22 April 2008

happy earth day!

I've had a button since I was a kid that says 'Every Day is Earth Day'. I really believe that. Just like any other celebratory or memorial holiday, it's good to have a day to focus on the Earth, our environments, and the repercussions of our actions, it's also important that every single day is an opportunity to make a difference. And I defy you to tell me that one person can't make a difference.

So as we are often inclined to make New Year's Resolutions, let's take this Earth Day opportunity to make some sort of green or environmental resolution(s) for ourselves. Need some examples?
- Carbon offset your travel, and electrical and gas usage
- Switch to eco-friendly and biodegradable cleaners, soaps, and detergents
- Install your home with CFLs
- Start a compost pile. Plant a garden. Plant a tree.
- Resolve to cut your plastic bag usage in half (at least!)
- Recycle everything and buy recycled goods.

Let me know what you come up with and keep me posted with how it's going.

Hug a tree today and enjoy the springtime!

bicycle parking in union square

While I was walking around Union Square today, I noticed this awesome bicycle parking 'lot' in front of the Barnes and Noble. I don't know if they're putting these up everywhere, when this was erected (I don't wander in front of B+N too often), or if this is just a tester. It doesn't hold a ton of bikes, but it's great that this is up! I also love that it's covered, and has a great big NYC bike map.

Add this to the newly paved and sectioned off bike lane on 9th Avenue, NYC is catching up with some of it's more international bike-friendly city counterparts. We still have a ways to go though...

Here's a cool and informative blog post about expanding bicycle parking in NYC and a New York Times article from earlier this year about a planned bicycle parking lot.

Oh, and NYC Bike Month is coming up in May. This may be the year I finally, finally get a bike. Think less, do more, right?

21 April 2008

just say 'no' to b.p.a.

Update 04.22.08: The New York Times just printed a more specifically health related article about this as well. Details the kinds of specific things that contain BPA and a few brands/companies that do no use them, as well as an idea of our exposure risks.

I know you are probably missing my informative and witty blog-posts and I have a lot to say, but I have been having one technical difficulty after another, not to mention doing a bit of traveling, so I haven't had a chance to compose the beautiful blogs you're used to. But soon! Very soon!

In the mean time, read this article from the New York Times about Canada's likelihood of labeling the plastics compound bisphenol-a (BPA) as toxic. This is usually found in hard, shatter-proof plastics like polycarbonates-- like what's used to make our lovely reusable Nalgene-type bottles. They're saying that they're mostly a concern when used in food-related applications for children where the toxins can leech out into the food or drink (water bottles, food containers, baby bottles, lined food cans, etc.), as they are also commonly used in other products (like iPod shells) that we use other day, but apparently this kind exposure is not dangerous.

So since we know most plastics are bad anyway... let's just steer clear of them altogether shall we? Need a non-polycarbonate reusable bottle alternative? .Try these cool aluminum ones from Sigg. I bought my little sister one for Christmas and she loves it. They're really pretty, light-weight, and come in various shapes and sizes. They also make thermoses, boxes, and travel mugs. I've seen most Whole Foods, REI/EMS stores, and other such places carry them.

13 April 2008

guest blog: sugar. what, indeed, is the deal?

As a highly experienced and well-trained Sugar Buzz Pro and Holistic Health Counselor, Chef Aja asked me to share some of what I have to say about sugar. My name is Shannon McCarthy, and during the day I'm a visual artist, sometimes with paint, sometimes with whole foods. But not at the same time!

A preface: I used to work as a baker, and could pack away two pounds of cookie dough in a day. I accepted the fact (and myself for it) that I was going to eat a lot of cookies and bread everyday for the rest of my life. Whatever we resist persists, right? In college I attended Overeaters Anonymous for a year as a desperate attempt to stop eating all the time. I was told to give up all sugar and white flour, and eat a diet consisting mostly of steamed broccoli. I tried that, for like, a day. Rather than giving anything up, I started buying and eating boxes of donuts- since everyday was the last day I’d ever eat a donut! Because it was tomorrow, always tomorrow, that I would totally, completely, be a pure shining beacon of sugarless-ness. Riiiiight.

Wondering if you eat more than the 'ol pancreas actually wants? Let's talk about food in general. Every food we eat has different properties that give us a certain food experience, none of which can be classified as ‘good’ or ‘bad’. What we can say is that to continuously repeat a specific food experience is to invite imbalance. It's mathematical, nothing else. A fat like raw olive oil is important to consume because my body needs it to keep up my arteries and a green like arugula is important to consume because it keeps my blood clean. If I only eat arugula for a year, my hair will probably fall out because I've got thin blood and no fat to build with. If I only eat olive oil for a year, my skin will look pasty with all that building oil in my blood and no cleaning greens to keep it in check.

The same thing holds true with eating sweets. Too much sweet puts excess sugar in the blood. Nature provides us with lots of sweet food that comes out of the earth: squashes, berries, hanging fruit. On a continuum of sweet stuff the ground gives, those foods are on the sweetest end of the spectrum. If we were to do like the bears before they hibernate, we would eat an astounding quantity of berries, put on some good warm fat, approach a diabetic coma, and sleep for a couple of months. But let's suppose that we are not bears and are not planning to eat pillows onto our hips. How could we balance eating berries?

Well, what’s on the other end of the sweetness scale? Bitters! What's bitter? Herbs like mint, parsley, cilantro and other greens like spinach, kale, mustard greens, and cabbage. (The play between the sweet and bitters is what makes a spinach and strawberry salad so tasty…and balanced).

Speaking of sweet foods from the earth, let's get back to one of the sweetest of all: sugar cane! Despite various names and appearances, cane products are all from the same plant, but have different levels of processing. As a general rule of thumb, the darker the sugarcane product, the least processed it is. Black strap molasses would be the least processed, and white sugar the most (and the cheap brown sugar you buy at the regular grocery store is typically just white sugar with molasses added back in).

Some people stay away from any kind of cane product all together since they call it addictive. This isn't actually a categorical fact, that sugar is addictive. It only becomes fact through personal experience. Some people want sweet food when they don't want to want it, some people don't have any preference either way. Our own inclinations will tell us if sugar is something we wield, or something that wields us.

I'd like to address the folks who eat sugar when they don't want to eat sugar.
Sweetness is a flavor related to the earth mother. Think sweet pumpkins and squashes in autumn. Sometimes when we want sweetness, we want a ‘Mommy-feeling’. Since many of us haven't learned how to nurture ourselves, we get as close to what we can to what feels right-- something sweet in our mouths. There's nothing, actually, to be done about it but to notice it if it's there.

The good news is that we can supply that for our own self without anything external. Yet, to get to the internal nurturing, I found it helpful to start with external nurturing. We want to be clear that the guilt factor involved in eating doesn’t get us anywhere. It just makes us hide ourselves from ourselves even more. We perpetuate our habits by resisting them, and we heal habits by giving them attention and loving them as they are. So to celebrate what we think of as, a ‘bad thing’ to do is a big step in the direction of self-tolerance (let alone self-acceptance! Let alone self-love!). So, give a little self-love with a little bit of balance. And if there's no balance, love yourself for that too.

Recommended reading on how to eat in a kind way to ourselves: Nourishing Wisdom by Marc David

Note from Aja: For Shannon's scrumptious cookie recipe and a follow-up from Shannon, check the comment from her below!

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