Blog Update!
For those of you not following me on Facebook, as of the Summer of 2019 I've moved to Central WA, to a tiny mountain town of less than 1,000 people.

I will be covering my exploits here in the Cascades, as I try to further reduce my impact on the environment. With the same attitude, just at a higher altitude!

Monday, March 31, 2008

Buy Nothing Challenge

Buy Nothing Challenge - April 2008First off, I have to admit that over the last 8 or so years, I've been a bit of a spendthrift. I spent far too many years as a dirt-poor college student. So once I had a reasonable salary, I didn't pay attention to what I was spending because I didn't really have to anymore. Couple that with the American mentality of purchasing as sport and I would blow through money pretty quickly.

And it's not like I had much to show for it. It's amazing how so many little things add up. Since the majority of the expenses were for books and food or eating out I didn't feel like I was being extravagant. Only my credit card bills told me otherwise.

Well, I just realized that it's been months since I spent anything substantial. Sure, I've purchased a few books (for the book club) and bought a few sweaters from the thrift store (because I was freezing), but that's about it. Oh yeah, and I got my hair cut for the first time in almost a year. But, everything except the thrift sweaters were bought using gift cards.

With the end of the Freeze Yer Buns Challenge, I don't want you going through withdrawals. So I'm challenging you, for the month of April, to buy nothing. Now, I'm not talking about food, medications or other essentials, but everything else.

This is like Buy Nothing Day. Except that it lasts all month long. Sort of a mini-Compact. A compact Compact. A sub Compact.

Anyway, this means none of the following:
  • No new clothes
  • No new gadgets
  • No new furniture or housewares
  • No salon services
  • No makeup
  • No tools
  • No whatever the hell else people buy
Why did I only give you one day to prepare? Because I didn't want you out there binge buying in preparation for the month. I want you to really focus on whether or not what you are buying is a necessity or something frivolous.

If you must absolutely acquire something non-edible or not essential to growing your own food or for your survival, then you must borrow, barter, or buy it used. If you end up buying something new that is non-essential, I'll be hosting a weekly Sunday Confessional for you to justify your purchase. So, just think about having to confess to the world what you couldn't hold off on buying.

What do you say? Are you up for it? If you are, leave a comment and I'll add you to the sidebar under the list of participants. For those of you who stumble upon this later, you can still join. If you want to put the graphic up on your blog, just paste the following code:

<a href=""><img src="" border="0" alt="Buy Nothing Challenge - April 2008" /></a>

By the way, I'll be hosting a truly heinous challenge during the month of May, so if you are unprepared for this one, I'll be giving you plenty of warning for the next one. It's gonna be a doozy.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Grow your own spuds

FingerlingsI've posted about growing taters before, but I wanted to bring your attention to an article in Mother Earth News about growing your own potatoes. It goes into different details than I did. Please check it out if you have any sense in you:

How and When to Plant Potatoes

Potatoes are the easiest damn things to grow and I bet you won't be able to eat all of them before they start sprouting and trying to climb out of your basement all by themselves.

If you want to read more about growing potatoes in containers, check out my previous posts.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Evolve Showerhead Winner

I never got a response from the first winner of the Roadrunner Showerhead by Evolve. So, the new winner is Madame Meow of A Daily Dose of Zen Sarcasm.


Eco Hottie of the Week #3

Ms. Rachel McAdamsHere's one for the guys.

Who: Rachel McAdams

What: Actress

Why: Although I actually didn't know who this person was, I have seen her in a couple movies. More importantly, however, is the fact that she started up a website called green is sexy with two of her pals.

Rachel is trying to lighten her footprint on the earth by supporting tree planting organizations, switching her house to green power and lowering her energy usage. She dreams of one day living in a treehouse and being able to grow her own food.

Quotable: "I don't own a car. In Toronto, my bike is my car."

Thanks to Monica Duke (no relation) for the tip!

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

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Something happened at lunch recess

Empty swingOn Tuesdays, I pick my son up early from school to go to his weekly OT sessions. This week, on the ride up there, he proceeded to tell me how there was a stranger on the playground at lunch recess.

He described the person as a man wearing a black coat and a hood who was "mean and yelling at the kids". I asked him if he had seen this person before and he stated that no one knew who this was.

I asked him if they told an adult (there's supposed to be an adult supervisor on each "playscape" but sometimes they need to take a child into the office because of injury, etc. so you never know...) and he said the kids were too busy playing. This is a kindergartner reporting here, so accuracy can sometimes be sketchy. He mentioned something about the man talking to the kids about not wearing clothes, which got me a little concerned.

Now, normally I'm not exactly paranoid and my first gut instinct is that there's always some explanation for things but, since there was one recess left in the day I felt it wise to call the office and report this so they can be on the lookout for strangers. One other thing that made me a little suspicious is that the church a few blocks away is hosting a "tent city" for the homeless.

I know this makes me sound horribly prejudiced, and I frankly don't have a problem with them being nearby, but given my sons' rather insistent report I was wondering if one of the tenants had wandered down to the school. There are a lot of homeless people in Ballard and the occasional one can get somewhat aggressive. Just ask my Mom who was traumatically chased down the street by one of them last year.

Anyway, I dutifully called the school office and started telling the woman who answered the phone about my son's report of a strange man on the playground wearing a black coat with a hood who was yelling at the kids. I mentioned that this was coming from a kindergartner so I couldn't exactly vouch for the validity of this information. I didn't get to the "mean, acting crazy man" part as she cut me off with the response, "well, I think that was me."

Turns out, she was new and out on the playground, telling kids to put their coats on. My son, during this conversation, kept interrupting with "who are you talking to" and then finally "that sounds like the man who was telling the kids to put their coats on." Aha. Coats on. Not clothes off.

Needless to say, I was pretty damn embarrassed to have accused her of being a strange man on the playground. I felt like a crazy person, but she was totally cool about it. Of course, I didn't get far enough into the story to sound too nutty.

What would you have done? What's the most embarrassing thing your kids have gotten you into?

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

I'm not dead

Just tired.... I'll be back with a new post tomorrow!

Monday, March 24, 2008

Ask Dave Wann giveaway contest

Mr. David WannGot a burning question for one of the authors of Affluenza? Seeking more information about something you read in Simple Prosperity?

Well, now's your chance to ask Dave Wann those hard hitting questions you've been mulling about in your mind as you read his book(s). Submit your interview questions starting today, March 24th, for Dave to answer. You have until March 31st.

Simple ProsperityFrom the questions submitted, I'll select six entries for him to answer. From those six, I'll be drawing two winners of his new book, Simple Prosperity.

Again, here's a little more to whet your appetite: an interview with Dave on Sustainable World Radio and an article he wrote, Fabric of America is Fraying.

"Simple Prosperity reads like a well-loved novel, engaging and educational. David Wann offers creative solutions to the challenges of over-consumption and makes it a thoroughly enjoyable read." Jill Cloutier, Producer, Sustainable World Radio

Go ahead, ask away in the comments section of this post. Don't be shy!

Feel free to ask a question even if you don't want to be entered in the giveaway - just state so in your comment.

Is eating out more eco-friendly?

Dining outHere's an idea that may seem counter-intuitive to you, but it can be argued that eating out in (certain) restaurants is more eco-friendly than cooking at home.

What? Yes, you heard me. Although I am not exactly advocating that you give all your dishes away, there are several arguments that can be made towards leaving the cooking to others.

1. Energy costs - Cooking for a family or, even worse yet, cooking for one is energy intensive. It doesn't make a whole lot of sense to bring a single oven up to temperature to heat up or cook something for a few minutes that will feed only a few people. In a restaurant environment, the oven is brought up to temperature and used to cook many items for many people. Keeping the oven at temperature, once it is reached, is not very energy intensive for each additional person added to the mix.

2. Storage - Keeping a refrigerator or freezer well stocked for a family or single person is, again, way more energy intensive that the more efficient large fridges and freezers used in a commercial environment. In addition to energy, commercial kitchens are better managed to make sure that food is better used and in many cases, less food waste from rotten food is incurred. Leftovers are generally sent home with diners and, hopefully, consumed.

Depending on the restaurant (and this makes or breaks the argument), commercial environments generally can have more intimate relationships with local farmers and producers, ensuring both entities long term success in the market. Many farms do not sell directly to the consumer and rely heavily on restaurants to purchase their items. Some chefs or business owners will choose organically or sustainably grown meats and vegetables, further adding to the ecological benefit.

3. Waste - It's also up to the restaurant as to how they deal with their waste. If you are in luck, you will have a few restaurants in your area that have a comprehensive recycling program as well as a comprehensive food waste program. Additionally, some have gone the extra step to recycle all their cooking oil. For the restaurateur, they generally have to pay for these services.

Chef Jefe, poster chef and sustainable restauranteurOne of my favorite new Ballard restaurants that fits the whole bill, is Austin Cantina. It opened a few months ago and I had the pleasure of getting a personal tour from the chef, Jefe Birkner. Not only do they support local organic and sustainable farmers and producers, but their recycling, food waste and cooking oil recycling programs are to die for.

Austin Cantina goes the extra mile and recycles all their cooking oil through Standard Biodiesel. They also have the full range of recycling picked up as well as paying for food waste pick up (pretty much everything you can think of). Just about the only thing they can't recycle is broken glassware. I hope other restaurants, not only in the Seattle area, but in the country follow this outstanding leadership.

When I first heard this argument, that eating out was more environmentally friendly, I was a bit taken aback. What's your take?

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Happy Peepster!

'He was such a good Peep.'Please, lay off the wanton consumption of candy. Easter is murder on my Peeps.

If you don't eat Easter candy as an adult (and you really shouldn't be), please vote for your favorite Easter candy when you were growing up.

I'm sorry I couldn't add more to the list, but I'm limited to seven poll answers.

Also, if you have a specific candy that you used to get for Easter and they no longer make it, share it with the rest of us in the comments. I'm always curious to see what other people reminisce about. I know there's also a lot of "traditional" candies that are regional, too!

Enjoy the day, whether you celebrate the religious holiday or the beginning of spring!

Friday, March 21, 2008

Eco Hottie of the Week #2

Mr. Jake GyllenhaalWho: Jake Gyllenhaal

What: Actor

Why: Working with Global Green and the Natural Resources Defense Council, Jake Gyllenhaal visited an indigenous Inuit community to help illustrate the imminent threat of how global warming is causing snowmelt and what the effect is on the people there.

Jake has donated about $10,000 to Future Forests to plant trees in Mozambique. He also tends to bike commute around L.A. when he isn't driving his Prius and does his own shopping at Whole Foods. Last but not least, Jake has been honored by the ACLU for his work for them, not to mention a bunch of other charities.

Quotable: "Global warming is an abstract concept to most people; we know it's happening, but we can't really visualize its effect."

So, while he may not be running his own 501(c)3 environmental non-profit, he is using his celebrity status to do some good and is leading by example.

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

Thursday, March 20, 2008

PUR marketing

PURely a temporary solutionProcter & Gamble (P&G) is currently running a promotional campaign under their brand name PUR where, when you use their product coupons between now and April 6th, for each coupon used, they will donate 1 liter worth of PUR Purifier of Water packets to third world countries.

Using the tag line "Save Money, Improve Lives" P&G hopes to distribute 50 million liters of water to areas of need. According to news releases on the program's website, "PUR Purifier of Water is engineered to be a mini-water treatment plant in a packet. The product removes dirt, cysts, and pollutants, and kills bacteria and viruses in contaminated water."

On the surface, this appears to be a very noble and worthy cause and, of course, it is. Access to clean water is a huge problem in many developing nations and water-borne diseases result in the death of millions of children and adults each year. According to the United Nations Human Development Report 2006 Summary, over 1.1 billion people worldwide do not have access to clean water.

But what are the problems inherent with this campaign? Well, to begin, PUR water purifier packet donations do not result in a long-term solution for these areas. Once the packets run out, these individuals are left with the same dirty water full of "worms, bacteria and germs". So, while they are undoubtedly providing a much needed resource in the short-term, it is not a very viable long-term solution for these communities.

What does Procter & Gamble have to gain from their donations? A lot of very good publicity as well as encouraging consumers to purchase their products when they otherwise might not. Additionally, they are, in effect, tapping into a huge market in these countries. Under the Live, Learn and Thrive Initiative, P&G has been selling their PUR water filtration packets at cost to not-for-profit and humanitarian groups for use in the developing world. If they hook aid agencies and local governments into purchasing packets of PUR for a short-term fix rather than investing in infrastructure to provide long-term water solutions for these communities, it could turn into a very large financial gain for the company down the road.

From a consumer or citizen perspective, if you are concerned about the lack of clean water in these communities, you can donate money to organizations that concentrate on providing long-lasting solutions, such as H20 Africa, Water Aid or Charity Water, who fund projects that include the installation and rehabilitation of freshwater systems by digging wells and training local water committees. Granted, it's not as easy as buying a bottle of Tide detergent, but it will have a lot longer lasting impact.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Affluenza book discussion (chapters 19 - 21)

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

Don't forget! Next week starts the Ask Dave Wann giveaway contest. Submit your interview questions starting Monday, March 24th, for Dave to answer and I'll select six questions. From those six, I'll be drawing two winners of his new book, Simple Prosperity.

For those of you who want to prep a little more than just reading Affluenza, here's an interview with Dave on Sustainable World Radio and an article he wrote, Fabric of America is Fraying, for you to check out.

Chapter 19. The age of affluenza - Even though advertising really hit its stride in the 1980s, one can see the seeds sown as far back as 1957 when the marketing director for the Chicago Tribune stated, "advertising's most important social function is to integrate the individual into our present-day American high-speed consumption economy." He also stated that, "the average individual doesn't make anything... he buys everything, and our economy is geared to the faster and faster tempo of his buying, based on wants which are created by advertising in large degree."

Over the average American's lifetime, one will watch nearly two years worth of TV commercials. The result of this is that the average American can identify fewer than ten types of plants but can recognize hundreds of corporate logos. If you read the paper, view websites (news or otherwise), watch TV or listen to the radio, you are being bombarded by media messaging. Unless you live a hermit's life, it's impossible to escape the billboards and bus advertising.

There's even an advertising campaign running right now about moonvertising. This really ground my crackers when I first saw the ads for it and y'all almost got an earful until I found out that it's a joke. Either way, the concept truly disturbs me.

Do you feel like you are manipulated by the barrage of advertising? Or do you believe you can shut it out? Would you be averse to something like moonvertising, where logos or commercials are projected onto the moon or do you think it's okay?

Chapter 20. Is there a (real) doctor in the house? - The underlying idea of this chapter is that PR (that's public relations for you hermits) equals covert culture shaping and opinion spinning. In other words, it sounds like they are the modern day mafia of misinformation.

A few examples of spin-doctoring include: funding and sponsoring environmental groups that have been hounding a company for years and, essentially, absorbing the enemy while green-washing the company; "book burning" or obtaining book tour itineraries and using a variety of tactics to sabotage the tours (one example included calling and cancelling appearances); campaigns to infiltrate actors (covert commercial agents) into ordinary situations to "talk up" a product to garner interest; front groups like the American Council on Science and Health that is funded by Burger King, Coca-Cola, NutraSweet, Monsanto, Dow, Exxon and others. The list of tactics is seemingly endless.

The issue at play here with all this "information" is its quality. How do you determine the validity of a product's assertion of health, success or whatever it's trying to promote? How can you tell if what they are promoting is accurate?

Part Three: Treatment
Chapter 21. The road to recovery - This chapter is comprised of a diagnostic quiz to see if you have affluenza or if you are susceptible to it. The real test includes 50 questions, but I've culled it down to ten to give those who didn't read the book a taste:

Answer 'Yes' or 'No'. For 'Yes' answers, give yourself two points. If you are uncertain or it's too close, give yourself one point.
1. Do you get bored unless you have something to consume (goods, food, media)?
2. Do you ever use shopping as "therapy"?
3. Do you sometimes go to the mall just to look around, with nothing specific to buy?
4. Given the choice between a slight pay raise and a shorter workweek, would you choose the money?
5. Do your conversations often gravitate toward things you want to buy?
6. Do you feel like you are always in a hurry?
7. Is the price of a product more important to you than how well it was made?
8. When you shop do you often feel a rush of euphoria followed by anxiety?
9. Do you have more stuff than you can store in your house?
10. Do you watch TV more than two hours a day?

If you scored:
0 - 5: You have no serious signs of affluenza
6 - 10: You are already infected
11 - 15: Your temperature is rising quickly
16 - 20: You've got affluenza big time!

How did you score?

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Meat is murder or tasty?

Horse sushiNot to beat a dead horse, so to speak, but yesterday's post definitely had an emotionally charged element to it. I know there are many people who feel strongly about the topic, but aren't comfortable weighing in.

I also know that there's very little that's scientific about these polls, but I was curious to get more anonymous feedback on the topic. Plus, I do love me a poll and, frankly, I was a bit surprised by some of the comments.

By the way, the picture on the upper left is of horse meat sushi. The raw meat is supposedly sweet.

Please choose one of the following that closest matches your beliefs (I can't exactly enter all the permutations):

Tomorrow I'll get back on track with the book club! I promise...

Monday, March 17, 2008

Save a horse, eat a cowboy

Look into my eyesNo, I'm not actually proposing you eat a cowboy, unless you are a fan of Ree's site and well, I'll leave it at that.

Anyway, for those of you not following along there is a bill languishing in the Senate (S. 311) to ban horse meat for human consumption. The text of the bill reads that S. 311 "amends the Horse Protection Act to prohibit the shipping, transporting, moving, delivering, receiving, possessing, purchasing, selling, or donation of horses and other equines to be slaughtered for human consumption."

According to the USDA, in 2006 about 100,000 horses were sold in auctions and killed in the three slaughter facilities in the U.S. that existed at that time. Last year Illinois banned horse slaughter and a federal court upheld Texas law that prohibits the slaughter of horses for human consumption, thereby shutting down all three of those slaughterhouses.

The Humane Society states that despite these actions:

The horse slaughter industry continues to haul American horses to slaughter in Mexico and Canada. Our horses are forced to endure an agonizing transport, and once they arrive at the slaughter plant, they are stabbed to death or suffer multiple gun shots to the head.

This delicacy for foreign diners is offensive to many Americans who hold horses with the same regard as other beloved pets and animals. However, this is not true for many individuals who make money off the horse trade and see the slaughter as a necessary evil.

What are your thoughts on this issue? Should horses be protected from human consumption or should we see horseburgers being served in the school lunchroom?

If you want to take action and let your Congressperson know that you support the bill, you can do so here. This link also contains a (somewhat graphic) video explaining the process of shipping horses to Mexico for slaughter.

For the record, Obama, McCain and Clinton cosponsored the bill. It looks like all three of them have at least some horsesense.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Tightening the belt

With the cost of a barrel of oil rising at a substantial pace, the price of milk, meat and grain is also up as is, not surprisingly, gasoline.

Clearly, the costs used for this graphic on the left must be for conventional products. I don't know when was the last time I paid so little for organic, pasture-raised chicken eggs.

Anyway, which of the following changes would you be most willing to make in order to help make ends meet?

Photo courtesy of

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Project Nowaste - The History of Garbage, Part 2

1920s garbage truck used by King County, WAIt's been a few weeks since I posted The History of Garbage, Part 1 and I figured it's about time I followed up with more of the story.

When I last left off, I was describing how in 1900, American cities began to estimate and record collected wastes. According to one estimate, each American produced annually up to 1,400 pounds per person. Around the same time, 180 garbage incinerators were built in cities across the U.S. and small and medium sized towns built piggeries, where swine were fed fresh or cooked garbage.

Here are some of the highlights of the first half of the 20th Century, including some new "disposable" inventions:

As early as 1904, large-scale aluminum recycling began in Chicago and Cleveland while Montgomery Ward started mailing out 3 million catalogues weighing four pounds each. By 1916, major cities estimated that of the 1,000 to 1,750 pounds of waste generated by each person per year, 80% was coal and wood ash. During the 1920s, "reclaiming" or filling wetlands near cities with garbage, ash and dirt became a popular disposal method.

In the 1930s, polystyrene and Plexiglas were invented, a new plastic called polyvinyl chloride was introduced, and disposable sanitary pads were developed by Kimberly Clark. Additionally, the DuPont Company patented nylon, the world's first synthetic fiber. Its strength, resistance to moisture and mildew, and good recovery after stretching lead to its use in stockings, electrical parts, power tools and car accessories.

Back in 1933, communities on the New Jersey shore sought and obtained a court order forcing New York City to stop dumping garbage in the Atlantic Ocean, but this applied only to municipal waste, not commercial or industrial wastes.

The 1940s brought WWII rationing as well as Styrofoam, ballpoint pens and the aerosol can. On the other hand, the amount of coal and wood ash in the garbage dropped down to 43% of New York City's refuse.

Capping off the first half of the 20th Century, the Fresh Kills landfill was opened in Staten Island, New York. It later became the world's largest city dump. Fresh Kills and the Great Wall of China are the only man-made objects visible from space.

This era can best be summed up by J. Gordon Lippincott, an industrial designer:

"Our willingness to part with something before it is completely worn out is a phenomenon noticeable in no other society in history... It is soundly based on our economy of abundance. It must be further nurtured even through it runs contrary to one of the oldest inbred laws of humanity, the law of thrift."

Friday, March 14, 2008

Eco Hottie of the Week

Mr. Matt DamonI've decided to start a new series to celebrate some of those men and women out there that are doing things with their notoriety to help advance environmental issues and awareness.

Like it or not, celebrities wield a tremendous amount of influence over the public and, in some cases, are doing a lot of good. But don't worry, along the way I'll highlight some folks with a little less celebrity, because they are, none-the-less, important in getting the message across.

This week's target, I mean, Eco Hottie, is Matt Damon.

Who: Matt Damon

What: Actor, Academy Award Winner (Best Screenplay)

Why: In addition to supporting ONE, a campaign fighting AIDS and poverty in Third World countries and being a founding member of Not On Our Watch, an organization that focuses global attention and resources to stop and prevent mass atrocities such as in Darfur, Matt is also the founder of H2O Africa Foundation, the charitable arm of the Running the Sahara expedition focusing on creating widespread public awareness of the water crisis in Africa and gathering support for clean water programs in critical areas. This is a project I wholeheartedly support.

Oh yeah, and if that weren't enough, he is a board member of GreenDimes, an organization that attempts to halt the tons of junk mail delivered to American homes each day.

Quotable: Matt sums up his charitable endeavors by saying, "You get a certain amount of celebrity capital and you can choose to spend it however you want. You can sell shampoo or try and enrich yourself. You can do a lot of things, but this is a great way to spend that capital."

So, next time you see Matt, know that he's not just a pretty face - there's a brain and a lot of heart working in there, too.

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

Have a green St. Patty's Day dinner

Irish Soda BreadTraditionally, people all over the U.S. like to have a green St. Patty's Day. But, in contrast to the tradition, which must be the result of someone's fervent love of the shades of shamrock, I'm wishing you all an environmentally green holiday.

So, how do you go about greening up St. Patty's Day?

1. Go ahead and eat green food. Just make sure it is naturally green. Try to add in spinach, peas, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, green onions, kiwis and avocados (whatever has the least carbon imprint for you area).

2. I don't advocate adding green food coloring to anything, no matter how much you want to have it fit the "theme". If you must color it, make sure you choose a product that is "natural", using vegetable and plant extracts only.

3. Choose an organic or natural corned beef. This may be hard to come by, depending on where you live, but check with your local natural foods market or a Whole Foods. The search is definitely worth it.

4. Make sure your spuds are green. No, not the green potatoes with toxins. But those grown sustainably with no chemicals. Your liver will thank you.

5. Make your own Irish Soda Bread. It's pretty damn simple and oooooh, so much better than what you can buy in the stores. Unless you live in Brooklyn. Don't forget to make your own butter.

6. Get your head on straight and buy organic cabbage. Even if you believe the argument that eating organic cabbage isn't as important as choosing organic for the dirty dozen, it's the agricultural practices and their problems that you need to consider, not just how contaminated the food is with pesticides.

7. Speaking of head, don't forget the beer. I have to admit I'm not a big beer fan, but I do like me some Guinness. Look for a local brewery who does an organic beer.

8. Make sure you don't use disposable dishes, glassware, silverware or napkins. If you don't have enough, ask your guests to bring some to the party.

9. Try a St. Patty's Day fun run or walk if there's one in your area and it's not too late to enter. How is this green? Well, maybe the extra exercise will inspire you to eat less for dinner. The result is you'll have more leftovers to reduce your food impact later in the week. Also, you'll not only burn off a little of the excess corned beef if you do go overboard, but you'll be just a tad healthier for it.

10. Enjoy the time you have with friends and family, enjoying great food and company. What could be more green friendly than that?

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Interview Dave Wann!

Simple ProsperityThat's right, peeps! You, my dear readers, will soon get the opportunity to interview the author of Affluenza and Simple Prosperity.

How's this, you ask? Well, Dave contacted me the other day and, as a result, I arranged to have him answer reader submitted questions on my blog. I'll give you the full details next week, but the gist of it all is that I'll be running a contest from March 24th through March 31st.

Readers will submit questions and I'll choose half a dozen questions to submit for Dave to answer. You can ask him as difficult a question as you like. For those people chosen for their questions, we'll be giving away copies of his new book, Simple Prosperity.

So, start firing up those braincells and think up some good questions for him. Your question may just win you a book.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

In Defense of Food book discussion (Part II)

In Defense of FoodThis week's book club post is the third installment of the In Defense of Food discussion posts.

Part II
Chapter 1. The Aborigine in All of Us - In 1982, Kerin O'Dea ran an experiment on ten Aborigine volunteers in Western Australia. She wanted to see if temporarily returning these individuals to their traditional lifestyles would reverse the health problems they had incurred since they moved out of the bush and started partaking in a more Western lifestyle.

Since leaving the bush, all ten members of the cohort had developed type 2 diabetes and elevated levels of triglycerides in their blood (a risk factor for heart disease). The Aborigines returned to their homeland and went back to their increased activity levels and traditional foods acquired via hunting and gathering. These methods resulted in a very large variety of foods consisting of foodstuffs such as fish, shellfish, birds, turtles, crocodile, yams, figs and honey among other things. These individuals had gone from a Western diet consisting of flour, sugar, rice, carbonated drinks, alcohol, powdered milk, cheap fatty meats, potatoes, onions and other fruits and vegetables.

The end result was that, after seven weeks, all had lost weight (an average of 18 pounds), lowered their blood pressure and their triglyceride levels had returned to normal. Additionally, all the metabolic abnormalities of type II diabetes were either greatly improved or completely normalized.

The thing that is amazing is that it only took seven weeks to reverse the damage done. What does this mean for the rest of us? Can you extrapolate the results of individuals adapted to a specific environment and dietary habits and apply it to Westerners? Did reading this chapter give you a sense of hope that the issues with the Western diet can be reversed if we adhere to a diet consisting of non-processed whole foods?

Chapter 2. The Elephant in the Room - In this chapter, Pollan is referring to the pattern of eating what we call the Western diet as the elephant in the room. The effect of this diet is that people suffer substantially higher rates of cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and obesity. So, when individuals adopt the Western diet, these problems creep up all too quickly. In other words, immigrants from nations with low rates of chronic disease acquire these health issues quickly.

In 1939, Weston Price published the results of his research in working with isolated populations. As a dentist, he noted that people who ate a traditional diet needed no dentists whatsoever. He found little or no evidence of chronic disease, tooth decay or malformed dental arches. One thing that he found was that these groups were eating substantially more amounts of vitamins A and D.

Price's conclusion after years of research was that modern civilization had sacrificed much of the quality of food in the interest of quantity and shelf life. Interestingly, he found that groups that ate diets of wild animal flesh (or milk, meat and blood of pastured cattle) were generally healthier than agriculturalists who relied on cereals and other plant foods.

In general, it would appear that humans can thrive on a variety of different diets, but the Western diet isn't one of them. What does this mean for you? Are you willing to stay on the standard Western diet and continue risking heart disease, diabetes, cancer and who knows what else? Has reading this made you decide to eat better or confirmed your actions if you already are eating a healthy diet? If you want to get off the Western diet bandwagon, do you know where to start?

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Food priorities poll

Oh, bountiful foodsI went to a talk last week about making environmentally friendly food choices and came away with quite a few ideas that I'll be sharing with you over the next few weeks. One thing the speaker mentioned that I found to be very interesting was a poll regarding what people valued when making food choices.

I thought it would be interesting to run a food priorities poll of my own. Please make only 3 choices (the polling software allows you to choose all of the options, but I would like you to limit it to 3).

And the goodies go to...

Thanks to all of you for entering into the giveaway contests this week. Here are the winners:

Soyabella Automatic Soymilk Maker:

Lucky #13
And the winner of the Soyabella is #13: Emily

Roadrunner Showerhead by Evolve:

Lucky #47
And the winner of the showerhead is #47: Svanderw

What to Eat, by Marion Nestle:

Lucky #24
And the winner of What to Eat is #24: Krista

Simple Prosperity, by David Wann:

Lucky #43
And the winner of Simple Prosperity is #43: Theresa. How in the world do you keep winning these things, woman? Did you sell your soul to the random number generator gods?

For all you winners out there, email me at with your contact info and I'll send your goodies on their merry way. Congratulations to you all!

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Greatest search engine criteria ever

Feel like searching for "Crabby Bowels"?

Look who comes up first:
CNN Search

I'm so proud *sniff*.

More awards

Muy excelente!I've got another batch of awards to announce. Instead of officially passing these along, please take a stroll through the list on my right navbar for other green blogs to read.

Excellent Blog Award from Arduous

The Your Blog is a Treasure Award from Shedding the Wolf

Excellent Blog Award from Green Bean Dreams

Blogging with a Purpose from Shannon's Sharing

Excellent Blog Award from Loving Green

And, if you haven't checked out the blogs mentioned in this post, why don't you saunter over there now and see what they're up to?

Project Nowaste - trimming the adipose

Project NOWASTEIn a nod to Chile's Trim the Fat Challenge from last month, this week's Project Nowaste post is talking about well, trimming the fat.

As such, how are you all doing? I know I checked in a couple weeks ago to see how things were faring on the "consume less, lose weight" part of Project Nowaste. I'm hoping that people are having some success since the last time the reports coming in were mostly grim.

As for me, I've gotten back on track and have managed to lose 5 pounds since the beginning of the year. It's nothing spectacular, and I'm quite aware of the risk of it sliding back on, but it is motivating. How did I do it? Good, old fashioned calorie counting. Exercise is still mostly out since, even though my back is okay now, I have a fabulous chest cold. Talk about consumption of a different sort.

It's seems like we are always constantly bombarded by holiday goodies in grocery stores. Perhaps this is another good reason to shop at farmers markets. You usually don't see the holiday displays of processed sugar foods! February has Valentine's and Easter is coming up fast. Not that we should be expecting large Easter baskets as adults, but the enormous displays of candies, chocolates and childhood favorites makes it hard to pass up.

So, how's the adipose attrition on your end?

Friday, March 7, 2008

Friday giveaway - books!

Today wraps up the giveaway bonanza celebrating this blog's first anniversary. You can still enter to win the Soyabella Soy and Nutmilk Machine and the Evolve Roadrunner Showerhead. All the giveaway contests (including today's) ends at 6:00 pm PST, Friday, 3/7.

Today's giveaway is a couple books.

The first book is What to Eat (publish date 4/17/07), written by the nutritionist Marion Nestle who has received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the James Beard Foundation and teaches nutrition at NYU.

In What to Eat, Nestle explains that the increasing confusion among the general public about what to eat comes from two sources: experts who fail to create a holistic view by isolating food components and health issues, and a food industry that markets items on the basis of profits alone.

She suggests that, often, research findings are deliberately obscure to placate special interests. Nestle says that simple, common-sense guidelines available decades ago still hold true: consume fewer calories, exercise more, eat more fruits and vegetables and, for today's consumers, less junk food.

This book makes for great companion reading to In Defense of Food.

Simple ProsperityThe second book is written by one of the authors of Affluenza. In David Wann's new book, Simple Prosperity (publish date: 12/26/07), he shows us how we can overcome affluenza to recapture a more abundant and sustainable lifestyle without sacrificing everything you love.

This book will give you the courage to trim down all the excess and make significant changes to your lifestyle to make room for the things you really value. If you enjoyed reading Affluenza, then this book makes for a great follow-up on how to implement the ideas presented in the first book.

There will be two drawings in today's giveaway. One for Simple Prosperity and one for What to Eat.

And, for those who have not been following along, to participate in the giveaway, just enter your name in the comments for this post to be entered in a random drawing. If there is a book you don't want, make sure you also include that in your comment. The drawing ends Friday 6:00 p.m. PST. I'll announce the winners for all the giveaways on Sunday.

Good luck to you all and here's to another year of eco-craziness!

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Thursday giveaway

And the blog anniversary fun continues! For those who missed yesterday's post, I'm celebrating the one year anniversary of writing this blog. You can still enter the giveaway for yesterday, where I am giving away the fabulous Soyabella Soy and Nutmilk maker (you have until Friday). To enter, just leave your name in yesterday's post.

RoadrunnerToday, I'm giving away the Road Runner super magical low-flow showerhead by Evolve (retail $38.95). You can read my review here.

Now, I may have complained about its prickly nature, but I've been told by the company that it's possible that my water pressure is too high. Irregardless, my friends, I'm sticking to my cheapo low-flow showerknobule and passing the bounty onto one lucky reader.

Again, to participate in the giveaway, just enter your name in the comments for this post to be entered in a random drawing. The drawing ends Friday 6:00 p.m. PST. I'll announce the winner on Sunday.

Friday's giveaway: Books!

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Crunchy Chicken turns one

This blog has seen a lot over the last year. It went from constantly pooping all over itself and spitting up, to eating solids and standing up.

Yeah, I know. That is a fairly nutty analogy, but that's probably why you read this blog. It's a mixed bag of commentary, suggestions, activism and good old-fashioned hornswoggling you into doing things you weren't really planning on.

Hoy hay mucho que celebrar! As such, I've decided to embark on a few days of giveaways.

SoyabellaYou see, over the year, I've received samples of stuff or bought things to try out that didn't work out. So, in the spirit of reuse, I'm giving away some very lightly used items that I don't use or need.

Today's giveaway: Soyabella Automatic Soymilk Maker and Coffee Grinder (retail $140)

So, how does one enter today's giveaway? No math tests or, really, any brain cells at all are required. Just enter your name in the comments to be entered in a random drawing. The drawing ends Friday 6:00 p.m. PST. I'll announce the winner on Sunday.

Thursday's giveaway: A little something, something I recently reviewed

Friday's giveaway: Books! You know you want them!

Thanks to all you readers out there. You make my day shiny and bright. Well, most of you anyway...

[Update: There's nothing wrong with the soymilk maker, I just found that I don't drink enough to warrant the time spent making it. It also makes pretty much any other kind of nut milk you want. And soup. And it doubles as a floor wax. And a dessert topping.]

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Affluenza book discussion (chapters 15 - 18)

Affluenza: The All-Consuming EpidemicHere is the discussion post for the fourth installment of the Affluenza, The All-Consuming Epidemic book club. This post begins Part Two: Causes.

Chapter 15. Original Sin - In this chapter, the authors argue that affluenza isn't a part of human nature. That, in studying hunter-gatherers or more "primitive" cultures, the individuals and communities rely on very few possessions and are quite happy without amassing huge quantities of stuff.

But their lifestyle, moving from place to place as food and water sources warrant, really prevents them from acquiring too many things. What do you think? Are humans innately wired for possessing tons of things they don't need? Are the groups mentioned in the book merely not affected by affluenza because it's impractical and, given the ability to stay rooted in one place (with no other changes) would they hoard materials just like the rest of us?

Chapter 16. An Ounce of Prevention - Early Americans came to the New World in search of a Christian commonwealth based on simple living. Over the years, this idealism crumbled as delineations in wealth grew between the Americans and the British. By the time of the industrial revolution, the push for automation under the guise of higher production in less work time resulted in longer workdays rather than shorter ones as employers, greedy for more, exploited their employees.

Indeed, the concept of "more through exploitation" is accomplished by exposing consumers to affluenza. Modern advertising creates "imaginary appetites", using sex to sell as well as appealing to one's depravities. Karl Marx had suggested that too many goods results in too many useless people. And Thoreau stated that the luxuries and comforts of life are not only indispensable but also a hindrance to the elevation of mankind.

So, if the intention of many individuals and philosophers was a focus on the simple life, how did we become such out-of-control consumers? Did the influence of a few really affect the rest? Or were they preying on some deep-rooted desire for not just more stuff, but more stuff acquired through just the right approach and advertising?

Chapter 17. The Road Not Taken - The factory systems of the late 1800s pushed Americans to a crossroads. With all this efficiency came the choice of what to do with all that extra time? On one hand, you could make more stuff and on the other, you could work less. Luxury or simplicity. Money or time.

If given the choice of living a more simple life and working less, which would you (or do you) choose?

Chapter 18. An Emerging Epidemic - During World War II, Americans knuckled under and accepted rationing and deprivation, limiting their consumption and driving and growing their own food with victory gardens. After the war, an economic boom erupted, fueled by low-interest government loans and pent-up economic demand.

An era of consumption had begun and along with it was the increase in production of products created with "planned obsolescence" in mind. In other words, products were manufactured to last only a short time so that they would have to be replaced frequently. Products were continually upgraded, more so in style rather than quality.

And, how did Americans finance all this stuff? With consumer loans, providing tremendous purchasing power that theoretically resulted in a higher standard of living. Or so the story goes. Next up came shopping malls and televisions in every home. With advertising, manufacturers were convincing consumers through creative ads that their product was not only necessary, but better, convenient and disposable.

John Kenneth Galbraith suggested that our emphasis on private opulence led to public squalor with declining transit systems, schools, parks, libraries and air and water quality. Is it possible to have both individual wealth and public wealth? Are the two mutually exclusive or is this something that society can achieve?

Monday, March 3, 2008

Fix the Farm Bill

Fix the Farm BillThe op-ed piece recently published in the NY Times titled, My Forbidden Fruits and Vegetables, is really grinding my crackers.

It illustrates how completely short-sighted the commodity program in the Farm Bill is. In brief, farmers are not allowed to grow non-commodity produce (anything but corn, soybeans, rice, wheat and corn) on commodity land, limiting their ability to provide fresh produce to local markets.

The effect for some farmers is that they can't grow it at all because they get penalized the market value of the crop, and run the risk that those acres will be permanently ineligible for any subsidies in the future. In essence, farmers wanting to meet the demand for locally grown produce by branching out into tomatoes, watermelons and thousands of other fruits and vegetables get punished.

I encourage you to read the piece in its entirety to get a better understanding of how hogtied farmers are by Congressional delegations from the big produce states. This sort of circumstance completely warrants letting our congressmen and women know that this is not acceptable.

As such, I'm starting a campaign to get the message across. Please post the "Fix the Farm Bill" button banner* on your blog, linking back to the following letter for readers to copy and paste and send to their local members of congress.

Dear Sir or Madam,

It has recently come to my attention, after reading the op-ed piece, "My Forbidden Fruits and Vegetables" in The New York Times (, that the Farm Bill is doing a disservice to the hardworking farmers of this country.

This piece, written by a small farmer, illustrates the barriers that farmers have in branching out into other produce grown on commodity land and getting it sold in local markets. I find it disheartening, given the demand for healthy, local foods, that consumers do not have easy access to the bounty that could be grown locally. Instead, large growers seem to have a monopoly on produce grown thousands of miles away.

The author states:

"The commodity farm program effectively forbids farmers who usually grow corn or the other four federally subsidized commodity crops (soybeans, rice, wheat and cotton) from trying fruit and vegetables. Because my watermelons and tomatoes had been planted on 'corn base' acres, the Farm Service said, my landlords were out of compliance with the commodity program.

I’ve discovered that typically, a farmer who grows the forbidden fruits and vegetables on corn acreage not only has to give up his subsidy for the year on that acreage, he is also penalized the market value of the illicit crop, and runs the risk that those acres will be permanently ineligible for any subsidies in the future...

[Additionally,] the federal farm program is making it next to impossible for farmers to rent land to me to grow fresh organic vegetables. Why? Because national fruit and vegetable growers based in California, Florida and Texas fear competition from regional producers like myself. Through their control of Congressional delegations from those states, they have been able to virtually monopolize the country’s fresh produce markets."

As my local representative, I urge you to address this matter. If you are not familiar with the details of this issue, please read the complete op-ed piece.

Finally, this is not only an agriculture issue but an energy issue as well. For the most part, buying local produce rather than shipping it in from thousand of miles away, saves a tremendous amount of carbon emissions.


John Q. Public
Your address here
City, State Zip
Email address

For a different take on the letter, check out the one on Burbanmom's blog.

*Here is the code for the button banner to add to your blog:

<a href=""> <img src="" alt="Fix the Farm Bill"/></a>

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Enviro movie poll

Just a quick, simple poll for you today...

Why did you vote for the one you did? What about it made such an impact for you? What other movies do you recommend?

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Project Nowaste - extra weight and CO2 emissions

Project NOWASTEWhen I first started posting about Project Nowaste, I said that I would give you calculations as to how much your extra weight translated into carbon costs. Now, this is rather difficult to calculate but I can give some ballpark figures to give you an idea of the damage. For clarification, I'm basing these calculations off of calorie expenditures for a sedentary person (an active person will require more calories).

In this example, I'm using a person who is 6'0" tall and 20 pounds overweight (that would be me)*. Those twenty pounds equals roughly an extra 100 calories per day to maintain that weight. That's assuming I'm just lumping around all day and not exercising, which is, in fact, what's been happening.

This equals an annual total of about 36,000 extra calories per year. Now, that's a lot of butter and candied orange peels.

Now, how does 36,000 extra calories translate into CO2 emissions**?

134.4 pounds of CO2 emitted per year if you eat the average American diet
71.68 pounds of CO2 emitted per year if you eat a lacto-ovo vegetarian diet
11.2 pounds of CO2 emitted per year if you eat a vegan diet

Since I eat mostly a lacto-ovo vegetarian diet with a little organic meat thrown in occasionally, it's probably about 90 pounds of CO2 emitted per year. Of course, if you grow your own food, this throws the numbers off (reducing them as a percentage of the total food calories you eat from your backyard). But for the sake of this calculation, let's assume I get all my calories from the store.

What does 90 pounds really compare to? Well, the average fridge emits 448 pounds of CO2 per year. So, it doesn't seem like a significant amount. Until you start adding up all the overweight people. Why is it that no one ever takes into consideration obesity or being overweight when calculating a person's carbon footprint? Because it's too hard to calculate?

In any case, it would appear that we are completely underestimating the carbon costs of, what, over 66% of the population.

If there are 230 million adults in the U.S., then there are about 152 million overweight adults. If, on average, those overweight adults consume 100 extra calories per day (although I suspect the average is higher), then that's about 13.7 billion pounds of CO2 emitted every year. Or 6.1 million tons*** (someone check my math, I'm getting punchy). And that's only if they eat like me (mostly vegetarian).

Clearly, this isn't the most scientific of studies. I'm not including the impact of overweight kids and I'm taking a lot of liberties with numbers and averages. Either way, this is definitely something that needs to be addressed.

Do these numbers surprise you?

*You can use the following for a calculation of your personal basal metabolic rate (or what you burn if you are just lolling about). To get the difference in calories you require for being overweight, calculate using your current weight and then using what you should weigh:

655 + (4.3 x weight in lbs) + (4.7 x height in inches) - (4.7 x age) = ____ calories

**These calculations are based on the fact that there are:
1.382 kg of CO2 emitted per 180 calories for beef
.02 kg of CO2 emitted per 180 calories for corn syrup
.5kg of CO2 emitted per 180 calories CO2 for milk

If you ate an extra 2,000 calories a day to support your weight, this would lead to extra annual emissions of 1.2 tonnes of CO2 if you ate the average American diet, .65 tonnes on a lacto-ovo vegetarian diet and .1 tonnes on a vegan diet.

***There are 2,240 lb in one ton.