Monday, June 27, 2011

The Greenest Grocer

Would you shop in a waste-free grocer? I WOULD! 
                                                                     The Greenest Grocer

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Gettin' Juiced: An Organic Fresh Juice Adventure

The morning started out great. I awoke at 9:30am and made my way down to the farmers market. I purchased a loaf of fresh baked organic garlic bread, and 2.5 pounds of fresh fruit. It was my first time to this farmer's market because I just moved to a new town. I was sadly disappointed in the selection of organic produce and had to make my way over to a health food store to gather my greens. There I picked up the following: bananas, a pineapple, a bag of apples, a bag of lemons, a bag of limes; a bunch(one bundle of each) dandelion, kale, red beets (with greens), cilantro, parsley, and celery. I then picked up two avocados, three tomatos, and a red onion. My cart was as packed full of nutrients as my body is right now! My tummy is gurgling away after drinking the above tasty liquid meals. 

The photos you see illustrate some of the things that happened during my procession of the morning. I first laid everything out and took a good look at my week+ of organic produce. I imagined all of the juices I would create and the soups I am going to simmer. I stared down the avocados thinking, "You will be my guacamole in no time!" I love my fruits and veggies with a passion. 

I've always paid $1-$2 a shot for wheatgrass (1 ounce) and thought that was ridiculous. So when I saw a whole flat of organic wheatgrass only costs ten bucks, I had to get it. I juiced up a shot, put a side of orange juice like the juice bars do for you (the nice ones) and had my way with it. Breakfast number one, a shot of wheatgrass. Let's get this detoxification on the road. 

The first drink I made was a fruity one. I had to go with my hunger and put some carbs in that machine. I placed 
*1 cup chopped pineapple (estimating here)
*a white peach
*half a cucumber
*handful of carrots
*half a red bell pepper
*a ripe pluot 
*handful of sliced apples
*juice of half a lemon
and let it juice together, alternating the ingredients so they would mix well.  It came out as an orange yummy fruity drink. I was like, "Yay! It's good!" Then I got daring. 

I knew I had to juice these greens. I normally take part in drinking this thing called "Paradise Protein Greens" which is an array of 55+ green veggies and pea protein. I mix it with apple juice and it's not too bad. Fresh green juice is a different story. 

I placed a handful of kale (about 5 leaves, or a whole bowl chopped), a handful of parsley, a few apple slices (about one apple) and all the tops I chopped off from the celery. Normally I throw those away but I knew juicing them would be very beneficial. Celery has a natural salt, so I figured it would add some savory flavors to my drink. I definitely need to work on making the green drinks taste better... It tasted like the wheatgrass shot toned down. I had to use a straw and drink it fairly quickly. By the end of the glass I was able to take a gulp and bare the bitterness. I never really liked kale in the first place. The only reason I'm eating it is because I can juice it now so I don't have to sit there and chew on it. The nutrient content is insane, so I just do it for my body. After a whole glass of green drink, and few sips from the fruit one, I am surprisingly full. It's like I want to eat a piece of toast or something, but I really don't think my body can handle it. 

Immediately after about half the glass of green juice is in my stomach, I felt a gurgling sensation. Right now I have energy like I drank a cup of coffee, yet feel kinda dizzy and euphoric. What is going on in there? I read about this in the Martha's Vineyard Detox book (21pounds in 21days) that some bodies can't even handle a shot of wheatgrass. Well the wheatgrass went down fine, it's just now I feel so weird after all that kale and celery. My body is actively cleaning out cells, filling in nutrients, and having a party at the same time. Who knew that fresh juicing could be so beneficial? (Besides Jack Lalanne, Dr. Roni, and all the other people selling books on it.) 

Buying a juicer has caused more than just fresh juice to enter my body. It has planted new inspiration to my mind. I've been eating organic and healthy for a long time now, but fresh juice seems to be a whole new playing field. People usually detox for a period of time once a year and go back to their normal western diet. I'm attempting to drink live fresh juices almost daily to keep the detoxification process going. I'm sure my whole body will benefit: hair, nails, skin, energy, spirit, mood, weight, and more. That drink was probably very little calories, yet I can't imagine trying to stuff down a nice hot sandwich right now. I'm going to look up some soup recipes for my other greens as soon as I get my appetite back. 

I hope I can inspire others to hop on my bandwagon and live the healthy adventure along my side (or at least vicariously through this blog). Cheers!

*All of these vegetables costed $27.89. A flat of wheatgrass (a couple weeks worth of shots) was $10. Divide that all by 7 and get $5.41per day for fresh organic produce for two people. Now that's what I'm talking about! 

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Top Weed Killer Causes Birth Defects

If you used Round-Up this Saturday morning to kill your weeds, you may just have caused animal birth defects.. Read more here.

Organic Balcony Garden: Day 7

I was so happy to see a baby sprout on day five. There was light amongst the dark shadows, a new life has come to say hello. I removed the plastic dome and let the baby breathe. It was so happy and arched its way over to the sun. Success! Although only one has sprouted, the germination period can take 10-15 days. Patience my fellow green thumbs.
The bad news bears have visited my garden and delivered mold. This was not fun to see next to the new sprout. But of course, with the good comes bad, and with the bad comes a lesson.
I looked it up and it was exactly what I thought: too much water, not enough air. So the case has been open three days now and the white hairs are gone. I poured out some of the left over water that was on the bottom of the tray and am waiting for my other seedlings to sprout. The tray has been in direct sunlight and the soil is still soaked. All the packages said to saturate the trays and dirt, and I did as directed, but I guess too much water equals foul results.

If one popped up, I have hope for the others. The germination stage on the packages say 10-15 days and it has only been 7, so I guess this baby is a primi at only 5 days and two inches. It has been warm out so hopefully that will help the seeds sprout. Cross your fingers for more babies soon!

Ps:  I know the pictures aren't clear, but I'm working on getting a better camera than my phone!

Friday, June 24, 2011

Juicer Day!

I used to think that juicing was just another trend diet and people were losing all their fiber by sticking their fruit in a juicer and drinking the sugar result. Little did I know that a juicer can be way more than a pulp-eating machine. After weeks of researching juicing, and reading 21Pounds in 21Days I had to get a juicer. I learned how juicing vegetables can give you more nutrients than you could possibly chew. I eat salads, veggies, and fruits all day in my mostly vegan organic diet, but adding a fresh juice will benefit me that much more. Plus, the machine you see below is not solely a juicer. It makes wheatgrass shots, nut and seed butters and milks, strings pasta (something I'm dying to try), churns out frozen desserts, minces, and chops my worst enemy: the onion! (Aha! Take that onions. I've finally found your match!)

I researched them for about two weeks before deciding on the all-encompassing one below. I already love to prepare healthy organic meals but now I get to add the drink from scratch as well. It seemed a little daunting at first, and the research was quite overwhelming, but I found my way to an Amazon 5-star rated nutrition center.
Omega 8006 Juicer
It came with all of these fun parts which look complicated, but are totally easy to use! 
The first thing I knew I wanted to make (since it wasn't the day of the farmer's market) was banana sorbet. All it takes is a frozen banana:

After it came out tasting delicious, I decided to run it through again to increase smoothness, but added frozen raspberries and green grapes this time. It added a nice tartness but took some of the sweetness away from the banana. 

I had sorbet for breakfast that only contained frozen fruit. It was so good, and surprisingly filling. The spoon you see in the bananas is my boyfriend coming over to share the morning goodness. We couldn't resist!

After I visit the farmer's market I will post pictures of my first juicing experience. I can't wait to get some wheatgrass shots going!

Dr. Roni De Luz has taught me that detoxing is very healthy, and pretty much mandatory in the polluted world that we live. Since I don't consume the normal western diet, I believe in doing a daily detox. Instead of only devoting 21 days, or every weekend, or even a 7 day run to a full on detox, I've decided to do it daily. Eating organic, drinking live juices, and staying away from pesky processed junk 99% of the time is going to make me live ten years longer (or at least that is what my doctor tells me). I have not, and probably won't, indulge in colonics, but everything else that cleanses the body is under my belt.

Juicing vegetables will hopefully become a daily habit that I can't put down. I got addicted to eating healthy, now all I needed was to add on delicious raw drinks and desserts. I'm always searching food blogs for the next best healthy dessert, but now hopefully I (and you) will be returning to mine to ask, "Mm how did I make that?"

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Food Forward: A Reason to Watch TV this Fall

So I learned today I can only post my blogs in one spot. You will now be provided with links to my blogs specifically for GreenAnswers. Some I will write exclusively just for this one, like my garden diary. Please refer to the links to read my full articles! Thank you! 

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

From Bologna to Broccoli

As a child I couldn't wait to eat my favorite food, an Oscar Mayer bologna and cheese sandwich between two pieces of WonderBread, with extra mayonnaise. I would swallow two of them whole for lunch, with a side of red juice drink. Yum! For dessert or a snack I would pick my favorite Hostess or Little Debbie and have two or three. Hamburger Helper was for dinner, and pizza flavor was the best. I was a happy camper in my pantry.

Little did I know, I was consuming things that would increase my risk of childhood obesity, diabetes mellitus (2), stroke, heart disease, and most of all, cancer. It wasn't a big deal to have a brownie for breakfast because I would soon be running it off at recess. But calories shouldn't have been my parents' concern at all; they were right with that. I was an active child, loved my trampoline, and was not a fan of video games (those were boys’ games back then). They should have been concerned with the embedded preservatives, colored dyes, and chemicals that kept the so-called food together for way too many years. Now I understand that food should spoil within a week or two, considering how it was prepared or frozen.

As I was reading The China Study on my Kindle last night, I read a study about nitrites. I learned about how these nitrogen based chemicals caused proteins to stay pretty and pink, like the infamous SPAM. This brought up my memory of loving bologna sandwiches, and their bright pink color. Next thing I did was google the ingredients, and there they were: sodium nitrates in my favorite childhood sandwich. Nitrites and nitrates form nitrosamines in the body, which are carcinogens that cause DNA damage and increased cellular degeneration. This basically increases your risk for cancer at a very high rate. Oscar Mayer bologna still has sodium nitrate in it. The cheese I ate was not even cheese; it was "American cheese food" with Yellow 5 and preservatives. Picking out a slice from the fridge, unwrapping its cute plastic folded wrapper, and eating it piece by piece was a pastime. Science has now made it a disgusting reminder of what food has turned into.

Everything I ate as a child was canned, packed, sealed, boxed, processed, or bottled. I wasn't overweight, but my body was definitely not healthy. I developed asthma around the age of ten, with no known allergies or physical disabilities. I have learned since then it was due to my diet of highly packed carcinogens that are not only positively correlated with cancer, but other diseases as well.

Through my teen years I spent late nights eating fast food and Dominoes pizza. I had no concern for healthy foods, and thought the tomato on my spicy chicken sandwich counted as my vegetable serving of the day. My fruit serving came in an iced pop that I thought had real fruit in it. High fructose corn syrup was my best friend and I didn't find any faults with it, because I did not know better. Nobody taught me that I was eating "bad" stuff. They just looked at my body, concluded I was normal size, so I must be healthy. Wrong! By the age of 15 I was lactose intolerant and had to start taking enzymes to be able to digest dairy.

Two years later I graduated high school early and went off to community college. The first class I chose was Nutrition 101. My life forever changed after that class. I learned the biology of the body, every enzyme that it needs, and what a vegetable serving truly looked like. I was obligated to memorize the systems in the body, from respiratory to digestive. My diet would never look the same again and fast food would become an enemy. I finally understood why I was fatigued, why I had asthma, and why vegetables could be a great thing. After that class, I began reforming my diet into lean poultry and fish, frozen fruit and vegetables, and a salad for lunch. I gave up all of my favorites and eventually said goodbye to high fructose corn syrup. One year later I had become a vegetarian. I already cut out dairy because my body could no longer handle the replacement enzymes, and started drinking soy milk. After a bloody incident with de-boning a chicken, I gave up poultry. I was never a big fan of fish, so I just said goodbye to meat altogether.

Since dairy and meat were already void from my daily living, I thought, "I might as well be vegan." The problem was that tofu was sincerely hard to find, and I really didn't know how to prepare it. I lived in a low socio-economic area, where most people relied on cheap processed foods to survive. A bushel of broccoli was more expensive than a bag of chips, and didn't have all those tasty flavors, so why would they reach for the green? It was a hard town to be vegan in and I couldn't wait to get out. I was only one year away from transferring to a university in Irvine, a vegetarian friendly community. So for a while I ate toast for breakfast and a variety of salads for lunch and dinner. Most people called me a health nut, crazy, and asked why I didn't eat "normal food." I tried to enlighten them with my education, but they just thought it was about animal rights. That wasn't even related to why I became a vegan. Although I loved animals with all my heart, it was about education. It was about health and avoiding disease.

Now I am 21, graduated from The University of California, Irvine, and living the life of a very healthy individual. I am no longer strictly vegan, but 100% organic. Most of my meals are centered around plant-based foods, with an occasional egg white or grilled salmon salad. I love to go on a run and come home to cook a delicious dinner. Last night I prepared a grilled red bell pepper and green zucchini salad, with a cherry tomato and cucumber side, along with grilled tofu and a sprouted tortilla with Daiya cheese on top. Now that’s what I call yummy for the taste buds and body!

My drive to healthy eating began in a very similar fashion to the author of The China Study- from childhood. We both grew up eating heart-disease inducing diets, and have switched over to plant-based ones all because of education. So if you think all vegans or health nuts are just tree-hugging, animal-loving, pot-smoking hippies, think again. Some are intellectuals who care about the environment and their health, just as much as they love eating food.  

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Father's Day Goes Green

 It is not only Father’s Day this year, but the anniversary to the very first one created on June 19,1910. One hundred years ago this Sunday, Sonora Smart Dodd of Spokane, is credited with creating this holiday. He chose to celebrate his war veteran father who raised him and his four siblings after their mother’s passing during childbirth.

Thanks to former President Lyndon B. Johnson, Father’s Day became a national holiday in 1966. By 1972, Father’s day was established to be celebrated every third Sunday of June. It started out as a highly religious day, but was commercialized into a greeting card and gift giving day. In America, people celebrate it by lighting up the barbie, gifting out the latest tech gadgets and golf clubs, and sipping cold beers. Fathers revel in their accomplishments of raising a family as they enjoy their new toys and gizmos. It is a grand day to celebrate parental bonds and influences of fathers worldwide.

Not only America celebrates this holiday, but other countries take part as well. Arab countries celebrate their fathers on the first day of summer, coinciding with their celebration of mothers on the kick off of Spring. Germany has a complete “Gentleman's Day” celebrated 40 days after Easter. Males gather to participate in a hiking trip as they man-power a cart filled with alcohol and regional relevant food. Some choose to celebrate the end of the trip by getting drunk from the cart full of alcohol. Spain hosts it’s Dad’s Day on the Feast of Saint Joseph, March 19, and banks and stores are closed. All over the world, fathers are honored one way or another, some time of the year. Some countries choose not to take part in an official way, yet still have their unofficial moments of honoring their parental ties.

Celebrations will take place at the poolside in the warm sun, in a park, or possibly in the backyard of the honored one. But how do we keep this day green without overloading our dishwasher until it burns out, or grinding our hands in the sink until they are scorching red? We can start with picking up some organic beer on the way to the BBQ. Turn dad onto a new favorite that supports the earth, his health, and taste buds. Many paper plates, plastic silverware, and charcoal will be used this Sunday. People don’t want to wash dishes, dirty their kitchen, or have their houses turned upside down. Don't fret; there are eco-friendly paper plates and plastic silverware. I recently found compostable dinnerware on Branchhome. After everyone is done using these, have a designated waste basket for your compost pile or bin. Add it to your garden and reap the benefits of hosting a green themed Father’s day. Honor the earth alongside your dad.

Charcoal is going to be lit this Sunday, no matter how green we want our holiday to be. Unfortunately, normal charcoal promotes deforestation and fills our food with chemicals. There are definitely earth friendly charcoals. Look for brands that have the Rainforest Alliance Smart Wood logo or the Forest Stewardship Council imprinted on the bag. Fewer greenhouse gases and soot will be released when using eco-friendly charcoal. Your food will taste better without all the additives that regular charcoal burns into your meals.

When giving a gift to your dad, try and shop for something green. A new lawnmower is something any pappy could use, especially if it makes the earth a more sustainable place. The Neuton lawnmower is battery powered that lasts up to an hour, with superior cutting power that can even slice through wet grass. It only takes 12 cents to charge up, and uses no oil or gas. It couldn’t be more green.

Something that will not cost a pretty penny is being creative. You can choose your dad’s favorite chair and upcycle it by putting on a new cover or cushion. Try to go shopping at a thrift store for an antique fishing rod like your father used as a child. It will bring back great memories for him and be recycling something that might have been thrown out. You can renew it by stringing it with some new fishing wire.

Father’s Day is a fun time to recall old memories, bring the family together, and to have good food. Roll on over to your dads with a smile knowing that you are going to give him the best gift he could possibly receive, the love from his child.

Photo credits:,

Organic Balcony Garden: Day One

Starting Seed Kit


Tip #1: Go S.L.O.W or the soil will topple out! 

I have been eating organic produce for over a year now. I know it takes a lot more work than conventional farming, but I really don't know how much. So my adventure begins today. I have planted cucumber, summer squash, and chive seeds into the above container. After they pop out I will visit a local nursery with notes of other products to buy, like sand and nutrients, and whatever else I find out I will need. I am not going to use a drop of chemicals on my plants, and will hopefully have a nice yield by the end of the summer (or at least I'm hoping).

I bought the starter kit at Lowe's, but the nice guy working in the department advised me to go to a local nursery for the rest of the ingredients I will need to farm my miniature garden. He said big chain stores don't carry many organic products, but a nursery would have plenty. I'm excited to see my seedling sprout. They are currently sitting in a warm spot in the shade on the balcony, but to my demise it is a cloudy day. No sun for my seedlings today. I will be doing research on and other green, organic sites to find out the answers to my gardening questions.

Day One Lessons
Seed starting mix is super light and takes huge amounts of water to saturate. At first I starting just dumping water on it, thinking it would soak it up like sand, but the soil toppled over onto the concrete balcony. Not a fun mess to clean up. So I begin to fill in between the trays and go very slowly over the soil itself. Next time I will soak the trays, and place water underneath them so the soil has something to stick to. This will keep the soil from spilling out so easily.

You can't see it in the photos very clearly but there is a clear plastic top for the seed starter kit. After I was done planting the seeds, I placed the top on to catch the heat and steam from the evaporating water. When they pop out I'll take more pictures for you to see this.

Please feel free to comment with any tips! Thanks, and welcome to my organic adventure!

Friday, June 17, 2011

School Lunches: Whose Job Is It to Feed Our Kids?

The House Appropriations Committee and the USDA are trying to decide how much money they are going to grant our children for school meals. The Committee’s proposal would be to increase the amount for breakfast and lunches by 50 and 14 cents, respectively. This increase would reflect on the parents and require the schools to cut other costs. American schools have been trimming employees and programs for years now and cannot afford to cut corners anywhere else. Lynn Woolsey, a member of congress, argues that it is vital the nutrient content meets the dietary guidelines that are currently established. The current meals children are receiving are high in saturated fat, salt, and sugar. For some students, lunch is the only meal they will consume during the day. For it to be against all dietary regulations is damaging the health of our next generation.

The goal of changing school meals is to teach kids the right way to eat since it is a staple in their daily routine. Lunch time is a social setting to eat and exercise. Some kids may love Fridays because it means pizza day.They are eating a very unhealthy pizza and celebrate it with a soda or sugary drink, reinforcing the idea that this nutrition is okay. It is only fueling the childhood obesity epidemic. With the new regulations, foods with high amounts of fat, salt and sugar would be taken out. Pizza, frozen fruits with added sugar, high salt tater tots, and chicken nuggets would be released from the monthly menu.

Comments on this story argue an interesting statement. Who’s responsibility is it to feed our kids of the nation? Is it the parents’ job to pack a healthy lunch and teach their children about why they are eating a fresh grilled chicken wrap instead of pizza? Or is it the government’s job to teach our children about nutrition during lunch time by feeding them appropriate nutrient dense meals? Most parents are paying for school lunches one way or another. The problem is with the families who don’t have money to pack a healthy lunch, hand their child 1.25 to buy a meal that will be full of fat, salt, and sugar. We all know you get what you pay for.

If you go to a fast food place and hand over 1.25 you are getting a previously frozen patty with preservatives, enriched grain bun, with genetically engineered iceberg lettuce and tomato on top. Plus, don’t forget the fattening mayonnaise and sugar filled ketchup. For one more dollar you can get a starchy and fatty fried potato side, with absolutely no fiber or nutrients. This is what the kids are paying for and this is what they are getting. On the hand if you spend around $7.00 a meal you can get organic baby field lettuces and other vegetables, on top of a whole grain bread, and freshly grilled chicken strips- full of nutrients.

So how can we expect the government to feed our kids something so nutrient dense in school when we can’t even find a way to produce this meal at home? Should they be getting a major discount on organic, fresh, nutrient-dense, foods since they are the big guys? When it comes down to it, whose job is it to feed our kids?

Personally, I think the federal government should have a definite role in giving more money to our schools. It is the local schools’ job to manage the budget and figure out where they want to place the money. If they choose to grow their own local school garden, and possibly feed the kids from it- fantastic! But if they are a lower budget school (which shouldn’t exist because all schools should be getting the same amount of money) then they might have to budget their money towards desks and books before focusing on planting vegetables. When I have children, I will definitely pack their school lunch, but also keep in mind they still have the ability to “trade out” their healthy snacks for donuts or cookies from another student. It is the parents job to instill in the children the importance of a healthy meal and how it makes them have a healthier mind and body. The schools should back this education up with classroom activities that center around health, possibly incorporating it into a math or science lesson. Count how many vegetables you need a day for kindergarteners. Figure out the biology of a banana rotting for a compost for eighth graders. Maybe that will inspire them to ask more questions about nutrition, and bring home the idea to their parents if they are not instilling it in the first place.

School lunch is a huge deal right now, just look at Jamie Oliver. He has a whole television show focused on revolutionizing it. The thing he doesn’t have is enough money to give to every school to have their own garden or local food source, on top of enough time for the staff to assemble thousands of healthy meals before lunch time. So if you have kids in school, I’d suggest making the time the night before to sit down with them, make a healthy meal, and teach them something new about nutrition, before they head off to the pizza line.

Photo credit:

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Food is a Right, Not a Privilege

How would you feel if you were arrested for dishing out soup to a homeless person? In the past week, twelve members of a feed the homeless program were arrested for sharing food. They crossed the line when they dished out corn, rice, beans, and watermelon to the less fortunate in a public park. According to an Orlando ordinance, only two large food gatherings are allowed per year with a permit. The group Food Not Bombs has been making a scene by holding two meatless buffet lines a week for the homeless, in order to share their plight. Why would it be such a big deal to feed the homeless?

I certainly agree that no one should go to bed hungry. People that are living on the streets don’t even have a place to sleep, yet are going to bed, or bench, starving on most days. It is great that this group is being thoughtful and realizing there are too many homeless people in their area. I would definitely feel rewarded for feeding a mother and child who are living under a bridge. But this is a temporary fix to a bigger issue. At first sight of this news, I thought, "What in the world? How could they arrest people who are trying to help the less fortunate?" Women were holding up signs saying “Jesus did not need a permit.” They were angry that their welfare was being shot down by the law; I would be too!

I was thinking I would write an article about how ridiculous this law was, and that everyone should start a free food buffet line in their park. Then I took the law’s perspective and realized that there has to be a reason for this ordinance. Laws are normally formed from a consensus in the community. As the police booked the criminals for sharing food, the crowd screamed, “Food is a right, not a privilege.” This law may have been put in place for a reason, but is it actually harmful to feed the homeless? Just like the Chinese proverb goes, "You can give a man a fish and feed him for a day, or teach a man to fish and feed him for a lifetime." Maybe the law was put in place because they did not want the homeless to rely on this free food twice a week and get comfortable on the streets. The government wants its people to be healthy, helpful citizens working to create a bigger economy. Handing out a line of food will not teach them anything.

Is the act of feeding the homeless actually about teaching them something? Not really. When I donate food, I imagine a full stomach and a smile on a normally starving individual. I don’t necessarily think deeply about it. Most people don't have the time to volunteer at a rehab center to teach individuals job skills. Nor do many rehab centers offer free services like this to any homeless that walk in for help. Instead of feeding the homeless people, should this activist group be holding twice-weekly meetings for job finding techniques? Maybe they should bring out portable showers, clothe them in business attire, and practice mock interviews. That will get them back on the workforce and shut the law up real quick.

Forget the law for a second and think green. Feeding the homeless can be an eco-friendly act. Canned food drives are certainly green. Every time I hear about a canned food drive I dig in the back of my cupboard to find food that I know I would have just thrown away and dish it out to the homeless. I bring out boxed and processed foods that are not yet expired and save the space in the landfills by donating them. I reuse paper bags by filling them with the cans and food and carrying them over to the drives. My cupboards seem clean and fresh after a drive, and I remember to only buy what I’m going to use in the next couple of weeks. Buying in bulk is sometimes a good idea, especially if you have a large family, but living alone with bulk purchases is never smart. I always end up with extra cans of tomato paste, beans, and soups that almost go without eating until their expiration nears.

Donating shoes, clothes, furniture, and knick-knacks to homeless shelters is always a green conscious action. Don’t contribute to the landfills with items that are perfectly reusable. Less fortunate people, or even college kids, could reuse an old table or mattress set. In this recession it is apparent that new things cannot be afforded by all. Craigslist is full of listings about how people lost their jobs and need an inexpensive place to stay, a donated bed, or things to make their new house feel like a home.

It may be a crime to meet in a city owned public place and dish out food, but it is harmless to post free stuff online. It is easy to look up local homeless shelters and call them for a pickup. Save your own gas, as they make their rounds picking up old items from all over your town. If you think you've gone green in all ways possible, think again but this time about the homeless.

Photo credit:

Competition Spurs Healthy School Lunches

A Top Student Chef Competition in Baltimore has been the perfect way for students to make their own addition to the school lunch menu. They can add items healthier than the normal pizza and burgers served up on the daily grill. A recent item added to the Centennial High School’s menu is the Chicken Wrap, served up with corn salsa on a whole wheat tortilla. It incorporates the right portions of proteins, carbohydrates, and vegetables with more flavor and nutrients than the usual tacos on Tuesdays.

The competition has been going on for a few months now, with a Buffalo Chicken Wrap and Chicken Quesadilla already added to the menu. The menu items must be easy enough for the servers to make during the quick lunches at high school, as well as go through a nutritional analysis.

I remember going through the cafeteria line, dreading what would be on the menu that day. Would it be cardboard pizza, half soy-half beef burgers, or some lame macaroni and glue (what we used to call it)? I would end up eating the fruit cup and side of veggies, drinking my milk or juice and throwing the main course away. I am sure the high school students are relieved to see something on the menu that not only looks good, but tastes good and is healthy for them too. Instead of worrying about packing a lunch and trading crackers for cookies, the students can be relieved to see a fresh sandwich or wrap served up with some fresh fruit and salsa on the side.

Across the country, another change in school lunches can be seen in California. LA Unified School District has released news that they are cutting strawberry and chocolate milk off the menu. This leads to some hope that school lunches will soon be more nutrient dense and flavorful for the students. Many big guys, like the US Departement of Agriculture, reimburse schools for using flavored milks. Over 60% of milks consumed at schools are flavored. This worries the dairy industry that they won’t be making as much money if flavored milks are taken out. Kids may not choose to drink milk at all if their usual choice is not on the menu. Will they boycott milk altogether or get used to the idea that they shouldn’t be drinking that much sugar with their meal? Schools need to educate the students about why they are taking the milk off the menu, and how it will benefit them in the immediate and long term future.

Childhood obesity is a huge problem right now in the United States. Revamping the school lunch menus and removing the junk is necessary to help the children build a healthier, disease free, future. Jamie Oliver sparked the idea of removing the flavored milks, and has made an impact on the superintendent John Deasey. The next steps to take are to remove the chicken nuggets and other processed foods and use fresh, natural replacements. The problem is that schools are only funded about 77 cents per meal, per child. This will not be able to cover fresh produce, let alone boiled or baked chicken as the protein. The real issue comes down to politics,which hopefully will be changed in the near future. If Michelle Obama can supposedly release a new food pyramid (plate) then I am sure she can make a difference in the amount schools are funded per meal. The Choose My Plate program debuted a few weeks ago, and will hopefully be featured in classroom presentations about nutrition.
Children are the future. One in three children in the LA Unified School District are overweight or obese. Removing sugary and processed foods from the menus, and replacing the amount of sugar served with the same amount of fiber will make a tiny dent in the obesity epidemic. It is just a start to the entire process of remaking the school lunch menus to create a healthier next generation.

Competitions like the one in Baltimore should be a country wide program to ensure that students are eating what they choose, and that their choice is flavored and healthy. But again, it comes down to money. Someone in power needs to make the decision to allot more dollars to the meals, and future, of the children in this country.


Going Green to Be Seen: A Status Ploy

We see it everyday but fail to recognize it. We don’t take everything into consideration and thought, especially if it means being proenvironmental. We’ll splurge twice the price for organic produce for our health, spend extra on a high MPG car to save gas money, and buy recycled products because we care about the environment. We go green for a purpose that resides in our values, right?

You may have noticed lately that the rich neighbor down the block has decided to invest in a Prius instead of an Audi, and you wonder why. You’ve seen them at local charity events dressed to the hilt in name brand clothes, but never got the feeling they truly cared about the environment like you do. But as you see them use green products and carry organic produce in their house you can’t question their motives, until anow.

A study released, Going Green to be Seen: Status, Reputation, and Conspicuous Conservation has shown results that status-seeking individuals will buy green products more often if they are more expensive (Griskevicius et. al, 2010). They see that the product has a higher price tag and know that it shows they care in a public way. Status seeking people want to show off in the most blatant ways, hence the Prius parked out front of the mansion. They didn't necessarily buy that car because they truly valued less pollution. They payed ten thousand more dollars for cheap fabric seats because it shows the public they care, or at least gives off the idea.

Griskevicus et al. explain how corporations see this happening among the population and market their products accordingly. Companies purposely raise their prices because they know people who want to look like they care will buy them, but only if they are more expensive than their non-green counterpart. Methods in the study showed correlations only when the price of the green products was higher than the non-green product.

Altruism and self-sacrifice used to be an attribute to show that a person truly cares. Psychologists found it hard to believe that anybody could honestly have an altruistic lifestyle because it goes against basic survival skills. Now altruism is thrown in the same realm as people who want to climb the social ladder, making it less believable that it could be a charactaristic of someones personality. GreenAnswers members know that going green is not just to spend extra money, but to save money and the earth. Investing in a company that is taking advantage of caring individuals is ridiculous. We have concerns about our environment while other people are hanging around waiting for green products to get off the sale rack to show their fake-caring attitudes.

We’re in a recession and it is not leaving anytime soon. CNN reported last week that it could be around for another 6-7 years, but what do those economists know? We know that saving money is never a bad thing, recycling should not signal that a person is poor, and being frugal should be praised. Will we ever see the rich, status seeking people shopping in a thrift store? No, because they don’t care about recycling clothes and saving money. They care about being a symbol and spending whatever it costs, including sacrificing ideals, to be the symbol of now. Reputation is more valuable than money to them. Those who are seeking approval from the public will never be truly happy. They will always be reaching for the next best thing and paying as much as they need to be it. True happiness lies within what values we uphold, specifically caring about the environment because we love the earth a bit more than our reputation.
Of course being green should be praised, such as awarding companies for being the most environmentally friendly. The competition should never come amongst individuals though, because going green is not a race. It is about caring for our environment and working together to make the world a more sustainable place.

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Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Caps and Gowns Go Green

The season of graduates has presented itself upon us as quickly as the weather has warmed up. Educated students worldwide wear caps and gowns to display their recent accomplishments. Graduation ceremonies last a mere two hours where the gown is then taken off and thrown away to contribute to the already overfilled landfills. A clothing company titled Oak Hall Cap and Gown has decided to make a difference in the way caps and gowns are treated. A couple years ago a line was released calledGreenWeaver, which spins up caps, gowns, and other graduate accessories out of molten plastic pellets. In 2011, they are finally gaining popularity and are being used at about 5% of colleges and universities. These caps and gowns are able to be recycled over and over into new ones for the following classes. Designated recycling bins are placed around the ceremonial area for the graduates to dispose of their gowns after their processional march.

The rising popularity of these gowns reminds everyone attending the graduation that it is no longer a fad or trend to go green, but a necessity. The simple act of buying these gowns lets everyone know that it is easy, just as comfortable, and less expensive to wear something recycled. Some other famous graduate companies, such as Josten’s, started making a wood-fibered gown that decomposes in soil. Wear this one and then toss it in your compost pile, how convenient and eco-friendly.

Green fashion is on the rise. A few weeks ago I posted an article on clothes made from Kombucha, and now ones made from recycled water bottles and wood. Of course there are plenty of other green options out there such as hemp, organic cottons, and flax. Or you could always recycle your own clothing with a little help from a sewing machine and scissors. The hot weather has reached us and cutting old jeans into shorts is not a thing of the past. If you don’t like the cut-off look, make a simple hem line with a needle and thread. Add on some buttons or a brightly colored stitch for your own touch of style. If sewing is not up your alley, donate your old clothes to a Goodwill, thrift store, or Buffalo Exchange, and get a discount on their used selection.

Warmer weather means bikini season. Recycled water bottles have not only made their way onto the arms of graduates, but on the bodies of Victoria Secret models. Victoria’s has released a line of swimwear made from recycled polyester and spandex. The original green bikini maker though is Aaron Chang, who has an entire line of bikinis and wraps made from recycled plastic. Mr. Chang is known for being a legendary surfer and green artist, with an art gallery in San Diego, California.

Recycled clothing has been around for a long time, but is just now becoming the trend. More companies are beginning to offer organic options, with a slightly higher price tag. The thing that annoys me is that if they recycled something, shouldn't it be less expensive than buying new? I mean, if a company is taking the time to be eco-conscious shouldn't they spread the savings down to the buyer? They should inspire more people to buy organic or recycled with a smaller price tag. A reason I don’t reach for the organic cotton t-shirt is because it is twice the price. I understand organic farming requires far more work, but recycled clothing should definitely be cheaper than brand new. It is hard to get consumers to buy in on the whole green movement, especially if it means higher costs. I remember when I started to “be green” I did it because it saved me money. Going to the local farmers market was cheaper than buying organic produce in the stores and saved me gas because I could walk. Shopping at thrift stores was being frugal and green. Using less water and electricity saved me money and the environment. Now companies are using the rising trend against us, which should not be a trend at all but a way of life. Seventh Generation paper towels are ridiculously expensive, spurring me to buy dish cloths instead. Are they expensive on purpose to make you realize you shouldn't be buying paper at all, but using washable fabrics? Earth friendly soaps are a few dollars more and are derived from plants. Are chemicals actually cheaper to produce soaps than deriving them from coconuts? I guess that will be my next question on GreenAnswers.

Some companies reduce the price for going green, such as the graduate gown makers. The recycled water bottle ones are $2 cheaper, not much but still making an effort to spread the idea. Thrift stores are always a gold mine, so try your best to visit one when in need of a new outfit. Save tons of cash and the environment at the same time. In a final note, beware of the companies that are exploiting the cause of going green and contribute to the ones that benefit you and the planet.