What is…the buzz about sustainable palm oil?

December 15, 2010 · Filed Under Alternative Energy, Environment, Events, Green, Guest Posts, News

Ahhh, the renewable resource conundrum. How do you really deter

mine the renewability of a resource? By rate or regeneration? Availability? Potential to re-grow? Monetary investments to ‘renew’ it? Natural balance?

Palm Oil, the latest explosion on the renewables market came under scrutiny for being a root cause of severe deforestation. Greenpeace and other environmental groups internationally protested specific companies that were harvested palm oil in unsustainable methods. In a twofold act, there was a push to make palm oil sustainable to help secure the growing market for palm oil as well as to provide a viable long-term product. The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) formed to help provide guidelines based on a scientific understanding of the natural thresholds and best practices for harvesting palm oil.

The buzz? The Netherlands has publicly committed itself to be the first Country to use only sustainable palm oil by the year 2015. Companies have in turn been dropping Sinar Mas as a palm oil supplier after Greenpeace’s attacks on its questionable practices that may have led to severe deforestation. Among those companies Nestle, Cadbury, and Kraft were quick to drop the company. More progressive companies are themselves committing to responsible palm oil sourcing including Seventh Generation and General Mills.

Photo Credits 1 and Greenpeace.

Did you Celebrate 10/10/10?

October 12, 2010 · Filed Under Environment, Events, Green, Health

Oh the holiday season is upon us, and one of the most memorable for anyone concerned with cancer, food safety, and agriculture just passed. On October 10th, 2010 Non-GMO Day was celebrated worldwide with success and continues as October has been deemed “GMO-Free Month”. So what exactly was all the celebrating and food fighting about?


GMOs, or Genetically Modified Organisms, are most often plants that have been injected with genes from other species or synthetically developed strains to create a type of lab-made hybrid. The most famous example is when a tomato plant was given the genes from a fish, making the plant more tolerant. Although fascinating from a scientific prospective, these plants are grown with little research done on their long-term environmental and health impact. The reports don’t look promising for the GMO industry, but unfortunately they have large financial resources that have produced alternative propaganda in place of scientific research. It is often considered one of the most corrupt industries given the monopolies agriculture companies have and their tactics with farmers that work on leased land.

So Why the Celebration?

Many individuals have been determined since the advent of GMO-food to keep it out of their systems. European nations quickly banned it from trade quite some time ago, leaving the US to instead donate its excess of subsidized crops to third world nations. The ethics involved in these donations have been highly questioned. As American citizens, we are not protected from a government standpoint from GMO infiltration into our food, but we are given the option to “opt out’ of it through choosing organic food.

Learn More

Since food, genetics, and agriculture each have their own large respective industries and trade associations, it can be difficult to find information about the risks associated with GMOs. Your best source of information is the Institute for Responsible Technology to learn more about GMOs, what they are, and what issues you should be aware of going forward for your own health. If you are pregnant or have small children, it is highly recommended to review this information as the build-up of toxins and other things being injected into our food are not meant to be digested by our bodies.

A belated cheers to 10.10.10!

Photo Credit.

The Same Dress for 365 Days…

July 8, 2010 · Filed Under Clothing, Environment, Events, Green, Guest Posts, News, Pop Culture

A brilliant demonstration in social entrepreneurship and the fact that not all things need to be shiny and new came about through The Uniform Project. A female entrepreneur, Sheena Matheiken, decided to design a plain black dress to wear for 365 days in a row as a statement about eco-fashion, creativity, and to bring awareness to education. She designed a tunic-like dress that was reversible with a friend, made seven copies, and then made a blog and awareness campaign.

Goal: To wear the same dress for an entire calendar year.

Of course she spiced it up a bit with accessories and other pieces of clothing, but all of it was recycled, donated, or reused. Her goal was to raise money and awareness. Awareness around sustainable living, the uniqueness that a Uniform can encompass, and to support the Akanksha Foundation. This foundation is a grassroots movement that is changing education throughout India, and the money will specifically go toward funding uniforms and education expenses for children living in the slums of India.

She has fundraised over $103,000, in large part toward EBay matching all money donated during the holiday season. This is equivalent to the cost of sending 287 Indian children to school every year. Donations are still being accepted. Now that’s what I call a positive impact!

Check out her “uniform” transformation:

Check out her blog to watch the video of all 365 and beyond and to learn more!

Hooters and the Oil Spill: An Unlikely Match

June 17, 2010 · Filed Under Environment, Events, Homemade, News

Who knew that Hooters waitresses could make such a large difference in light of the Gulf Oil Spill disaster? Those good looking legs will help reduce 1 million gallons of oil from hitting the coastline. Not too bad, eh?

With a goal of donating 100,000 pairs of used pantyhose, they will contribute to Matter of Trust’s efforts to create booms that will spread 15 miles long that will essentially stop oil from reaching the coastline. The pantyhose will be laundered, patched, and then stuffed with hair, fur, and fleece.

Host a Boom B Q
These booms are not just for waitresses though! You can host a Boom B Q (instructions available on Matter of Trust’s website) to gather the ingredients to create a Boom. They offer YouTube videos and instruction sheets alike to help you contribute to reducing the impact of the oil spill.

Booms B Q

Lastly, you can also encourage your local salons to donate all hair clippings to Matter of Trust’s hair mat project. It is estimated that there are 370,000 salons nationwide that collect a minimum of 1 lbs of hair per day. That’s a lot of hair going to waste!

So get involved by encouraging local salons or hosting a Boom B Q to help take part in the mitigation efforts of our neighbors on the Coast!

Hands Across the Sand

June 15, 2010 · Filed Under Environment, Events
Hands Across the Sand

If you oppose offshore drilling and want to hold hands with other like-minded people, then I have found the perfect event for you!  Hands Across the Sand is “a gathering of American citizens opposed to near- and off-shore oil drilling in our waters.” Sponsors of the event include The National Audubon Society, The Sierra Club, and Greenpeace. As of the writing of this post, the event will take place in thirty-nine States and five countries (USA, Canada, Japan, Australia, and Great Britain).

  • Date: Saturday, June 26, 2010
  • Time: 12:00 p.m.
  • Who: Anyone who wants to make a visual statement about near- and off-shore drilling and is willing to hold hands with a stranger.
  • Where: Across the United States and around the globe.  Check out the Hands Across the Sand map.

I confess that I am not usually big on sign-holding, voice-raising activism.  But – especially in the wake of the oil disaster in the Gulf – I am planning to join in on Hands Across the Sand.

Eating Out, Farm to Table Style

May 17, 2010 · Filed Under Environment, Events, Food, Nutrition

Dreaming of locally skewered lamb, hand-picked heirloom tomatoes, and all the local farm’s had to offer I slept well the night before my big Farm to Table dinner. With lovingly-harvested potatoes jumping in my head, I tried to contain my excitement for the big event. Meal time is one of the human beings oldest traditions. The French take hours to eat delectable meals, the Italians pour their souls into their pasta and sauces, and I planned on soaking in the glory of local, organic food at a hip restaurant. I chose this restaurant not for its exquisite menu, or known sustainable practices, but because it was trendy, usually well-populated, and attracted a crowd not necessarily aware of the impact of their food decisions. Strategic? Yes.

As a food critique for the day, I wanted to uncover how a hippster restaurant presented their week of Farm to Table meal offerings. Could they jumpstart people into thinking more about where their food comes from outside of the grocery store? Would it encourage a localized change in the hip crowd’s diet? Would organic food grow in demand so much that the local farms wouldn’t be able to keep up? I had to know.

So I dressed in my hippiest of clothes, wrangled in a few friends who enjoy a good meal, and sat down to see what incredible things would unfold before my eyes…

First, they handed us menus, regular menus. Then upon looking at the reservation the hostess casually asked “you’re here for the farm thingy, arent’ you?” Hmm, not the inspired tone I was hoping for, but I smiled and said yes. She dug out some “special menus” just for us.

Food Plate

First Internal Question: Why were we the only ones graced with the Farm to Table menu? Why weren’t there big letters on their artsy chalkboards proclaiming that this week was Farm to Table week, and by goodness Earth Day too? Why wasn’t everyone given this oh-so-special menu when they sat down?

Hold it in. I’m sure she’s new! That’s why, she just didn’t know, and even though Earth Day is, well tomorrow, I am sure they meant to write something special on the chalkboards in celebration of this monumental event of our Earth. But you know how life gets away from us sometimes.

I perused the delicious menu for Farm to Table items, vegetables and pork and even a little chocolate bread pudding at the end. What to choose? The waitress informed me that I wouldn’t have to choose, you either get the whole Farm to Table meal or you don’t. Well, that was easy, I guess. So began our three course meal! Of course, I wanted to know where a few things were from, and if they were organic or just local. So I asked the waitress a question or two. She suddenly became a deer in headlights, not quite sure why I would ever want to know the answer to these questions. Apologetically, she said she could ask. They didn’t have much of an answer. So much for knowing your farmer.

Second Question: If you were hosting a Farm to Table meal, and someone called ahead to tell you that they had been asked to write about it, would you prepare your staff? Would you prepare your staff even if someone didn’t tell you they were going to write about it?

So my hopes of learning about the journey of our food was slightly deflated, but I would not be let down. I came here to eat deliciously local fresh food, and I plan on doing just that. And it is a good thing too, because it was “delectable” as food critique, Nick, would say. We kicked things off with a micro-salad of greens we couldn’t identify, and let’s be honest the waitress had had about enough of my “outlandish” questions regarding food sources, so we let it remain a surprise. Round two came in with a hot plate of potatoes, pork, and some garnish. It disappeared instantly. Then the final round rang in as my personal favorite, a chocolate bread pudding. How was it local and/or sustainable? Not a clue, and they didn’t seem to know either.

Third Question: Would you use beauty, in any form, to disguise a lack of knowledge?

No, I am not addressing Hollywood. Honestly, I was disappointed that the restaurant was able to garner free press for something they had not taken time to promote internally. The food was in fact delicious. Where it came from, it’s story, or why the restaurant wanted to participate in the Farm to Table week across the City, an absolute mystery.

Mystery Diner #1 (aka Nick) Rating: 3.5 Stars
Mystery Diner #2 (aka Irish) Rating: 4 Stars
Mystery Diner #3 (aka Yours Truly) Rating: 3 Stars

Knowing how to cook food is one thing, and an admirable thing. Knowing where your food comes from, now that really is something. Something so special that I don’t take it for granted, and am disappointed when others do.

So instead of ending on a sad note, let’s move forward with how we can help champion the local food movement:

1) Ask your favorite restaurants if they do, and if they are willing to source some food locally. Connecting them to resources like Local Harvest and the Eat Well Guide along with showing them that there is demand for local food can help make eating out more sustainable.

2) Shop locally! Supporting your local farmer’s really is important, and during tough economic times, keeping money circulating in your local economy becomes increasingly important. For every $1 spent at a local business, 68 cents or more stays in that local economy.

3) Do not be fooled by “fancy talk”. I went in hoping for the best, and left feeling like I had a lot of work to do if I truly do want to be the change I hope to see in this World. Holding these companies accountable is important though. I later contacted the manager to review the experience with her in place of causing a scene at the restaurant. My hope is that dialogue, in place of dissapointment, will help them move forward.

Now I spoke with other Farm to Table restaurant goers who attended known eco-friendly restaurants, and their reviews were off the charts. It looks like mainstream restaurants have a lot to learn from their sustainable neighbors. Onwards with our own efforts to make dining, and food, a cultural experience once again.

A big and special thanks to Nicole, the Community Food Security Coalition, and the movie FRESH for all of their efforts to create communities of action nationwide.

Acts for the Earth!

April 22, 2010 · Filed Under Alternative Energy, Environment, Events, Food, Green, Guest Posts, News

‘Tis that time of the year for the largest secular celebration around the World, Earth Day!

With over 1 billion participants, this 40 year old holiday spurred on by a U.S. Senator from Wisconsin, Gaylord Nelson, continues to grow. The Earth Day Network and the Nature Conservancy are promoting “Acts” for the Earth. A little reminiscent of New Years Resolutions, these “Acts” of green help us commit to living more sustainably.


The Nature Conservancy’s Top 5 “Acts of Green” for Earth Day:

  1. Reusable bags
  2. Sustainable food
  3. Organic gardening
  4. Adopt a coral reef
  5. See the movie OCEAN

These “acts” cover the gauntlet from daily actions to lifestyle changes and donations. Integrating some of these helpful lifestyle tips with other goals of your own, like buying clean energy or reducing our footprint, can be part of your own plan for “Green Acts”.

Anyone want to share what they are up to or committed to for this Earth Day?

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