve the issues he has with keeping his girlfriend happy and warm without having thermostat wars. And prevent risking that she not come back over again until the spring thaw. It's always amazing how these sorts of things cause strife in relationships.

Do you find that you are playing thermostat wars with your kids, roommates, spouse or others? Is it a losing battle or are you making any progress in convincing others that you can, indeed, survive in a house that is kept at less than 70 degrees?

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Renting a hybrid

Is nearly financially impossible. We are taking a trip over Christmas to visit family and will be renting a car to get around. I'd love to rent a hybrid car but do you know what the cost differential is? It's astronomical! We've rented a hybrid in the past (like 2002) and it was more expensive than a regular rental, but not this bad. I'm getting the feeling that rental car agencies are fleecing people who want a green car.

On one hand, you could argue that there's so much demand to rent a hybrid that they can charge such high rates. But, really if that were the case, then they'd have a whole fleet of hybrids then. Otherwise, why the giant cost increase? I think they really are taking advantage of people.

What's the price differential you ask? For a similar sized car, the standard gas vehicle (for the lowest option) is $217. For the hybrid car (for the lowest option) the cost is $707. That's almost $500 more or about 325% higher. WTF? I know we didn't pay that much more years ago, when hybrid cars were actually scarce and more expensive than they are today.

Very irksome. So, I reserved a 4-door speck that gets gas mileage in the 30s instead. Have you ever rented a hybrid when you've travelled?

Handmade holidays - last minute ideas

If you signed up for the Buy Hand for the Holidays Challenge and you are just now realizing you only have a little bit of time left and you still haven't gotten all your gifts ready, you may be panicking. Now is the time to reassess what gifts you are giving and make it a little easy on yourself.

You can either kick things into high gear and start cranking things out, or give yourself a break from the expectation that you were going to hand knit everyone a new sweater from Vogue Knitting. So, pick out some new gifts that are easy to do.

If you can sew, then making some silk lavender eye masks or microwaveable heating pads are quick, easy to do, and highly appreciated.

Layered peppermint barkIf you like to cook, then whipping up some peppermint bark, homemade almond roca, handmade marshmallows and chili-lime spiced nuts can be done in large quantities. Don't neglect those pets! Homemade dog treats are sure to please even the most picky of pooches.

The candy cane body scrub I made last year was a big hit and super easy (and cheap) to make. The whipped body butter was also easy to make in large batches.

Finally, don't forget those jars of jam you canned last summer - just dress them up with some labels and fabric toppings for a more festive look. You did make some of my Masala Strawberry Jam with Pinot Noir and Port and Cinnamon Ginger Plum Jam with Lillet didn't you?

How are things going for your Buy Hand challenge? Are you getting desperate, or are things going okay?

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Climategate - should it matter?

Climategate. I've been avoiding reading about this just because I knew it was going to piss me off terrifically and, as you all know, these sorts of things just grind my crackers.

There are enough climate change denier yahoos out there already that we really don't need any fuel to add to their fire. I like to equate them to that illustrious group known as the "flat-earthers", but there is one huge difference between the two groups. Nobody listens to the flat-earthers.

I think any reasonable person of moderate intelligence will agree that the Earth is round, based on not only personal experience (curvature of the horizon, anyone?) but also on the massive scientific evidence pointing to its spherical nature. And, just really, not that there is anything conclusive in this fact, but do you see any other flat planets in our solar system?

On the other hand, people are still listening to climate change deniers. They can certainly state facts that seem compelling (like the natural swing of global temperatures over time), but ultimately, they are preying on people's desires and fears. The desire that we can continue living in a highly consumptive manner with complete disregard to not only the quality of air, soil and water, but with complete and utter disregard to other life on this planet.

They are also preying on assuaging people's fears of the consequences of their actions. It's a whole lot more pleasant to believe that anything that humans do couldn't possibly negatively effect the Earth and its climate. Because, if that were truly the case, then horrible repurcussions could potentially ensue. Like major flooding, raised ocean levels, increased occurrences of hurricanes, droughts, famine, death. Basically, the end result of a few degrees rise in overall temperature.

So, which would you rather convince yourself to believe? Horror or happy? Most people choose happy until they are whacked in the head often enough to realize that, in order to maintain that happy, you have to start denying reality.

Climate change deniers claim that those who argue that global climate change is a problem and that it needs to be dealt with are like religious fanatics. However, the issue is that religion is based on belief, some might say a leap of faith. Yet, climate science is based on reproducible, scientific theories based on evidence. Not faith. You don't "believe" in global climate change any more than you "believe" in evolution. You accept the basic scientific tenets and then move on.

Where does this then lead with regard to Climategate, where several thousand files and e-mails that were stolen from one of the world's foremost climate-research institutes were leaked? Potentially embarrassing files and emails? Well, it should go absolutely nowhere really. Because there's nothing in there worth note and most things quoted were either taken out of context or totally skewed from the original meaning.

As Andy Revkin from the NY Times stated:
An array of scientists and policymakers in the United States and abroad have said that nothing disclosed so far — the correspondence and documents include references by prominent climate scientists to deleting potentially embarrassing e-mails, keeping papers by competing scientists from publication and making adjustments in data — undercuts decades of peer-reviewed science.

So, should Climategate matter? No, not unless this statement is either false or is found to be false. Unfortunately, it does matter in that those who disagree with the science of global climate change will be even more convinced of their position and those that are unsure might be swayed into thinking the deniers are correct.

I take comfort in knowing that sooner, rather than later, the deniers will be the 21st Century's flat-earthers. How much that impacts what we are able to do to prevent the more disastrous effects of higher temperatures remains to be seen, but I'm satisfied in knowing that less and less of the deniers are making an impact on how science and government are moving forward on the topic.

What's my conclusion? Unless something criminally crazy comes out of the leaked materials, I wouldn't spend any more mental or emotional effort thinking about it.

What's your opinion on the matter? Do you find it worrisome and that it will have more of a negative impact?

Monday, December 7, 2009

The EPA gets off its ASS

From the Associated Press:
The Environmental Protection Agency took a major step Monday toward regulating greenhouses gases, concluding that climate changing pollution threatens the public health and the environment....

The EPA said that the scientific evidence surrounding climate change clearly shows that greenhouse gases "threaten the public health and welfare of the American people" and that the pollutants - mainly carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels - should be regulated under the Clean Air Act....

Under a Supreme Court ruling, the so-called endangerment finding is needed before the EPA can regulate carbon dioxide and five other greenhouse gases released from automobiles, power plants, and factories under the federal Clean Air Act.

The EPA signaled last April that it was inclined to view heat-trapping pollution as a threat to public health and welfare and began to take public comments under a formal rulemaking. The action marked a reversal from the Bush administration, which had refused before leaving office to issue the finding, despite a conclusion by EPA scientists that it was warranted.

It's about time.

Mission: Sustainable - It's a wrap!

This weekend marked the last day of filming for the pilot of Mission: Sustainable and Saturday evening we had a wrap party to celebrate completion of at least that portion of the initial part of the project. The pilot still needs to go through editing, sound editing, editing and some more editing until it is polished into a bright, shiny, happy hour long makeover show to dazzle the networks and audiences worldwide.

We'll be having a green carpet premiere in Seattle in January to showcase the pilot and things are looking good for scoring a great venue to screen the show, have a Q&A with castmembers and production and, I'm sure, much more fun and merriment that will be announced. So, for those of you in the Seattle area who are interested in this project, I'll keep you posted on when and where it will be so you can join in.

The production team is also working on pre-production for the second makeover. Details are hush-hush at this point, but let me just say at this point that the next makeover will be very cool.

I'll also be attending the Good Earth Home, Garden and Living Show in January in Eugene, Oregon (see events for more details):
Cast and crew will host a Mission: Sustainable main stage featuring the pilot episode, cast seminars, and more. Join us at the booth to record your own sustainable lifestyle tips for our website. This year’s Good Earth Home, Garden & Living Show will open for just 3 days, with over 250 exhibits, and 65 seminars. The Mission: Sustainable team will be joined by other national and local experts about green building, design, naturescaping, gardening and sustainable living.

For other events, take a peek at the updated website for the show, check out the Mission: Sustainable blog for some green living tips and add yourself to the Facebook Fan page to keep track of all things Mission: Sustainable.

Everything has been coming together like crazy for this project and I can't begin to tell you how excited I am to be working on it.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

BPA free cans

I've been a little distressed lately about the existence of BPA in canned foods mostly because we tend to keep on hand a lot of canned beans for last minute meals, soups and the like. Because there doesn't seem to be a whole lot of alternatives out there besides just buying dried versions or making things totally from scratch I've been playing the head in the sand thing.

Well, today I went food shopping for the week and walked by the Hispanic food section and something caught my eye. It was a can of Organic Mexican beans and rice which I thought was strange enough on its own. And, when I was looking at the description on the back of the can I noticed the statement claiming that Eden Foods canned beans are BPA free.

From the Eden website:
Eden Organic Beans are packed in steel cans coated with a baked on oleoresinous c-enamel lining that does not contain bisphenol-A (BPA). (Oleoresin is a natural mixture of an oil and a resin extracted from various plants, such as pine or balsam fir). These cans cost 14 percent more than the industry standard cans that do contain BPA. This costs Eden $300,000 more a year. To our knowledge Eden is the only U.S. company that uses this custom made BPA-free can.

According to this post, Eden Foods requested BPA be removed from their cans 10 years ago after concern of having it in their packaging. However, Eden Foods' tomato products are still packaged in the industry-standard BPA-containing cans since the FDA hasn't approved any other type of processing for highly acidic foods.

This is the first time I've seen that claim on canned food and I wanted to know if anyone else has found other manufacturers that use BPA free cans? Any other gems out there?

Thursday, December 3, 2009

gDiapers - Plugging up the shitter

Yes, I know you were all drawn to this post by its highly intellectual title. I aim to please. I wanted to discuss what you should and shouldn't be putting down the toilet. There seems to be some misunderstanding about what local wastewater treatment plants can handle downstream. Of course, this is also dependent on your municipality, but I'm going to overgeneralize and assume that they are similar in what they can and can not handle.

I spoke, last summer or so, with Tom Watson from King County, our local EcoConsumer guru as I had some questions about the viability of gDiapers and its impact on not only your toilet, but on the processing of waste in general. gDiapers markets the product as the most eco-friendly diaper available, mainly because you can flush or compost them and they break down in 50-150 days.

Now, most people aren't going to compost human poopy diapers and most yard/food waste collection programs won't accept them, so that means the option for being the most "eco-friendly" involves flushing them down the toilet. I was surprised to learn a few things about what the engineers at our wastewater treatment plants can't stand. You, know the shit and the "shit" that clogs up the works.

Basically, what they recommend is that the only things you flush are human waste and toilet paper. Nothing else. Nada. Did you hear me? Those "flushable" butt wipes? No. How about that clay kitty litter that turns into something you can use skeet shooting? Hell, no. Tampons? Don't make me DivaCup you upside the head.

So, what about gDiapers? Aren't you paying attention? If something like a tampon is a problem, do you honestly think that flushing a giant wad of pooped-up gDiaper is going to go down properly? Not only is your sewage and/or septic system potentially at risk, but you're wreaking havoc with the whole system unintentionally.

The City of Vancouver actually did a study of the treatability of gDiapers and their impact on sewer and wastewater systems. To summarize, they concluded that (feel free to read the entire study, it's actually very interesting.):

"It is the City's recommendation that gDiapers, when used by the City's sewer customers, be managed as a solid waste and not flushed down the toilet. Consumers should bag the used product and place it in their garbage container for disposal. Those consumers who have an active and well-managed compost system may also choose to carefully include urine-only gDiapers discards with their compostable wastes."

So, what's the point of spending the extra money on flushable diapers if they are going to have to go to the landfill anyway? I'm not sure it's worth the extra cost. If you want to use disposables, stick with chlorine-free, non-toxic, non-flushable eco-diapers. Most of them are biodegradable if your landfill is equipped for that sort of thing. Just don't flush them.

And, just remember. The toilet is not a trashcan.

If you had/have kids, did you use cloth, disposables, eco-friendly disposables or another method for diapering?

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Laser hair removal

I think I've already discussed hair removal to death and I know that some of you just forgo it altogether (I'm talking to you, Greenpa!), but I also know at least one of you has sprung for laser hair removal. On one hand, the environmental impact of manufacturing the laser machines isn't something to sneeze at.

I have no idea how much energy is needed to run the darn things, but I suspect that once the machines have been built, delivered and you take into consideration operating expenses, you hope that they run long enough to offset the initial carbon footprint investment, so to speak, by eliminating the need for razors and other consumer products used in the whole shaving process.

But really, the best thing is to not bother shaving and just get comfortable with one's hirsuteness. However, for some of us who were born and raised by gorillas, this is a little less easy than it is for others. And, thus, the shaving, waxing, threading, depilatorying and otherwise hair yanking continues.

So, what's a lady to do? As you may know, laser hair removal is very expensive so for most that's a huge deterrent to getting it done, aside from all the potential environmental issues. However, a few months ago, Groupon was running a deal in my area offering laser hair removal at about 20% the total cost.

Basically I got three hair removal session for 80% less than I would have to normally pay. It was too good a deal to pass up and it gave me an excuse, particularly since I was already eyeballing the whole lasering thing anyway. I haven't yet had my first session since you need to stop waxing for a while before treatment, but I'm hoping to do so soon.

Have any of you done laser hair removal and what's been your experience? Is it worth the cost or do you still end up shaving or otherwise removing hair from the treated area?

One last question. What's your reaction when you see the picture to the right? Americans are conditioned to have a certain societal response to body hair. So, do you think she's beautiful, are you grossed out, or are you conflicted by what you see - beautiful woman, but ick!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Pastured meat rabbits

I've spent far too much time recently researching meat rabbits, breeds and methods of dispatching them. In the past, I've looked into breeding rabbits for fiber, mostly thinking that Angoras would be more up my alley, particularly since the whole processing aspect of meat rabbits is still beyond my comfort level and I know I would be the one left to doing the dispatching.

I'm not entirely new to rabbit husbandry since I had a bunch of bunnies in my childhood. I like the idea of rabbits for fiber, but it's hard to acquire Angoras in my area, and I'm not sure that I have the gumption to knit anything up with the fiber. That is, of course, after mixing it with wool and spinning my own yarn with it. The manure aspect of rabbits certainly intrigues me as a good compost for the garden but, as of yet, I have done nothing regarding raising rabbits. It's been all talk and no action.

I'm also most likely cursed with the only two children on the face of the planet who hate rabbits. For whatever their reasons, they sure ain't sharing them with me. In any case, how did I come about looking up meat rabbits again? Well, my foodie brother was discussing his plans for doing a big Easter event (much like his Poultrygeist event in October with ducks) which, not too surprisingly, involve rabbit as one of the course ingredients. I suggested perhaps raising some rabbits on his behalf as long as he did the dispatching.

Again, not too surprisingly, he was fine with that. He's very interested in knowing exactly where his ingredients come from, and learning how to process rabbits, chickens, goats, etc. is something he has no problem with. So, it looks like we might have some sort of matched interest here.

While looking up meat rabbits, I ran across a number of sites mentioning pastured rabbits, most likely originating from the practice done at Polyface Farms (Joel Salatin of Omnivore's Dilemma fame). Basically, you keep the bunnies in a sort of chicken tractor that gets rotated around so the rabbits have access to fresh clover, grass, weeds and the like.

This is supplemented with traditional rabbit pellets and hay, depending on the time of year. I thought this was a very interesting idea in that it not only is a money saver, but the rabbits are more likely producing a healthier meat and are generally happier hanging out in the grass during decent weather.

Images from Simply Abundant Farm and Weathertop Farm.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Christmas tree conundrum

Pretty pink treeAs many of you may know, a few years ago I chose plastic over paper (so to speak) when it came to our Christmas tree. It's a decision I wonder about every year, but the whole Christmas tree is a giant conundrum.

On one hand, the impact of growing Christmas trees isn't negligible. Unless you can find one grown organically (or sustainable) and shipped en masse close to you, there are a ton of petrochemicals involved. Fertilizers and pesticides are used for the tree during "production" and each individual driving out to the hinterlands to chop down and/or collect their own tree from the tree farm uses more gas. If they deliver near you, that certainly saves some on gas (depending on the efficiency of the trucks, of course).

On the other hand, you have the plastic, lead filled tree that was mostly likely made overseas under dubious conditions and shipped (generally by container, which is a little better) to the destination before being trucked out to your area. Needless to say the footprint of a plastic tree is no small potatoes.

We're hoping that our fake tree will last for many, many years to come. I have fond memories, too, of assembling the fake Christmas tree that I grew up with so perhaps my kids will have the same nostalgia. Although I definitely prefer the fresh-cut tree and had dreams of taking the kids out to a tree farm to U-cut a tree, it wasn't really realistic back when we bought the fake tree.

And, I must admit, this one is a snap to care for. More importantly, it already has LED lights embedded in it, so the electrical usage on it is low. Plus, since it breaks down into three pieces, I can manage it myself. Oh yeah, and really, my tree isn't flocked pink.

What kind of tree (if you celebrate with a tree, that is) will you have this year?

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Skipping green gifts for the kids

I have to admit, I don't buy green gifts for my kids. It ends up being a complete waste of money since I have yet to find anything they like and they won't play with them, so it ends up a huge waste. I've learned to not push them or myself on gift giving holidays and just give in to what they actually want.

What do I do instead? Well, we limit the number of toys the kids get in return for getting what they want, craptastic, plastic, Hecho en China and all. Books are another story, I'm willing to spend more on whatever books they want, but we inevitably end up getting the vast majority of our books from the library anyway, so that's kind of a non-issue. So, it's a parade of Lego toys, Bakugan or whatever suits their current fancy.

I figure I make up for the consumption in other ways and don't sweat my decision. It's certainly not my preference, but after 7+ years of doing this, I know what works and what doesn't. Even when the kids were very young, they always preferred the bright shiny plastic toys over the carefully selected, non-toxic toys made of natural materials that I bought for them. I sure liked them, but since I was the only one playing with them, it didn't make a whole lot of sense to continue buying them.

It is a little easier when the kids are younger since you have a lot more control over what's available to them in their environment. But as they get older and exposed to other kids, media and advertising, they start exerting their own preferences and it can become a huge battle. One that I'm not willing to take on.

So, what do you do about holiday gift giving for kids? Do you stick to your guns and only give them environmentally friendly toys? Or do you give them what they want (regardless of its impact) and just limit what they get?

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Stay away from enhanced breasts

I actually have a breast enhancement post in the works but I thought, since many of us are sitting down to unnatural breasts this Thanksgiving, I'd write about it now. No, I'm not talking about Hollywood stars (unless movies and TV are on your t-day schedule), I'm talking about your turkey. The majority of us eating turkey are eating either a bird that has been bred for huge knockers or has been unnaturally inflated with plumpers to expand their breasts.

What's the problem with this? Well, for the injected plumpers, you aren't paying for and eating turkey, you are paying for whatever they are injecting, most likely a mixture of saline. Just like a boob job, but without the implants. If you like the taste of watered down meat, then it's no big issue I suppose. You could get the same effect by brining it yourself at a lesser cost.

Add on top of this these broad-breasted bird are bred for big boobies, which means that their anatomy isn't well suited for, well, moving around. They are more prone to tipping over and not getting back up. This is a huge problem if they have access to open water and fall in, because their giant racks prevent them from righting themselves and they drown.

I know that there is a myth that turkeys are stupid animals, but when you look back at native wild turkeys, they were pretty damn smart and nearly impossible to hunt. We've bred the life-force out of them over the years, built to our specifications for dining, altering their anatomy such that their quality of life just ain't what it used to be. So, today, we have a factory mill of dumbed down turkeys, who need artificial insemination to reproduce because they forgot how.

What's the solution? Choose heritage turkeys that aren't bred for big boobs. These animals are the closest thing we've got to preserving a domesticated turkey without all the anatomical weirdness. Sure, they are harder to find since there aren't as many people out there raising them and they are more expensive than even the organic, free-range or pastured broad-breasted birds. But, if we create more of a demand for heritage turkeys, the supply will increase.

You don't need a freezer full of free and/or cheap-ass turkeys given away during the holidays because the cost to produce them is negligible (and reflects on their care and feeding). You don't need a 20 pound turkey to feed 4 people. If cost is an issue, choose a smaller bird of higher quality for not only your sake, but the turkey's. And, when in doubt, forgo the turkey altogether and choose either vegetarian or an animal that has been given the dignity of a decent life.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Walmart: The Jolly Green Giant?

Who knew that Walmart would actually have some positive influence on forcing companies to self-report and, inevitably, under such close scrutiny, become more green not only in their business practices, but in their consumer products as well.

You see, back in July, Walmart told the companies of the products they stock that they are launching an eco-labeling initiative. This green tag program will calculate the environmental cost of producing, packaging, and selling each of the items on their shelves, much like the program underway by a similar industry giant in the UK, Tesco.

These eco-scores will then be prominently displayed in a clear, easy-to-understand format for customers to reference when making buying decisions. Nothing like airing your dirty laundry for all to see to help shape customer decisions. In response to this, the massive SC Johnson company announced recently that it had launched a new site listing the ingredients of more than 200 of its products, such as Glade, Windex and the like.

The WhatsInsideSCJohnson website represents the most significant disclosure to date of the ingredients found in household cleaning products. And, while they certainly don't explain the issues with the ingredients, it's a start. At least now you know that those soy-based candles are really just paraffin wax with who knows how much soybean oil in them (plus a whole host of other chemicals).

Is Walmart's eco-labeling just a ploy to rehab their terrible image among critics, who focus on the mistreatment of their employees, their foreign-manufactured products and all-around crappy selection of merchandise? Whatever Walmart's intentions are, it certainly has gotten the attention of companies that sell their products in their stores.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm off to find out what exactly is in the Nature's Source line of cleaning products. Methinks the scrubbing bubbles on the label hints at something way more caustic than they are letting on.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The impact of holiday gift giving

I keep hearing ads to encourage people to go crazy shopping on the upcoming black Friday. As such, Friday is the annual "Buy Nothing Day", which is the alternative to spending all that's left in your wallet. It suggests that, instead of buying, you refrain from shopping. Some see this anti-consumerism as a threat to our American way of life, but let's stop for a moment and consider our holiday spending and its financial, emotional and environmental impacts.

It's really easy to get caught up in the shopping fever, especially when you perceive that you are getting a deal. But, are you really? Does buying something for others make you feel better about yourself? I know that I really enjoy giving gifts, but if you are buying gifts for people because you feel obligated to do so, or if you are buying gifts for people without knowing what they want, what does that really mean? At that point you are just checking things off of your Christmas stress list?

On one hand, feeling obligated to purchase products for somebody doesn't necessarily leave one feeling the holiday spirit. There are no warm fuzzies as a result. There is stress in worrying whether or not the recipient will like what you got for them, and there is concern whether or not the reciprocal gift will match in either quality or cost. I know I also get stressed when someone spends a lot on something for me that I really just don't like and won't use.

I think one of the main reasons people get so stressed about the holidays is because of the obligations of gift giving, particularly if you are already financially strained. The shame or disappointment that is associated with not being able to buy for loved ones what they really want to get them tends to make people overspend. No wonder people are depressed during the holidays.

So, what's a person to do? I know it goes against tradition for many, but what about talking with friends and loved ones about some alternatives? Finding out what they actually want is a good first step. Buying unwanted items equals buying unused products and the carbon footprint of all that excess that is going to waste is not negligible. Second, discuss other options for gift giving.

Buying experiences instead of stuff will not only result in a more memorable gift, but will also potentially have a much smaller environmental impact. Suggesting that time spent together is far more valuable than the latest gift and gizmo is another option. I know this isn't exactly realistic for some of you when familial obligations to spend time together aren't exactly pleasant, but I suspect the feeling is mutual on both sides and perhaps others don't exactly like the whole gift expectation thing either.

I also know that fighting against cultural norms isn't exactly pleasant and can be a nerve wracking experience, but once it's done, it doesn't need to be revisited every year. The end goal is to rethink how we spend (and what we spend on) the holidays, reduce the amount of stress involved and perhaps reduce our carbon footprint in the end by buying a lot less gifts.

How do you feel about gift giving during the holidays? Do you feel obligated to get and/or match other's gifts? Or, do you enjoy buying gifts for people?

Monday, November 23, 2009

Local Thanksgiving Menu

I met with my brother today, Mr. Chef Extraordinaire and writer of the blog, Seattle Foodies, to go over the menu for Thanksgiving. As usual, we'll be having something spectacular this year, with a focus on local ingredients. In other words, if it can be found locally, it will be consumed.

Here's what's on the menu:
  • Turkey leg confit in duck fat*
  • Roasted turkey breast with gravy*
  • Peas and pearl onions
  • French mashed Yukon gold potatoes**
  • Root vegetables (local) with sage from the garden
  • Cranberry, blood orange and thyme relish***
  • Porcini Mushroom Stuffing
  • Assorted Dinner Rolls (from the Dahlia Lounge Bakery)
  • Pumpkin pie****
  • Pecan pie

*Our turkey, once again, this year is a pasture-raised heritage turkey from Thundering Hooves
**I wish the potatoes were from my yard, but I didn't have much potato success this year due to my own negligence. But, the potatoes are, at least, local
***The cranberries are grown locally in our area and the thyme is from the garden
****The pumpkin pie is made from locally sourced leaf lard in the crust with local butter, and local pumpkin puree that I made earlier in the season

Not to beat a dead horse, but I wanted to list some of the reasons why eating local is important. Not only does it help support local farmers and the economy, it also will help reduce your carbon footprint given the fact that most of your food has travelled, on average, 1500 miles to reach your plate. Or, as they say, from farm to fork.

Eliminating those food miles by buying locally grown foods will not only reduce the amount of carbon released into the atmosphere during transportation, but it will ensure that your food is fresher and, more importantly, tastier. You see, if your food doesn't need to travel thousands of miles and spend time in storage, it can be picked closer to its peak of ripeness. And, therefore, peak of tastiness.

How's your Eat Local for Thanksgiving planning coming along?

By the way, congrats to the 5 winners of the locally sourced heritage turkeys!

Friday, November 20, 2009

How to ripen green tomatoes

Every year, I have the same dilemma. Since we generally don't have very hot summers around here, inevitably at the end of the summer growing season I still have a bunch of tomatoes left on the vine, but they are all green with no signs of ripening in their near future.

A few weeks ago, I went outside and clipped the 10 or so tomatoes that I had left and brought them inside. After doing a bit o' research I decided how I was going to not only store them, but also coax them into ripening. Since we don't have any newspaper on hand (since we cancelled the NY Times a while ago), I couldn't individually wrap them and store them in a box, like some people suggested.

One method that looked intriguing to me was to place the tomatoes in a paper bag with an apple and store them that way. Why the apple you ask? Well, the apple puts off ethylene gas, which helps the tomatoes to ripen. Since I had all the appropriate items for that storage and ripening method, I gave it a whirl (this is a little more difficult way to store them if you have a ton of them).

I placed the tomatoes in the bag with an apple for ripening, folded over the top and secured the whole deal with a binder clip. A week or so ago, I went to check the tomatoes and found that two or three of them had molded up - probably because they had some small bruise on them that I didn't notice. The rest were still green. Not green, turning red, but green-white. There was no hope in sight, but I dutifully folded the bag back up after composting the moldy ones and promptly went back to ignoring the whole lot.

Last weekend I decided to take a peek and make sure no other tomatoes were going moldy, and lo and behold! But, what to my wondering eyes did appear, but a big ole juicy, red tomato staring back at me! And, another one with a little red blush working through the skin. I peeked again last night and they are all almost ripe. So, here's to ripe, homegrown tomatoes in mid-November!

What's your favorite method of ripening green tomatoes off the vine?

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

It's avocado time!

My brother, who lives in San Diego, recently sent us pictures of his backyard avocado tree I think, mostly, to taunt us. You see, he doesn't like avocados in any shape or form, but my husband, myself and my other brother, Darryl (who also lives in Seattle), love them.

And the ones he grows are a thousand times better than the ones you get from the store. Better than the ones we could get even when we lived in California. Which should surprise no one. Backyard avocados are like homegrown tomatoes, there's just no comparison to store-bought ones.

So, while the avocados are in no way local to us, he sometimes ships up a box of them and I have a hard time bringing myself to discourage him of this practice, particularly since they go out to three families.

Anyway, this year he has over 100 avocados on his tree. Which is why he titled his email "Avocado Pr0n". And, indeed, it is.

What's your guilty out-of-region fruit or vegetable pleasure?

Going to Copenhagen

The Huffington Post Green is running a contest to pick a citizen "Hopenhagen Ambassador" from their readers to go to Copenhagen in mid-December on behalf of their organization to do some reporting 'n shit. Or something like that.

If you are interested in applying, you can read more about it here (you have until December 3rd to enter). The opportunity sounds extremely cool.

For those of you who don't know anything about the UN Copenhagen Climate Conference, it is a meeting in Denmark where the world's leaders will decide whether there will be a framework on limiting carbon emissions before the Kyoto protocol expires and the before the amount of carbon in the atmosphere climbs to irreversible levels.

From HuffPost Green:
Hopenhagen.org is working to connect every person, city and nation with what is happening at the conference in Copenhagen, believing that citizens can help push the fate of the planet down a positive path by showing political leaders that the citizens of the world passionately want them to reach an agreement that would limit how much carbon emissions each country would produce.

Leaders are shying away from making these commitments, and Hopenhagen.org wants to show there is a strong political will to set emissions targets -- which would mean more green jobs, and a more sustainable future for people everywhere.

So, what I want to know is, if you went to Copenhagen as a citizen ambassador and had access as official press, what would you hope to achieve, what kind of message about global climate change would you try to get across not only to the world's leaders, but also to the citizens of the world?

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Pledge to Eat Local for Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving is right around the corner and do you know where the food for your family feast is coming from? Hopefully, you have access to local foods and will be choosing meats and produce grown local to you.

Why is it important to eat locally? Well, I'll let the info from the Eat Local for Thanksgiving site explain a few things:

By making a choice to include more local foods into your diet you are taking an important step in support of a local food system that can feed your community while protecting the environment and building a vibrant local economy.

Research indicates that locally directed spending contributes as much as 2 - 3 times more to community income than spending at non-local businesses. At farmers markets, for example, for every dollar spent, 62 cents is re-spent locally. For every dollar spent at an average grocery store, 25 cents is re-spent locally compared with 52 cents at a locally-based grocery store.

The increase is even greater for locally-based restaurants. For every dollar spent at an average restaurant, 31 cents is re-spent locally compared with 79 cents for locally-based restaurants.

It's also been said that one of the best ways to keep farmland from being developed for commercial use is to expand demand for local-grown produce, creating a higher value for those lands as active farmland.


What more can you do about it? Well, you can join thousands of others who are willing to take the pledge to eat locally this Thanksgiving, even if it's only one item on your table that you choose to replace.

Taking the pledge is a good first step in helping to build a more vibrant and sustainable local food system for your region. There are many important issues that affect the availability of and access to local food. If you would like to get involved further here are a few things you can do to help the cause:

  • Ask friends, family and other groups you are associated with to take the pledge. Direct them to the Eat Local Thanksgiving website to learn more.

  • Talk to the manager at your local grocery store and ask them to carry more local produce, meats, dairy products, or other locally produced goods.

  • Write a letter to your city council, county council or state legislators to let them know that you support policies such as Farm to Institution (i.e. getting local food into school and hospital cafeterias).

    Also, don't forget that getting everyone together is a great time to explain to friends and family why you choose local foods. If you need some tips on what to discuss, check out these great discussion questions from the Eat Local for Thanksgiving site.

    If you made it this far, what are you waiting for? Go take the pledge already!

    [Please note: out of area pledges are not eligible for prizes upon entering. If you do not live in WA state, just enter your city, state in the city field.]
  • Sunday, November 1, 2009

    PW Cooks winner

    Now, before I tell you who the winner is of the, apparently highly coveted book, The Pioneer Woman Cooks, I wanted to tell you that if you didn't win this time around, you'll have another chance soon. You see, Ree emailed me after I announced this giveaway and has offered an additional three! books for another giveaway.

    So, if you didn't win this time, don't go away crying. I'll be doing a second giveaway in mid-November for the three cookbooks, so you'll have another opportunity to get a crack at this very awesome book.

    Okay, now the moment y'all have been waiting for....

    The winner is #4: Kelsie

    Go figure, out of about 445 entries, the chosen one is #4. Oh, the fates. Anyway, Kelsie, send your contact info to crunchychickenblog@gmail.com. Congratulations!

    As for the rest of you, keeps your eyes peeled for the next giveaway :)

    Tuesday, October 27, 2009

    Pioneer Woman Cooks book giveaway

    If you've read The Pioneer Woman's blog, you've seen the recipe section of her site and probably have fallen in love with the not only the recipes, but the pictures and everything else related to her life on a cattle ranch.

    Ree was kind enough to send me a review copy of her new book, The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Recipes from an Accidental Country Girl, a luxuriously, picturesque book that there's not enough adjectives to describe. This book, which comes out today and lists for $27.50, includes several of the recipes on her blog as well as a ton of new ones, all including the same sort of step-by-step pictures and instructions that you've grown to love. In addition there's a bunch of pictures from around the farm and information about the family (like, did you know that Marlboro Man's real name is Ladd?).

    If you are not familiar with her blog (and, if not, have been under a rock?), then I urge you to go check it out if you are at all interested in life in the country. I must warn you, however, that her blog and life is not a sustainable existence so don't expect any stories of living off the land. This is a true working cattle ranch.

    From the book description:
    After years of living in Los Angeles, I made a pit stop in my hometown in Oklahoma on the way to a new, exciting life in Chicago. It was during my stay at home that I met Marlboro Man, a mysterious cowboy with steely blue eyes and a muscular, work-honed body.

    A strict vegetarian, I fell hard and fast, and before I knew it we were married and living on his ranch in the middle of nowhere, taking care of animals, and managing a brood of four young children. I had no idea how I'd wound up there, but I knew it was exactly where I belonged.

    The Pioneer Woman Cooks is a homespun collection of photography, rural stories, and scrumptious recipes that have defined my experience in the country. I share many of the delicious cowboy-tested recipes I've learned to make during my years as an accidental ranch wife—including Rib-Eye Steak with Whiskey Cream Sauce, Lasagna, Fried Chicken, Patsy's Blackberry Cobbler, and Cinnamon Rolls—not to mention several "cowgirl-friendly" dishes, such as Sherried Tomato Soup, Olive Cheese Bread, and Creme Brulee. I show my recipes in full color, step-by-step detail, so it's as easy as pie to follow along.

    Since having this book lying about the house is going to prove rather dangerous given the type of recipes included (read: not at all low-fat), I've decided to do a book giveaway. This would make a fantastic gift for the holidays since it's such a beautiful book and has a ton of tasty recipes that are perfect for family gatherings.

    To enter the book giveaway, just add your name to the comments of this post. You have until Friday, October 30th, at midnight PST to sign up. I'll announce the winner this weekend.

    Sunday, October 25, 2009

    Independence Days book review

    Sharon Astyk's new book, Independence Days: A Guide to Sustainable Food Storage & Preservation, is out November 2nd and would make a great holiday gift (for those of you buying gifts). If you've been reading her blog, Casaubon's Book, you'll know that she means business about local food and sustainability. I've got a copy of the book in my hot, sweaty hands because I was lucky enough to be able to include a recommendation blurb on the back, which also includes the following description:
    Independence Days tackles both the nuts and bolts of food preservation, with tips on how to bulk buy and store food on the cheap, canning and dehydrating techniques, as well as a host of broader issues. In addition, it focuses on how to enjoy a delicious, high-quality pantry diet year-round, how to preserve food on a community scale, and how to reduce reliance on industrial agriculture by creating vibrant local economies.

    Better food, plentiful food, at a lower cost and with less energy expended, Independence Days is for all who want to build a sustainable food system and keep eating—even in hard times.

    The book includes chapters on food storage, food preservation, root cellaring, season extension, dehydration, recipes, canning, fermentation, medicinal application and creating and using community resources. It also includes a couple of my recipes, so I can't complain. My complete recommendation on the inside cover reads:
    If you have any interest at all in where your food comes from, Independence Days is the perfect book to start with. Sharon Astyk makes a compelling argument for taking charge of your food security and is thorough in her coverage of food storage and preservation techniques including delicious recipes to get you started. But, make no mistake about it, this well thought out resources is more than just a food storage and recipe book - it is a call to arms to really think closely about the food that gives us sustenance and how it gets to us.

    So, if you have any interest in food issues, sustainability, food storage and/or preservation, go order or ask for it from your library already!

    Friday, October 23, 2009

    Hottest eco-blogger nominations

    Given the popularity of the Hottest Men in Climatology from the other day (based on all the hits I'm getting from Universities around the country), and the suggestion from a particular Farmer's Daughter, I'm going to run a "Hottest Eco-Blogger" poll next week.

    You may have noticed that the Huffington Post is currently running a Hot Farmers slideshow complete with submissions. And, I've done two years of Craziest Environmental Blogger (aka the Environmental Nutjob Award), so this doesn't seem too far off in left field. And it's Friday, so what the hell.

    The difference this time around with the voting is that you guys will be nominating eco-bloggers and then voting on them next week. I'll have two categories, one for men and one for women, so make sure you include in your nomination a couple of each gender if you like.

    How do I nominate someone?
    Leave a comment on this post adding who you want to be included as the hottest eco-blogger. And add a link to their blog, just in case I don't know who they are, so I can thoroughly embarrass them next week :)

    Will there be pictures?
    Hopefully. I will try to contact the final list of people asking them to submit pictures of themselves (with a short summary blurb and background), otherwise I'll try to find one from their blog. If I can't get a picture of them, they may not be included in the voting.

    I already have one Facebook nomination for Greenpa, but only a few of us know what he looks like. This may be our opportunity to reveal the man behind the Little Blog.

    Can I nominate myself?
    Of course you can! Get that self-promotion going!

    How will the list be narrowed down?
    Assuming I get inundated with nominations, I'll pick them dependent on the number of times they are mentioned as nominees. Again, if I can't get a picture of them, they won't get listed. And their blog has to be predominantly eco-related. Otherwise, it will be somewhat arbitrary. Sorry, this isn't the Academy Awards.

    You have until Monday night (10/26) at midnight PST to submit your nominations!

    Thursday, October 22, 2009

    Bottled water is best

    I've come to the hideous conclusion that we are all being duped about bottled water. I first was made aware of the bottle water issue when the City of Seattle stopped providing bottled water to its employees, stating that it was for financial and environmental reasons.

    But, I have since learned that it's really just part of a nationwide conspiracy trying to put the bottled water industry out of business. Sure, the water in the bottles was really just municipal tap water, the same as that which came out of the sinks, but don't they realize the pipes in those old city buildings are probably contaminating everyone? The same reason why they shut down the fountains in so many Seattle Public Schools?

    Bottled water is actually a cost savings when you think about the health care costs of dealing with lead and arsenic poisoning. So, why are people targeting the bottled water industry? An industry where 90% of the companies are small, family-owned businesses? It doesn't make any sense to me especially when buying local and supporting small businesses is inherent to our economic survival.

    Anyway, I hadn't thought about the water bottle issue recently until last night when I was enjoying the den of inequities on Facebook, when that annoying Bill McKibben hanger-on, Ruchi, intruded my bliss and Facebooked a message to Beth Terry, of Fake Plastic Fish fame, about some scurrying going on in the comments of her blog. Not one to miss out on the hubbub, I checked out Beth's post. And, wouldn't you know it, it's about bottled water.

    After the eye-rolling stopped long enough so I could actually read her post, I started going through the comments, which were filled with the usual pap, high-fiving comments in agreement that the "big" business bottled water industry was bad.

    Before I get too far, let me back up and say that I don't drink much bottled water. Really, none, if I can help it, mostly because I'm cheap and don't like to pay for something I can get for free. But, I just don't get the whole crucifixion of the bottled water industry. And then, I started reading some rather informative arguments by a commenter from the IBWA. Now, I really do feel for people who suffer from Irritable Bowel With Anal-leakage (IBWA), because that has to be an uncomfortable condition to live with, so, right off the bat, he had my attention.

    He argued (among other strong points that you'll have to read in the comments of the original post) that, "blogs like yours should encourage more recycling and not discourage consumption of water — in any form. Water is fundamentally good for all people. We live in a busy world and have bottled water there when you want, regardless of what you are doing, is always a plus. If people are going to a vending machine, what should they buy? What item in the vending machine is not made of plastic? Since it all must be recycled, why pick on the healthiest beverage available, namely bottled water?" Damn straight. Why pick on water when there's plenty of other mean beverages out there?

    After much pondering on the matter, I decided to state my change of view on drinking bottled water. In fact, his other, convincing arguments changed my whole opinion on plastic consumption altogether. Well, it's easier to understand my point of view if you just read the response I posted in the comments:

    Normally, I just drink tap water. I think it tastes great. When I’m at home I drink straight from the tap since I don’t like the filtered water from my GE Profile fridge because the water is too cold. When I’m at work I drink the water from the kitchen sink. I am generally never at a loss for cups, mugs, or portable containers to fill said water from the tap.

    But, after reading all these compelling arguments from Tom, I’ve decided that, perhaps, I’m going about it all wrong. So, starting tomorrow, I’m going to start drinking bottled water. I want to help support family businesses. And, now I’m really scared that I’m going to get H1N1 from the kitchen sink at work. I heard that Fiji water is the best, so I’m going to try to find out where they sell it in my area. I don’t believe it’s a family company, but the bottles are really cool.

    In fact, I’m so excited about drinking bottled water and its positive effects on my life and others, I think that the health benefits of drinking bottled water alone are not enough. Because of this, I’m going to not only recycle the bottles when I’m done drinking the delicious, chlorine-free water, but I am going to eat them. I suspect that the extra fiber in the plastic bottles will help contribute to my overall bowel health. Which is always a positive in my book. Does anyone know if digested plastic will clog my pipes?

    I’m thinking that just plain water in the plastic bottles isn’t good enough, so I’m also looking for a company that sells liquid plastic in plastic bottles to help quench my thirst. Does anyone know if such a product exists? I don’t need flavored liquid plastic, just plain liquid plastic will do.

    I’m so excited about the thirst quenching satisfaction that my new lifestyle will afford me, I’m not sure I’ll be able to sleep tonight.

    So, I hope that, you too, decide to drink more bottled water. And consume more plastic if you can. Because bottled water really is the first, true, thirst mutilator.

    Wednesday, October 21, 2009

    Hot men of climatology

    There are plenty of lists floating around out there stating who is the hottest this or that. Who are the hottest green models and the hottest green actors and so forth. But, what about the people who really matter, the ones doing the climate research, not the celebrities?

    Because of this, I wanted to write a post about the Hot Men of Climatology, but when I went a huntin' for hotties, pretty much what I found were older men sporting a lot of hair or none at all. And, the only hot thing going on was more related to warming temperatures than chiseled abs. But, I've found the up and coming (well, under 50ish) "hot" men of climatology for your review. Let me know if I missed any :)

    Michael MannFirst up is Michael Mann a, relatively speaking, sprightly 43-year-old climatologist. Michael is an author of more than 80 peer-reviewed journal publications and has attained public prominence as lead author of a number of articles on paleoclimate and as one of the originators of a graph of temperature trends dubbed the "hockey stick graph" (not to be confused with the "hockey mom graph").

    The graph received both praise and criticism after its publication in an IPCC report. In 2005 he was appointed Associate Professor at Pennsylvania State University, in the Department of Meteorology and Earth and Environmental Systems Institute, and Director of the university's interdepartmental Earth System Science Center. If you like your men with degrees in Applied Math, Geology and Geophysics, Michael fits the bill.

    Caspar AmmannNext up is Caspar Ammann, a 40-year-old researcher from Switzerland. Caspar is a climate scientist working at the National Center for Atmospheric Research and is interested in the reconstruction of natural climate forcings, natural climate variability, coupled modeling of natural and anthropogenic climate change, and data/model intercomparison. In other words, he studies past and present climate changes.

    He has a Ph.D. in Geosciences and his research centers around the climate of past centuries and millennia and how this information can help to understand what elements of future climate might be predictable as well as what potential environmental and ecological impacts are to be anticipated given various climate change scenarios.

    Rasmus BenestadRasmus Benestad is a physicist by training and works as a senior scientist at the Norwegian Meteorological Institute and the Oslo Climate Group. He earned a Ph.D. in Physics from the Atmospheric, Oceanic and Planetary Physics department at Oxford University.

    Rasmus' recent work has involved research on regional climate and seasonal predictability, but his past experience also includes ocean dynamics/air-sea processes and cloud micro-physics. In addition, he is the author of the book Solar Activity and Earth's Climate.

    Gavin SchmidtRounding out the list is hottie, Gavin Schmidt, a climatologist and climate modeller at the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies. In 2004 he was named as one of Scientific American's "Top 50 Research Leaders" for the year. In addition to his scientific work he is a founding member and one of the contributors to the climatology blog, RealClimate.

    Gavin is a computer climate modeler who works on developing large-scale models of the atmosphere-ocean climate system. He has worked on understanding climate variability both in past climates going back as far as 55 million years ago and forward to the possible future climates.

    Whew! Now, even though it seems totally sacrilegious to do this, this post is just begging for a poll....

    Who's the hottest climate change scientist?


    Update: Ooh! I have a late entry. Unfortunately, I can't add him to the poll, but wanted to introduce you all to him.

    Julian Sachs is a paleoclimatologist working right here at the University of Washington. He has a Ph.D. in Chemical Oceanography from MIT and his research interests include the evolution of the tropical Pacific climate and the El NiƱo-Southern Oscillation since the last glacial period.

    He also works on the development and application of organic geochemical and stable isotopic techniques in paleoclimatology and oceanography. I'm pretty sure he can melt a few icebergs while he's at it too.

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