Unhappy Californians Boot the Happy Meal

By Tiffany · November 8, 2010

The (in power) people of San Francisco have spoken. Out with the Happy Meal! Almost…

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors passed an ordinance that requires any restaurant that includes toys with a purchase to meet specific nutritional guidelines. This continues San Francisco’s distinct lead as the most legislatively progressive City in the United States. After banning plastic bags, requiring all government run offices utilize non-toxic cleaning products, and putting a standard into place that all new government construction must be LEED certified, the people in power in San Francisco continue their visionary practices.

Despite McDonald’s claims of persecution and targeting, the ordinance is applicable to all restaurants that include a toy with purchase that do not meet specific nutritional guidelines. The ordinance has been under consideration for awhile, and restaurant industry groups as well as individual companies like McDonalds have been fighting its passage into law.

Why an Ordinance on Meals with Toys?

Childhood Obesity

The overweight and obesity numbers in the United States are staggering. Sadly enough, 15% of the children in the US are either overweight or obese. An atrocious and unhealthy jump since the advent of fast food. With a variety of factors playing into these numbers, it is difficult to pinpoint a true culprit. Perhaps that is because this epidemic that threatens the health of tens of millions of Americans has a large span of “causes”. Cheap food (with a high true cost to our health, environment, and human rights in developing nations), chemically-simulated food experience (read Omnivore’s Dilemma to read about how through a manipulation of the senses, chemists can make any piece of food trick your senses), and American’s distinct lack of exercise relative to other developed nations. The numbers threatening the lives of children have become such a large concern that the health care industry is has significantly increased their charges, and the health and fitness industry have significantly increased their range of products and enrollments for extreme cases of weight loss.


Now, the Ordinance that was passed actually does not “ban” anyone from selling food, it requires that they meet specific nutritional guidelines in order to provide a meal with a toy. The Ordinance goes into effect December 1st, so restauranteurs have a small bit of time (and plenty of previous notice prior to the vote) to get their new toy-included meals in nutritional order.

Direct-Marketing to Children

Direct marketing to children has been banned in many locations, and there are a few legislative actions that have been put in place to reduce this type of marketing. The first major and successful attack on direct-marketing to children came from the TRUTH campaign and others targeting cigarette companies like Philip Morris with the idea that if the companies target them, the ‘children’ or young adults have the right to target the companies right back. Although meals with toys may be marketed to a younger group, less vocal and action-oriented to fight their plastic toy that comes with their meal, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors took it upon themselves to protect the children. Some individuals believe that these types of regulation also help give power back to parents and guardians as the decision-makers during a time when the market is flooded with “wants” and “new things” to tantalize even the most well-behaved child.

The Details (honestly)

As stated earlier, this was not a direct attack on McDonalds but instead on an unsustainable and unhealthy practice within ALL food establishments. By creating standards that are clear and accepted by nutritionists and doctors as acceptable for healthy meals, not just happy meals, the government has taken children’s health upon themselves.

The nutritional requiremenst are…

  • Calories: Less than 600
  • Sodium: Less than 640 milligram.
  • Fat: Less than 35 percent of calories from fat; Less than 10 percent from saturated fat (with exception for nuts, seeds, eggs or low-fat cheese).
  • Fruits & Vegetables: At least half a cup of fruit or three-quarters of a cup of vegetables

“This is a challenge to the restaurant industry to think about children’s health first and join the wide range of local restaurants that have already made this commitment,” Mar said.

And it challenge it may be for some restaurants to truly adhere to these standards.

Will My Happy Meal be Banned?

This legislation was passed within the City of San Francisco. There has been little talk about other Cities, States, or the Federal government following San Francisco’s lead. That said, if McDonalds and other food establishments with toys as part of meals want to stay in that market, they will have to adapt. If the larger companies adapt, and smaller businesses can share their lessons and transitions to healthier meals, then there is little reason not to adopt the healthier standards. If the framework and advice from similar businesses is available, why not take advantage of it?

Did they go to far?

Companies like McDonalds are claiming discrimination and that the San Francisco government has gone too far. Is the regulation of the industry fair? Well, that can be a pretty subjective discussion. What is important is that it is legal, and the intent behind the regulation was not to discriminate, but to address a growing epidemic of childhood obesity that threatens the lives of our future changemakers. In fact, the issue of childhood obesity has grown into such a health threat in the United States, that First Lady Michelle Obama, and world famous Chef Jamie Oliver are making very public efforts to bring nutrition, proportion control, and education back to food for children in the US.

What do you think? Do you think the San Francisco government went too far, or that we as a nation haven’t gone far enough to address this critical health issue?

Photo Credits:
Last Happy Meal

Epoch Times

The Election is over…Recycle Those Signs

By Pays to Live Green · November 3, 2010

Now that the election is over and we are now finding out the winners, we need to start thinking about what to do with all those political signs that are all over the place.

Election Sign Waste

Photo from {link:http://www.flickr.com/photos/aschweigert/3037378292/}Adam Schweigert {/link}.

Driving to work and to vote yesterday, I noticed signs on almost every part of free land along side the road.  And what happens to those signs once the election is over, many of those signs are still there.  It’s disappointing that we can put so many of those signs up, but they may end up remaining there for several months down the road.  What’s worse is that lots of those signs will end up in our landfills.  What can we do to prevent this from happening.

Call your local governmental offices and find out what kind of recycling programs are available for those signs.  Some areas including Columbus, Ohio are taking a stand and making sure that those signs are recycled properly.

Though not all signs are recyclable, many can be deconstructed and parts can be recycled and reused.  Here are some ways that you can reuse components of those elections signs.

The Best way that we can prevent this from even happening is to take a stance and Eliminate Election Campaign Signs.  There are not many people swayed by the sight of a sign mentioning a particular candidate.  Those signs add no value to the voters, are only used for a short period of time and create excess waste.  Try contacting your local government and let them know you thoughts on the issue.  They may take a stand if enough people have the same opinion and decide to outlaw the use of campaign signs.

The Boo-tacular Pumpkin Recycling

By Tiffany · October 28, 2010

Happy Halloween!

A great Halloween tradition is carving pumpkins, but what to do with all of the un-jack-o-lantern by products? Here are a few ways to make sure that your pumpkin is looking just as good as its post-Halloween waste cycle.

1. Pumpkin Seeds
Need I say more? They are a delicious treat and if you save a few, you can even plant some pumpkins in your yard for next year. A quick How-To get those pumpkin seeds tasting delicious: First remove pumpkin seeds from your beloved, then rinse them thoroughly getting all of that pumpkin gunk off. Let them dry (or pat dry them if you are in a rush). Some people let them dry for days, others only a half hour. Then heat up your oven to around 300 degrees F/150 degrees C. Spread the pumpkin seeds out on a cookie sheet. Then sprinkle them with a little bit of olive oil or butter and top it with salt (sea salt is especially good). Toss the cookie sheet in the oven and give it a good stir every 10-15 minute or so. Typically, they cook for 30 – 45 minutes but just look for a few of them to start to brown on the outside. Then let them cool and Viola! Delicious pumpkin seeds.

2. Compost the ‘Innards’
If you have a home compost system, throw this nutrient-rich plant in there! This part is easy because there isn’t any wax residue to pick out prior to composting (unless it is beeswax, then you can leave it in). Some Cities are offering citywide composting, like San Francisco, and others have seasonal composting, so check with your local government and wast facilities to see if there is a composting center near you.

3. Recycle (compost) your Pumpkin at a Pumpkin Drive
Now that your fantastic Halloween costumes have been carefully stored and the candy nearly devoured, what to do with that Jack O Lantern out front? A growing number of churches, high schools, and other organizations have started ‘Pumpkin Drives’. Just load up your pumpkins and bring it on down, they have either a large dumpster-like bin or other facilities. You can also check with your City’s composting units, as with the innards, to see what their policy is for composting pumpkins. So keep your eyes open for Pumpkin Drive signs to keep that pumpkin out of the landfill, so we can give it and its nutrients back to good old Mother Earth.

Happy Pumpkin Composting!

Photo Credit: Natural Home Magazine

GE EcoMagination Tag Your Green

By Pays to Live Green · October 26, 2010

GE’s EcoMagination is introducing their new online movement called Tag Your Green.  By sharing using popular social media outlets, GE is hoping that we can help spread the green word.

One of the best ways to really spread the word on how to living a green lifestyle is through video.  That’s why GE teamed up with Howcast to help bring creative videos on the topic.  Howcast was able to get some of the top video makers on Youtube produce videos on ways to live more green.   Some of those include Wong Fu Productions, Barely Political, DeStorm, What the Buck and many more.  They are taking suggestions from all their fans and producing videos on those topics.

Wong Fu Productions has some really great videos and I decided to share one of the videos they made.

Check out GE’s EcoMagination Tag the Green site to get a full list of all the participants and some of the videos they already produced. Share your favorite videos.

What is…Evapotranspiration?

By Tiffany · October 25, 2010

Say that ten times fast! Evapotranspiration is going to be popping up in the news a lot so let’s get the run down.

Evapotranspiration (ET) – This term refers to the ‘transport of water into the atmosphere’. Specifically from surfaces including soil (hence the “evapo” for evaporation) and vegetation (transpiration).

Why is this important?
As you may have guessed, evapotranspiration is accelerating due to various factors including climate change in certain areas of the World. With temperatures rising, more water evaporates from surfaces, feeding it into the water cycle, which is now being inundated with more water than usual. Some scientists have found that evapotranspiration has completely ceased in other areas. Their current theory is that we have reached the limit of certain water tables, and the land is not able to ‘give up’ any more water to the system. This is most common in areas that are suffering severe drought and unusual weather patterns due to climate change.

Although this sounds very “sciency” it is an important concept to become aware of and monitor in your own communities. The areas suffering from severe drought tend to be in the Southern Hemisphere including Africa, Australia, and parts of Asia. Although these areas typically have wet and dry seasons, scientists are finding that the dry seasons are far exceeding their limits on the natural balance.

To learn more about evapotranspiration, check out the Encyclopedia of Earth.

Photo Credits.

Solar Power to Go Down in Price?

By Pays to Live Green · October 22, 2010

The solar company 1366 Technologies has finally received enough funds to bring their process of producing solar wafers at a fraction of their current cost into production. The Direct Wafer manufacturing process in which they developed could help bring the cost of producing solar panels by almost 80%.

The current process of producing solar wafers contains several steps. Not only is this a lengthy process, but a good portion of the original silicon is often wasted during the process. Both factors contribute to the higher cost. The Direct Wafer on the other hand avoids all these steps and converts silicon directly into the wafers. A wafer can then be produced in as little as seconds.

The plan is to start making silicon wafers in 2012, start selling them to a major Chinese solar manufacturer. They could then make their way to the US approximately a year after that.

Let’s hear Frank van Mierlo, CEO of 1366 technologies explain this process.

This sounds like a really promising process that could help bring the cost down so that using solar energy can compete with cheaper sources of energy.

Got Milk? Got Hormones?

By Tiffany · October 21, 2010

Who wants the unruly hormones of a teenager? How about a big dose of them in your glass of milk? For quite a few years now rbGH, or genetically modified bovine growth hormones have been slipped in your milk without even a notice. When dairy farmers found out, they tried to label their milk as “rbGH-free”. A term that Monsanto, a genetic engineering and agriculture company, almost got banned. They tried to make it unlawful for companies to put that label on their milk. Why? Because it could cost them their bloated market share of profits from rbGH milk.

What are Bovine Growth Hormones?

When companies focus on profits, not their product, their is room for error and maltreatment of not only animals but the end product. RbGH and its genetic counterparts were created to trigger the hormones in a cow that occur after they have given birth. Why? So they produce an excessive amount of milk. Simple business economics then step in. More milk from one cow means more profits, more profits mean cheaper prices, which mean a larger market share, meaning higher profits. If only the reality of that circle was accurate.

What is the risk associated with rbGH ingestion?

While still under-researched due to great efforts by Monsanto, the risks are starting to become exposed. The highest? Cancer. If you are at risk for any sort of hereditary cancer, immediately switch to milk labeled as either ” Certified Organic” or “rbGH Free”. Associations including the American Public Health Association and the American Nurses Association have publicly demoted the hormone-induced milk as a cancer risk. There are several other potential health risks associated with this milk. This is not to mention the risks of drinking milk from cows living in unhealthy conditions. Many cows who are fed hormones repeatedly are unable to stand on their own because their udders have become so swollen from the excessive milk production. Companies have designed ways to force them to stand, ways to re-strap their udders, and other less than pleasant solutions to something whose real solution is to get rid of hormones all together.

So get educated, and buy certified organic or hormone-free milk. These farmers care more for your health and the welfare of their animals than the large corporations such as Monsanto who have quantified in place of qualified their products.

Bottoms up on this wholesome treat, hormone free I hope.

Photo Credits:

Photo 1 and Photo 2

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