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!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Greener travel

As many of you know, I leave for NYC today. Of course, I've thought about the environmental impact of the air travel and other transportation.

We could take the bus and transfer to the new light rail to get to the airport, but considering all the trips and transfers we'll be doing, I've opted for taking a taxi. But, we're not taking one of those stinky, gas-guzzling cars - I managed to find a taxi company that uses hybrid cars. Priuses, actually.

For our flight, we are flying non-stop, which has less impact than a layover. Plus, we save time and my sanity (I hate flying). In order to mitigate the CO2 emissions, I'll be offsetting it through Terrapass. For two passengers from Seattle to Newark on non-stop round-trip flights it's 9,573 miles and that equates to 3,734 lbs of CO2. Yikes!

Through Terrapass' program, it costs $24 to offset the carbon. In return, the money supports clean energy and other projects that reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Their offset portfolio consists of a mix of clean energy, farm power and landfill gas capture. But, if you want to decide the quantities of these projects yourself, you can build your own portfolio. I will be setting it up so that my money supports clean energy and landfill gas capture.

And, while we are in NYC, we'll be taking public transportation and, for the most part, walking everywhere. Our hotel has a program to reduce the amount of stuff, like towels and sheets, that gets changed. And, finally, we'll be hunting out restaurants that serve local and/or organic food.

Have you guys purchased travel offsets?

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Order your holiday turkeys now

Turkeys? In the middle of summer? No, I'm not nuts. If you have any interest in sharing a heritage, pasture raised turkey with your family this holiday season you have to think ahead. And, I'm not talking about a few weeks before Thanksgiving. I'm talking now. In fact, in some areas you may be already too late.

Most farms that hand raise your very own special bird needs your support and order now so they not only know how many to raise, but they need to start doing it now so that they are ready for the holidays. It's not like turkeys magically appear in November, although it certainly seems that way with our current food system.

Why bother with this harder to find, more expensive bird? Well, flavor for one. Pasture raised heritage birds taste a whole lot better than your generic supermarket broad breasted bird that can't walk and forgot how to have sex. Your heritage turkey will undoubtedly have had a more peaceful existence munching on bugs, grubs and vegetation rather than antibiotic-laced turkey feed.

From the Seattle Times:
Turkey used to have taste. But that was before turkeys were genetically honed to be not much more than a giant hunk of white meat on stubby legs. Today's conventionally-raised turkey is a freak of nature that, left on its own, would not live a year.

Most turkeys eaten by Americans today are a single variety: the Broad-breasted White. It's a bird bred to grow fast, with huge amounts of breast meat. It's so top heavy in the cleavage it can't walk right; the most it can manage is a waddle. It can't fly, jump or run. And it's so corpulent and misshapen the poor thing can't even copulate; Broad-breasted Whites have to be artificially inseminated.

Where do you find a farmer that sells heritage turkeys? Well, Local Harvest is a good place to start. To read a taste test of a range of different turkeys (from Butterball to Heritage), check out this NY Times article.

Think a heritage bird is too expensive or too fussy? Well, the price of these turkeys represents the true cost of raising an animal in a humane and appropriate manner, rather than an industrialized, genetically modified affair (and by that I mean bred for boobs rather than flavor). So, if the price is too high for you, buy a smaller bird and skimp in other areas. Do you really need all those other dishes and pies anyway?

Okay, now get back to your summer filled with watermelon, blackberries and lemonade...

Monday, July 27, 2009

Greening your pelvic exam

I ran across this post the other day and was surprised to learn that there was such a thing as a disposable plastic speculum. For those of you who have no idea what I'm talking about and the image to the left doesn't ring a bell, a speculum is the thing a doctor inserts in a woman during a pelvic exam, during a pap smear and for generally taking a peek around the ol' puddietat. My experience has always only been with a metal speculum, the kind that gets autoclaved and reused countless times on other unsuspecting victims, er, patients.

A plastic speculum seems to be a giant waste of plastic and a wholly unnecessary one at that. If you think about it, the minimum recommended number of pap smears over a woman's lifetime is something like 23. Add in other pelvic exams and the number is much higher.

As a snapshot, there are currently 150 million females living in the US. If all our doctors used a disposable plastic speculum, that would be 3.5 billion speculums going into the landfill by the end of all our lives. Wow, what a legacy to leave behind, huh? If this sounds like a weird thing to focus on, it's really not, because it's something that has a relatively easy to acquire alternative - the stainless steel speculum. The one that was routinely in use before cheap plastics came along.

So, what to do about this? Well, the next time you get a pap smear, talk to your doctor about your preference for a metal speculum. If you are concerned about it being cold, they can place it in warm water beforehand (that's what my doctor does). Discuss your concern for medical waste. There are some things we can't reuse (IV tubing for example), but this one seems like a no brainer. Plus, there's less risk of it cracking or breaking. The last thing I want are shards of plastic lacerating my lady bits. Finally, the plastic speculums tend to not slide as easily as the stainless steel variety, thereby necessitating more lubrication or resulting in a more painful pelvic exam.

If you are a guy reading this, you aren't off the hook either. I'm sure you have a mother, sister, wife, daughter or female friend in your life that could use some educatin'. And, nothing really brings family and folks together better than getting some helpful tips about pelvic exams from a dude.

What kind of speculum does your doctor use?

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Men and carbon footprint reduction

Well, since we were focusing on men yesterday I figure we should do another "all things man" today. As it was clear from many of the answers given, women hold a certain influence over what the man in their life uses from shampoo to soap and beyond.

But, what kind of influence do you have over them when it comes to other things? Have you been able to help them reduce their carbon footprint or are they the one instigating it? And, if you are one of my male readers, are you the one leading the climate saving efforts at home?

Here are some more questions for you (if you are "the guy" answer for yourself):

1. Does your guy help with cooking/food purchase choices? Is he on board for buying local, sustainable, organic or less meat?
2. Is he interested in sustainable yard care - using an electric or push mower, no pesticides/fertilizers, or do you do it all?
3. Does he help if you grow some of your food at home?
4. Does he help with adaptations to your home to make it more energy efficient or environmentally friendly (low flow showerhead, use recycled paper products)?
5. Is he willing to take public transportation, walk/bike, telecommute or otherwise reduce his mileage?
6. Does he help with recycling, food composting and generally reducing waste?
7. Is he willing to turn off the lights when not in use, turn off the water when shaving or brushing teeth, keep the heat low and other conservation techniques?
8. Is he game for more "fringe" things like no poo, cloth wipes and the like?
9. Do you fight with him over these things or is he on board? If so, is he on board just to appease you or because he believes it's the right thing to do?

I'm always curious how people's partners react when their significant other makes lifestyle changes. Do they follow along or just ignore it and hope it goes away on its own? How much grief and/or marital strife does this cause? (I think Greenpa has a thing or two to contribute on this one :)

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Doing the dudes

I noticed that I usually only discuss women's beauty products and rarely men's and that's because most of my readers (not all, of course) are women. There are only a few guys I feel comfortable asking about their personal "beauty" routines, so I'm fairly ignorant about what men, in general, do.

And, unless you believe what you read in Details (that currently has an online article, A User's Guide to Man Boobs, which I'm sure is invaluable for those guys sporting a fine rack), I don't have much to go off of.

So, I thought I'd ask you for the real details if you are a man and, if you aren't, gimme the scoop about the dude(s) in your life. Feel free to answer anonymously if you are concerned about giving up the secrets of your (man's) toilette:

1. What kind of shampoo/conditioner does he use?
2. What kind of shaving equipment and products does he use? Does he shave/trim his body hair, too?
3. What kind of antiperspirant/deodorant does he use?
4. Does he use a specific soap, or whatever is in the shower?
5. Does he use a facial toner and if so, what kind?
6. Does he use an aftershave lotion and if so, what kind?
7. Does he use a moisturizer and if so, what kind?
8. Does he use any hair styling products and if so, what kind?
9. Does he use any kind of facial scrub/mask and if so, what kind?
10. Would you describe him as a manly man or a metrosexual or somewhere in between?

I can't believe I haven't asked this before. It all feels so anthropological!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Green makeover show update

For those of you who have been following along regarding my audition for the green makeover reality show, well, here's an update. I was almost going to chicken out of doing it, but since there was so much support from you all, I figured, what the hell, why not just give it a try, no?

I was apprehensive because I haven't done something like this before and I'm more comfortable writing. So, I prepared and had my thoughts together and the audition went well.

Anyway, to make a long story short, the audition must have gone decent enough since I am now officially a cast member of "Mission: Sustainable". My role is the Green Personal Care Consultant and the TV pilot will be shot in August. I guess the production schedule has slowed down a bit because they are trying to accommodate growing media interest about the show.

Since the pilot will only feature three of the nine or so consultants, it is highly possible that I won't be in the pilot, although, at the very least, I will be in the introduction. It is being filmed by ReGeneration Productions, led by the mighty Rose Thornton. I suspect the website will be updated soon with more info.

I'll keep you posted as I find out more and as things progress!

Monday, July 20, 2009

Sleeping Naked Is Green book club

Sleeping Nekkid is GreenSince it looks like 80 or so people are interested in the book club for Sleeping Naked Is Green, I might as well announce it now so you all have time to get your reading started in time.

I'm planning on starting the book club in August and moving through it fairly quickly with posts every week. I'll be covering the book in sections, with a synopsis and asking any suitable questions. Since you all historically seem to be fast readers and this is a quick read, we'll wrap it up in a month.

So, go get your books now before the Buy Nothing Challenge starts in August! Any questions?

Friday, July 17, 2009

Greenwashing your orange juice?

Yesterday, I was contacted by the PR firm for a large orange juice manufacturing company asking me to help promote something or other in exchange for a giveaway worth a $200 gift card for a high end outdoor apparel company. The hook was that the actor promoting their product was interested in green living.

As tempted as I was (on your behalf, of course), I failed to see the connection between the actor's personal interests and the company being green so I asked, since I had yet to see anything sustainable or organic about their products. I was forwarded some information on the company and how it was going green.

Basically, the primary message was that the company is "dedicated to using the Earth's natural resources in a responsible manner and has made sustainability part of its mission. The company works toward environmental sustainability by reducing, reusing and recycling whenever possible, and overall pursuing initiatives that help preserve the environment for generations to come."

It then went on to say how they have partnered with Cool Earth to help protect the rainforest and that they even went so far as to have the carbon footprint of each half gallon of OJ calculated. All laudable actions, but where's the juice?

Well, their cartons are made largely of a renewable resource (85% paper and 15% polymer). Umm. Okay. How about using recycled materials? That would certainly be considered a bigger commitment. Saying they are using a renewable resource like virgin paper products is certainly better than, say, using plutonium, but is that really something they should be tooting their horn about?

Most of the other things mentioned certainly have a positive environmental impact as a result (like recycling and reducing water usage) but, underlying it all I would gather is the cost savings resulting from reducing operations, packaging and energy costs.

Finally they state, "a driving force behind this mission is Pepsico's Performance with Purpose approach: injecting a commitment to social and environmental performance into all of its businesses."

Would that be... greenwashing?

The thing that would have the biggest impact in showing their commitment to the environment would be to source their oranges from producers using organic or sustainable growing practices, instead of their "save the rainforest" legerdemain. The reduction in pesticides alone would have a more positive impact than buying a few acres of rainforest.

But, that would make their product more expensive and they would lose market share. You see, a half gallon of Organic Valley Orange Juice (in my area) is $5.99. It'll cost ya $6.99 if you like pulp. Compare this to the mainstream stuff made from what I like to call, "downed oranges", which sells for $3.99. There's just not that big a market for high end OJ, methinks. And, it certainly looks better to pretend like you are a green company even if your products aren't so green. Or orange, for that matter.

Commitment to the environment? Maybe. Most likely it's a whole lot of business acumen coupled with a lot of greenwashing.

What do you think?

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Buy Nothing Challenge 2009

It's been a whole year since the last Buy Nothing Challenge, and hoo boy!, have I fallen off the wagon. With my hubs back to work full-time as of the end of June, I don't feel as financially strapped and so, well, forgive me people, but I have been spending like mad.

So, it's time to strap down that wallet and do another round of the Buy Nothing Challenge - the 2009 Edition. Last year I hosted two of these challenges and there were hundreds of people that participated. This year around, people are having more economic challenges of their own, so having a gang of readers pledging together to save money by not spending will hopefully help out your finances.

Like last year, here are the guidelines. For the month of August, you can buy:

* 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

This year I'm giving you a couple weeks to prepare, but that doesn't mean that you should go out and spend and hoard in preparation. In fact, I bet that once you sign up for this challenge, most likely you'll start watching what you are spending now. At least, that's what happened for most of the people who participated last year.

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.

Things that are okay
Necessary items like schools supplies and the like are okay, so don't panic about back-to-school items. Also, items used for canning and food storage are okay so don't worry if you are running low on pectin, mason jars and whatnot. If you have a vacation planned in August, just confess ahead of time accordingly. But that doesn't give you free reign to totally undo your efforts the rest of the month.

If you want to sign up for the challenge, leave a comment on this post 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 - August 2009" /></a>

For me, the hardest part is going to be eating out - mostly coffee shops. But this time, I'll limit myself to only buying drinks (so I don't get kicked out for using their free wifi), but will skip the food.

How about you? Are you ready to save some pennies?

Friday, July 10, 2009

Healthy food porn carnival - Garden scramble

Since Ruchi sort of, kind of, accused me and others of specializing in high-fat food porn, I'm taking her up on the challenge to present to you, my reading audience, a most delicious, yet healthy recipe. In the comments of her post I, and others, argued that there was no such thing as healthy food porn - that most of it looks like a steamy dung pile when photographed.

I wrote the following recipe post months ago when there was little growing in my garden and decided against posting it since the pictures looked, well, gross. But, to participate in Ruchi's Healthy Food Porn Carnival, I'm digging it up for your reading enjoyment. Unfortunately, I can't find the original pictures of the end result - probably because I deleted them since it looked like a steaming pile of crap.

Garden Scramble

Sure, this might not sound appealing to most people but it's what I've got growing in the garden this time of year. In other words, it's pretty slim pickings out there. I went out back last weekend since it looked like my napa cabbage had grown about 3 feet skywards underneath the floating row covers and I couldn't really tell what was going on in there. Needless to say, it had decided to flower, but there were quite a few tasty leaves growing along its girth. While I was out there I noticed that a few turnips were looking ripe for the picking (I planted all of this in the fall), so I pulled one, leaving the rest to get bigger, and clipped some sage.

I was planning on sauteeing the whole lot but, since I'm still in reclaiming food waste mode (from my Food Waste Reduction Challenge), I wanted to use up some of the leftover rice in the fridge. And what better matrix to hold it all together but some local eggs? My son, who was drawn to the pan by the pungent smell of cooking cabbage, exclaimed after looking at it, that it looked "like a mess". Well, he was right. But it was a delicious, and very healthy mess, nonetheless.

The whole point of this recipe is not that I'm expecting you to follow it exactly, since the ingredients are totally interchangeable, but that you can make a meal out of random garden vegetables and eggs. Just don't be shy about what you throw in there.

Garden Scramble

Napa cabage, chopped (about two fistfuls)
1 Turnip, grated
Turnip leaves from 1 turnip, chopped
1 T olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 eggs (or more depending on how much egg you want)
2 T tamari soy sauce
Black pepper to taste
1/2 cup cooked rice (optional)

Sautee the first three ingredients in olive oil that has been heated on medium in pan. Cook vegetables for about 5 minutes or until they look soft. Add in garlic and sautee for additional 30 seconds or until fragrant. Add eggs (you can just break them directly into pan) and scramble until eggs are mostly cooked through. Add leftover rice and heat through, the eggs should finish cooking during this time. Add black pepper to taste.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Going agave: an alternative to sugar

I've been hearing a lot about agave nectar lately and have been eyeballing it in the store for the last few months, but wasn't sure if it was worth purchasing. Basically, agave is more fructose than glucose and, as such, has a relatively low glycemic index which is important if you have special diet considerations.

In addition, the agave nectar products (at least the ones I've seen) are organic and kosher and pretty much give you the sweetness of sugar, but impart none of its own flavor. So, if you like the sweetness of honey, but don't like the way it makes everything taste like honey, then you'll like agave. How do I know this? Well, I had the opportunity to give it a try at my favorite tea bar in Ballard. I was impressed how much it tasted like sugar, went into the solution fairly quickly, but didn't leave an aftertaste or other flavor.

One other cool thing is that it has a long, stable shelf life and will not solidify. It pours quickly even when cold and it blends and dissolves readily in or on all foods. The claim is that it has approximately 1.4 times the sweetening power of white sugar, but I've found that it's more like 1:1.

So, if you are concerned about your consumption of sugar and/or glucose, you might want to give agave syrup a try. And, since it's basil time of the year, I thought I'd throw in a recipe mixing in a flavorful combination, a Basil Gimlet made with agave syrup.

This recipe was adapted from Rye in San Francisco and it is one of their most requested cocktails:

Basil Gimlet

6 fresh basil leaves
3 ounces Gin (I use local Dry Fly or Aviation)
3/4 ounce agave nectar
1 small lime, cut into eighths (or about 1 ounce fresh lime juice)

Method: In a shaker, muddle the fresh basil and the lime pieces. Remove the lime, squeezing out the remaining juice. Add in agave nectar, gin and ice. Shake vigorously and strain into martini glass. Garnish with fresh basil leaf.


Related books:
Baking with Agave Nectar
Sweet!: From Agave to Turbinado, Home Baking with Every Kind of Natural Sugar and Sweetener
BabyCakes: Vegan, (Mostly) Gluten-Free, and (Mostly) Sugar-Free Recipes from New York's Most Talked-About Bakery

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Sleeping Naked Is Green - review and book club

Sleeping Nekkid is GreenOur very own Green as a Thistle (aka Vanessa Farquharson) has written a book, Sleeping Naked Is Green, which is out now for your reading enjoyment. (Are those your legs, Vanessa, or did you use a body double?)

Reading through Vanessa's book, which, in many ways, chronicles her year of blogging about her one-a-day green changes, was very nostalgic for me since I read her blog religiously and remember many, if not all, of the posts she discusses in the book. That's not to say that the book is just a repeat of what's in her blog. Far from it. The book expands considerably on the changes she was making as well as provides more background on the effect the changes had on her life.

Arduous posted a review of the book yesterday as well and, for many, reading this book brings us back to that heady world two or so years ago when some of us green bloggers were just starting out: No Impact Man, Green as a Thistle, Little Blog in the Big Woods and Crunchy Chicken.

Vanessa's voice always stood out for a number of reasons: she represented the young and hip crowd. She's single with no kids and isn't a complete environmental nut job like some of the rest of us. Her writing has always been truthful and witty and made some of the most mundane of eco changes entertaining. She even managed to draw in readers outside the regular environmental circles.

For those of you who weren't reading along back then or are new to trying to green your personal lives and reduce your carbon footprint, then you'll find this book not only highly educational, but highly entertaining as well. I have to say that she's made a big impact in my life and has helped frame my own environmentalism. And, I can honestly say that I was seriously melancholy when she stopped blogging so she could write her book.

I'd like to propose having a mini book club in reading this book. I'd like to bring up highlights to discuss and to showcase some of the changes that she's made that have the most (or, should I say, least) impact. It would make for a great review and plus, it's Vanessa for crying out loud.

What say ye?

Are you interested in a Sleeping Naked Is Green book club?

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Edible flowers

We spent part of the day Sunday in Sequim, WA, which has got to be the lavender capital of the west coast, if not the U.S. Who needs Provence when you've got Dungeness Spit? Okay, well, maybe not.

When we got home from our trip from Port Townsend yesterday, we didn't have a whole lot of food in the house and, wanting to eat mostly vegetation after a weekend of eating out, I rummaged around in the garden and concocted a salad of mixed greens, green/red pepper, beans, and leek flowers. Leek flowers you say? Yes, they are edible and taste like a mix between garlic and onion.

Since I'm letting the leeks go to seed, we'll have a bunch more to eat and they are mighty tasty. I haven't had them before and had to search online to make sure they were edible, but I'm glad I took the time. Other edible flowers from your garden that you might like to check out are (some of these are obvious since they are from herbs):
  • basil
  • nasturtium
  • chive
  • dill
  • chamomile
  • hibiscus (this one I didn't know!)
  • lavender
  • marigold
  • rose petals
  • borage
  • dandelion
  • rosemary
  • marjoram
  • fennel (which is good to know since my fennel is starting to flower)
  • honeysuckle
  • day lillies
  • sage
  • squash blossoms
  • violets
  • johnny jump ups
  • yucca

Just make sure you only eat flowers from plants you can readily identify. Of course, my favorite is lavender. You can check out my recipe for Lavender Honey Lemonade if you are looking for a great summer drink! Since we picked a ton of lavender and I have a bunch to harvest from the backyard, we'll be making lavender shortbread and lavender scones here soon.

What's your favorite edible flower?

Related posts:
Lavender honey lemonade
Edible eco-lawnscaping
Plant therapy: aka fruit tree splurge

Related books:
Edible Flowers: From garden to kitchen: growing flowers you can eat
Edible Flowers: Desserts & Drinks
Cooking with Edible Flowers: Storey Country Wisdom Bulletin

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Make your own oil lamp

My olive oil lamp article is finally up on Mother Earth News if you want to check out how to make your own lamp using ordinary household materials and olive oil.

Let me know if you've made one before!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Cash 4 Grass

Apparently, California's drought is hitting an all time low (high?) such that the city of Los Angeles is now paying people $1 per square foot to replace their grass with a drought-resistant alternative.

Now, this program may not be as lucrative as the highly esteemed Cash 4 Gold scheme, but if you live in L.A. and you have between 200 to 2,000 square feet of living lawn (they don't want your old, dead lawn), the Department of Water and Power will pay you to get rid of it. This even includes your parking strip as well.

If you live in L.A. and you aren't taking advantage of this incentive program, considering the new drought ordinances that started in June, you are, well, a moron. I'm sorry for saying it to your face, but there you go. Either that, or you really like grass. And tickets.

Anyway, I think if they offered an equal incentive program in the city of Seattle, the turf would be flying so fast it would look like a meteor hit the place. Of course, I don't know where all that good old chemical laden L.A. turf will go to rest. The giant compost bin in the sky?

What about you? Would you remove your lawn if someone paid you to? And, remember, no one is saying you have to remove all of it.