30 December 2009

you say you want a resolution

Well you know, we all want to change the world - and what better time to start than at the start of a new year? A fresh year can be a great way to take fresh approaches that you might not have considered before, allowing you to make wiser, healthier, greener choices in the coming year. Plenty of products and services on the market are boasting their 'greenery' - but how can you verify their claims without extensive research?

Turns out there are a few wonderful websites that have gathered up the background, source, and policy information on a number of products and companies to help you make the most informed choice you can. Sites include:

Ecolect, which describes itself as "a place that stimulates discussion about defining sustainability and is a source of accurate information". Ecolect covers only materials with sustainable attributes, and provides case studies and consumer reports to back up their information.

Environmental Leader may be a trade magazine for corporate big-uns, but they have a running feed of all the latest in green business news. From Starbucks to EnergyStar, if it's business and green, EL has got you covered.

The Greenwashing Index posts advertizements from around the world, then breaks down their 'eco' claims. Visitors are encouraged to participate by posting ads they find and rating the authenticity of existing posts.

CorpWatch is written by a team of independent journalists and researchers to provide transparent information on the actions of corporations across the world. In September 2007, they launched the Wiki project Crocodyl.org, an open-source site allowing small, independent activists an opportunity to meet and share information they might otherwise have had difficulty finding.
Aside from surfing the net, you can prevent being "Greenwashed" by taking the following discerning actions:
1. Be conscious of all the ingredients in your product.
2. Bust out the glasses and read the fine print!
3. If in doubt, check the company’s website. A company with nothing to hide won't have a slew of caveats across the label.
4. A “natural” product isn't necessarily “green.” No laws govern the labeling of natural ingredients or materials, and many companies are all too eager to slap on the friendly sounding labels.
5. When it comes down to it, if you don't need it, don't buy it. The less you consume, the less you dispose.
Have a happy, healthy, and wholesome new year, everybody!!
Image via Skydeckcartoons.com

28 December 2009

if you can't beat 'em, join 'em

'Tis the season for sweet treats and as I am now in the middle of my "winter break" (and enjoying myself immensely, thankyouverymuch), I find myself ready to cuddle up with a movie, but craving dessert to accompany me. This really shouldn't be the case as I've already had dessert (thank you, Joann, for bringing and sharing your delicious leftover ginger-pear-cranberry cobbler), and a gluten-free blueberry muffin (fine, I had two) earlier today. I searched my cabinetry, which was slyly ridden of all tempting sweet edibles, certain that there must be something something something. Alas.

But then! What do I see but some leftover brown rice in the fridge! The gears quickly turned and then I whipped up this...

Leftover Brown Rice Pudding
In the fervor of my dessert craving I improvised and didn't measure a thing, but this recipe should get you close.

Serves 1-2

1 cup leftover brown rice
1/3 cup rice milk (or milk or non-dairy substitute of your choosing)
1 teaspoon coconut oil
1 tablespoon grade b maple syrup
2 tablespoons raisins
dash cinnamon
1 teaspoon arrowroot dissolved in 2 teaspoons cold water

1. In a small pot over medium-high heat, stir together rice, milk, oil, syrup, raisins, and cinnamon.

2. Once the milk is bubbling, stir in the arrowroot mixture until the pudding thickens.

3. Pour it in a bowl and eat it up!

27 December 2009

earth rocks!

In my procrastination of wrapping up my 2009 bookkeeping, I came across this video. You're never too old to learn something from Sesame Street (a show I will always love!), and you can never been too young or too cool to love the Earth.

23 December 2009

think less, do more: a better way to give

Charlie Brown was right when he said that Christmas had become too commercial. From senseless stocking stuffers to screams of "Gimme! Gimme!", the sense of sharing, thanks, and fellowship that should be associated with the holiday season has long since been replaced by Tickle-Me-Elmo's and Twillight action figures. If you're as exhausted as I am by the needless waste of these many toys, here are a few wonderful ways to help make the world we share a better place this season:

  • Volunteer: Volunteering is the single easiest, more selfless thing you can do to help your fellow (wo)man. Whether it's an hour a week at your local soup kitchen or making a serious commitment to spend months or even years giving back, working with and for humanity improves the lives of strangers, strengthens communities, and betters the quality of the world we share. You can find a slew of opportunities at websites like Idealist and VolunteerMatch.

  • Give: Donating helps in immeasurable ways, as many helpful organizations struggle to make ends meet. Strapped for cash this season? Give what you can! Whether it's canned goods, old clothes, or even blood, you'll be surprised at how far little things can go. Check out NYC WasteLe$$ for more giving options.

  • Care: People, places, and creatures are in need at all times of year. Adopt a rainforest. Or an octopus. Or, if you truly have the time, energy, and means, a creature from your local Humane Society. Remember that no matter what it is, adoption is a commitment to care - yes, adopting a well might require slightly less devotion than a puppy, but the premise is still the same: you are giving some of yourself to make better something else. And that, truly, is the best thing you could ever do.
Check out Changing the Present for a wide range of other amazing alternative gift ideas.

22 December 2009

o christmas tree

Whether it's passing the figgy pudding or peeling Great Uncle Filbert off the driveway, every family has their own special holiday traditions. I know many families that have a yearly ornament exchange, passing keepsakes around that will be hung and treasured for years to come. Maybe this sounds like your family, or maybe you're just getting started decking your very first tree - either way, Alpha Mom has a do it yourself ornament idea that comes from the heart and hands, rather than the pocketbook:You'll Need:
· Felted sweaters (surely you've some left over from all those Ugly Sweater Parties!)
· Tapestry needle (a big, thick needle with a jumbo eye - you can find them at any craft shop)
· Heavy-duty coated cotton thread
· Twine or ribbon

Cut your sweaters into squared roughly 1" in size. (It takes about 50 squares for each ornament, sometimes more, sometimes less. THE MYSTERY IS PART OF THE FUN.) Thread the needle with the heavy-duty thread (around 30") and string on yer squares.Pull the floss and squares together tightly so that they form a circle, then make a sturdy knot. Tie the ends together and loop another piece of ribbon around the top for hanging. BAM. Crafty keepsake.

This is a great craft to do with older kids who can handle knot-tieing and needles. It takes a little time, so patience might become an issue - show the kiddies how hip and with it you are play playing some music while you work. What do kids listen to these days, anyway? Remember Sisqo? He was big...

For an overwhelming assortment of other crafty ornament ideas, check out the Craftser Forums, where how-to's range from bacon to brains. My personal favorite? The Quidditch snitch. Happy Crafty Holidays, everyone!

Images via Alpha Mom

21 December 2009

wrap your presents to your darling from you

The clock is winding down on the holiday season, and gifts are being passed about, opened, and adored near and wide. Before you bust out that pretty paper (and pretty ribbons of blue, of course), consider how much of it turns into little more than trash once the festivities of the season are over. Instead of adding to the pile, why not use one of these creatively crafty (and, yes, pretty) wrapping paper alternatives for the gifts you'll be giving this year? (And next year, and the year after that, and after that, and after that...)

  • Paper grocery bags are probably the most obvious alternative choice. And, since they're blank, they make great canvasses for kids (or you) to decorate! (If your local shop has printed their logo on the outside, simply turn them inside out to the blank side.)

  • When was the last time you pulled out a map? Yeah, that's what I thought. Use up the old ones lying around your house - they're especially great for any sort of 'themed' gift giving.

  • Empty cereal boxes and other cardboard food packages are just the right size for gifts of clothing or for sending goodies through the post.

  • A beautiful scarf is not only a unique way to wrap a gift, but is a whole other gift in and of itself!

  • Glass jars might not seem like a typical gift encasement, but the surprise is part of what makes it beautiful. Stuff the inside with cloth or shredded paper (the maps mentioned above might be a good idea) or decorate the exterior with paints or stamps. The lid can be decorated, too!
What alternative wrapping solutions can you think of?
Image via The Daily Green

10 December 2009

seasonal slowdown

Ah, the pre-holiday mania. If you're too overwhelmed to even begin tackling your To Do List, then enjoy these links as mindful bit of web-surfing relaxation!

Man, I'm spent. Who's up for a drink?

09 December 2009

locovore locating

Here's a math equation for you:

A = [1 7th Generation Fruit Farmer + 1 Business Partner = Sustainable Agribusiness]

B = [xPersons interested in supporting local, sustainable agribusinesses * (Tools available to help them) = 0]

What do you get when you put A and B together?
You get You Are What You Eat, a location based, open source search engine that allows people from all over to find local farms, markets, and CSA's anywhere people live. The site costs nothing to farmers, and even offers you a chance to contribute a location that they may have overlooked. A brilliant idea from some brilliant people helping to make our world a little better, mile by mile.

08 December 2009

wining about it

It's around this time of year that we find ourselves sitting around a table with some close friends, catching up over a bottle of wine (or three). But as you quaff your vino, remember that, even among wines, some are a bit greener than others. Boxed wines, for example, leave 85% less waste behind than their glass-bottle counterparts.

You should also be aware that not all wines are grown in on the bucolic estates that the labels would have you believe. Recently on NPR, Michele Norris and Daily Beast writer Keith Wallace (founder of the Wine School of Philadelphia) discussed the dirty truth about "fast-food wines" - wines that, in all likelihood, are sitting in your kitchen (or cellar, if you're the type) right now. Due to high demand, many wineries have outsourced their production to factories where wines are, like cars, mass produced far away from real wineries; you can tell which is which from the legal writing on the label - if your bottle says "produced and bottled by", then that wine is actually made by a real winery. However, the words "vinted" or "cellared and bottled by" means you're drinking a factory wine. Wallace insists that there is no danger in consuming factory wines and that many, many famed companies engage in this practice, but this, as is so very common an issue in America, is more about letting consumers know what exactly it is they are consuming.

Interested in finding a greener or locally vinted wine? Check out this resource from Greenopia rating 25 different wines in order of their eco-friendliness and distribution size. You can also read the original Keith Wallace article from The Daily Beast here.

27 November 2009

when hunger strikes, brooklyn responds.

Oy. I'm hungry. But leftovers are so boring! What to do?! Aha! Here's an idea: Not Eating Out in New York has teamed up with Brooklyn's own Working Class Foodies to bring us some deliciously innovative alternatives to the standard leftover options. How's this sound: turkey goulash with mashed potato dumplings?

Ah, full again. Until next time, lovelies.

24 November 2009


AAAAH!!!!!!!!! YAY!Love her or hate her, Martha's show is viewed by millions, many of whom still feel that vegetarianism is a "radical lifestyle". Even those keyed into the benefits and ethics of vegetarianism still might be intimidated to have one at the table, especially on such a carnivore-centric holiday. Episodes like this can help to comfort and assuage those fears, making vegetarianism better understood by some who might never have invested the time to find out otherwise.

You can watch the full episode of Martha Stewart's Vegetarian Thanksgiving here. And remember: vegetarian, vegan, carnivorous or otherwise, Thanksgiving is not about the food on the table. It is about being with the people you love and appreciating what you have. Take care everyone, and give thanks!

21 November 2009

green 1 thing: in-flight impact

Thanksgiving is less than a week away, a lot of you have one thing on your mind: home. Roughly 38 million Americans travel for the holidays, with many of them taking to the rails and skies. When people consider how rough travel is on our environment, the littler things - like the millions of snacks and beverages distributed in-flight - are often overlooked. Those little bottles of water and bags of peanuts really ad up, both in physical waste and production energy. You can help cut down on this waste by trying the following easy alternatives:

  • Bringing your own snacks not only allows you to refuse the individually-sized bags offered on planes, but provides you with the freedom to choose whatever you like. You'll also save big bucks if you happen to be taking a method of transit that doesn't offer free goodies (like Amtrak).

  • If you're in for the long haul, the vegan/vegetarian option has the lowest environmental impact of all the in-flight meals. This handy list from CheapFlights tells you which airlines offer what meals - from gluten-free to whole food - and how to get them.

  • Airlines use about 1 million disposable cups every 6 hours, something easily avoided by bringing your own bottle. Most airlines, however, will simply refill your eco-friendly bottle with bottled water, thwarting your good intentions. Try bringing your empty bottle, filling up in the fountain after security (liquids will not be allowed through), and then turn down the cups on the plane.
If we all choose these more environmentally sound options, we can eliminate nearly 500,000 tons of waste per year - a figure that is predicted to increase 45% by the year 2015. Try it out, and feel good about doing good! And of course, no matter where you go or how you get there, I hope you get there safe, sound, healthy, and happy!
Image via AirlineMeals.net

19 November 2009

rooftop farm returns for one day only!

Though the Eagle Street Rooftop Farm has officially closed for the season, they'll be temporarily re-opening their doors to the public for their Thanksgiving Market this Sunday, November 22nd. With 100% of all proceeds going towards next season's seed stock and LOADS of beautiful fall produce grown right here in Brooklyn, there is no reason not to support your local farmers and make this Thanksgiving out of this world.

The Eagle Street Rooftop Farm is a locally owned and operated farm run in collaboration with Growing Chefs, Broadway Stages, and Goode Green Rooftop Designs. For Brooklynites, it is as local as it gets. Check them out this Sunday from 10am-4pm on Eagle Street, between Franklin and West. Look for the sign.

18 November 2009

product placement - seasons for iphone

The trees bare, Thanksgiving just around the corner, and at your local grocer, "fresh" the asparagus is heaped just as high as it ever was, waiting for you to take it home. Wait, what? Asparagus? In November? Thanks to the now-standard "have it all" methods of American supermarkets, asparagus is indeed available all year round - as is pretty much anything else that grows - which has totally derailed our notions of what grows when, and how we eat when we eat from the earth.

I know. This is not news to you. You've heard this from Michael Pollan and Barbara Kingslover and the guys who made Food, Inc. You've even heard it from me. But a helpful little reminder is just that - helpful. And with that in mind, I encourage you to check out the Seasons app for iPhone. A handy little interface for the device that's always with you, Seasons gives you the info on "“fruits, vegetables, lettuces, herbs, fungi and nuts,” illustrated with details on each food and a graph detailing when and how in season it is. It's just one more great way to keep your mind, money, and body a little closer to home.

Image via Terrapass

16 November 2009

green graffiti

Love it or hate it, graffiti is a huge part of our country's independent art culture. But the aerosol sprays preferred by so many bombers is not only harmful to the artists (causing brain damage, respiratory depression, and liver and kidney disease), but to the environment as well, as their volatile organic compounds (otherwise known as VOCs), react with nitrogen oxides to form ground-level ozone, significantly altering and damaging our atmosphere.

One artist, however, is looking to make an environmentally positive impact with both his message and his medium: Jesse Graves, a street artist based out of Milwaukee, posts his socially-conscious messages around town using mud - yes, mud - as his paint. Says Graves (who tags his work "MSR", or "Mud Stencils Rule"):

I use mud or earth because it is a fundamental life-giving substance, logical for my messages. Mud stencils are an evolving medium, intended for art and social justice, not corporate advertisement.
Graves' images are clever and eye-catching, and he encourages others to follow suit - the recipe for his bio-paint is presently available on his site.

Eco message, eco method. I highly approve.

12 November 2009

bar soap versus shower gel

"bar soap versus shower gel": That's the line I've been entering into my Google searches lately. As the last of my various gifted bar soaps are running out, I'm forced to decide what direction to go in next.

Growing up we always had soft, peachy bars of Caress in our bathtub, but as Bath + Body works took over in the adolescent years, as did every flavor of shower gel imaginable-- so much so that I had enough gifted shower gel to last me into my second year of college. I've continued with the shower gel trend ever since (though stepping away from the overly frangranced stuff and into more subtle scents and natural ingredients).

I've always been attracted to the homemade bar soaps I've seen at craft fairs and the organic bar soaps you see at the stores (helloooo, Pangea Organics!), but it was first, a gift of a Austin Natural Soap 9-bar sample pack from my brother a couple of Christmasses ago and the a few gifted Pangea bars from a relative that got me going. It was such a fun, nostalgic activity, washing with bar soap. Mostly I rubbed it on my loofah so it already had the foamy thing going, it seems less wasteful and I thought, "This is it! I'm switching to bar soap!"

From a sustainability point of view, I still feel pretty committed to bar soap. Less packaging (and what packaging there is is generally paper and easily recyclable-- I love avoid plastic as much as possible) and you're also not paying to ship water (as gel products are primarily water).

Economically, I struggle. A nice 5-6 oz. bar of organic soap costs about $7-8. A 12 oz. bottle of my favorite shower gel, Avalon Organics Rosemary, runs around $11. A bar of soap lasts me 5-6 weeks and the gel 3 months or more. So, I suppose in the end, I get approximately the same mileage per ounce, but at a slightly higher cost.

Hmm, but that's what it's all about isn't it? We pay more for organic products because they are healthier for our bodies, the farmers, and the land. We pay more (and sometimes less) for locally grown produce to bolster our area economies, support farmer friends, and keep excess CO2's out of the air. It all comes full circle! (Even for yours truly.)

Well, seeing as I just solved my own argument... it's now time to order from Meow Meow Tweet Tweet-- a Brooklyn-based organic soapmaker that I spotted at the Renegade Craftfair this summer. I've had my mind on their yummy, creatively scented soaps for awhile, and soon their Cinnammon Coffee will have a spot on my soapdish.

11 November 2009

five boroughs. one million trees.

Every fall New York City collects and disposes of roughly 20,000 tons of leaves and returns them to our parks and gardens as soil-enriching compost - every fall, that is, until this year. In 2008, the collection and compost of residential was cut from the city’s budget, leaving the task to the citizens of New York. (All city collected leaves will heretofore wind up in out-of-state landfills)

Another chore, you say? Hardly! Rising to the occasion is NYCLeaves, a volunteer-run, neighborhood-based coalition of green-minded New Yorkers coming together to harvest and compost fallen leaves. With multiple days and locations and a slew of volunteers already on board, Project Leafdrop is a great way to get involved in your community, working side-by-side with your neighbors and giving back to the city that supports you.

To find out more about Project Leafdrop or to add your garden to the list of compost recipients, visit NYCLeaves.org. Now get out there and rake something!

08 November 2009

hives above!

Got bees in your bonnet? The Brooklyn Bee Apiary will be hosting a Newcomer's Meeting this coming Saturday, November 14th, at 1:00pm.

More than just a means of taking your rooftop gardening up a notch, urban beekeeping is an incredible way to support a creature essential to New York's natural ecosystem. Local honey also reduces the severity of allergies; contains a wealth of anti-bacterial and -microbial properties, and it is a centuries-old ingredient in skin and hair beautifiers. Oh, and it tastes great, too!

If you would like to start keeping, or just want to learn more about this amazing practice, sign up at MeetUp.com. Hurry! Space is limited.

Image via Brooklyn Bee

06 November 2009

sound body, sound mind

As H1N1 continues to spread (and the news grows consistently grimmer), I thought it might be a good idea to post a follow up on my previous post on cold and flu prevention methods.

Mayo Clinic recently posted an article promoting the consumption of healthful whole foods as one of the most effective disease preventers, and I couldn't agree more. Though foods like kale, garlic, pomegranate, and almonds may be touted for their unique vitamins and minerals, research shows that it is these foods as a whole that make them their most potent, rather than their isolated nutrients.

Wash your hands, wash your hands, wash your hands! This is the single most effective method of germ prevention, as well as the cheapest and easiest to do. If you're not near a faucet but want a little antibacterial omph (say, you just got off a train that could have doubled as a TB ward), try carrying some natural hand sanitizer with you. CleanWell makes a great spray that is alcohol and triclosan, free, cruelty free, and won't leave your hands smelling like a bottle of vodka. It's also cheap - their lavender starter pack is only $9.99 on their website. You can also find them at Whole Foods.

Go to bed. Seriously. Depriving your body of adequate sleep wears your body down and weakens your immune system, leaving you more prone to viral infections. According to a 2009 article from the Archives of Internal Medicine, inadequate sleep can leave a person three times more acceptable to colds than a fully-rested individual. How's that for sweet dreams?

As always, take care with the best of wishes from stem+leaf!

29 October 2009

getting greener with GOOD

We all know that we can save water by making simple choices in our everyday lives, but how much water? What choices? How much change in our lives? GOOD Magazine produced this charming (and brief!) little video to answer these questions, showing you just how to make a big impact with just a little change.

Thanks again, GOOD!

26 October 2009

monochromatic brunch

While normally I would espouse the benefits of having "a rainbow on
your plate," I have to say, I am really into the monochromatic thing
happening with the salad I made myself for brunch yesterday featuring
some lovely market produce: roasted green and white cauliflower,
cucumber, fennel, Mutsu apple, and a deep red tipped lettuce. Tossed
with some olive oil, lemon juice, ume plum vinegar, and lots of black
pepper. Yum!

24 October 2009

green 1 thing: a happier halloween

Every year thousands of families gather around the kitchen table to carve up pumpkins for Halloween, etching toothy grins and triangular eyes into the great orange gourds. And every year, once the carving is done, tons of useful pumpkin innards are chucked in the trash, considered useless once the jack-o-lantern has been carved. In a world where we already throw away nearly half of all the food we consume (half!), the last thing we should do is dispose of more perfectly good and incredibly beneficial produce - especially in a year where poor weather conditions and climate change have left us with a significantly damaged pumpkin crop.

By no means am I telling you not to indulge in your yearly pumpkin tradition - go on! But this year, why not carve with care? Once you've got all this pumpkin goo on your hands, ask yourself: what are you going to do with it? Well, I'm here with a few options for you!

Start with the seeds, those beautiful white discs suspended in the stringy pulp. Cleaned and rinsed, these babies can be slow-roasted at a low-to-medium heat with a variety of spice combinations to produce a delicious, crunchy snack high in vitamins A, B2, C and E. Try making them with curry powder, or toss them with some chili and cumin for a spicy bite. Feeling exceptionally culinary? Try this recipe for black tea and butter pumpkin seeds over at 101 Cookbooks.

Bursting with beta-carotene (a natural immune booster), pumpkin flesh make for a great soup! Pumpkin soup is accomplished with a bare minimum of ingredients, usually just stock, milk, spices and (of course) pumpkin, but varieties of this fall favorite abound, ranging from pear-and-pumpkin combinations to the black-bean infused Caribbean pumpkin soup. With choices so far ranging you're sure to find a recipe that will warm both your heart and belly.

And finally, for those of you sitting back sneering, "That's it? Seeds and soup? That's all these giant beasts are good for?" To you I say, hardly! Try some pumpkin risotto! Or Alton Brown's pumpkin bread! Not interested in eating your pumpkin? Blend it with some tea and honey to create a moisturizing (and great smelling!) face mask! Or an indulgent pumpkin body butter. If the options are too overwhelming for you, you'll be happy to know that pumpkin freezes very easily and will last up to a year properly stored in your freezer.

Happy carving!

Image via tvland.com

22 October 2009

coming soon to a subway near you: the common cold

Nobody has time to be sick these days, but it seems like everywhere you turn a friend or colleague is is sniffling, sneezing, and calling in with the flu. Here are a few tips on how to help you through your cold, or even keep from falling sick yourself (and don't worry - none of them involve donning anything like this):

Though it's gotten a lot of press lately as the "new miracle herb", echinacea has been around for hundreds of years and has been used medicinally for a slew of cold-related symptoms. Echinacea is particularly effective in relieving upper respiratory infections, and reports from the highly-respected medical journal Lancet have found that the herb may have significant immune-boosting effects. Derived from a purpleish colored coneflower, echinacea is available in a variety of forms, including pills and tasty teas.

Drink plenty of fluids! Water flushes out the toxins and germs that might otherwise do your body harm. It also rehydrates you, invigorates your skin, energizes your brain, and just plain does a body good!

Licorice has been used to calm aching throats and congested chests for centuries. Great tasting and soothing, this herb also contains anti-viral compounds that stimulate the body's immune system. Be cautious, though - in large doses, licorice has a laxative effect, and it has been known to counteract birth control pills in any amount.

Depended upon by college students everywhere, Vitamin C is one of nature's most famed flu-fighters. Also known as L-ascorbic acid, this essential nutrient has incredible antioxidant properties, improves your absorption of iron, and protects your body's cells from the damaging effects of everyday life (effects which are intensified during winter's harsh conditions). Widely available in many forms, Vitamin C is best acquired through whole foods such as red peppers, papayas, and (of course) oranges.

And as always, a healthy, organic diet rich in antioxidants will help keep you feeling energized and balanced, no matter what the weather outside.

Photo via Everythingchangesbook.com

17 October 2009

make it last

I know I've blogged a couple of super-short posts lately (longer ones are coming, I promise!) but real quick - check out this remarkable list of things to do with leftover food instead of throwing it out. From chicken bones to baby cereal, blogger Colleen Vanderlinden compiled 50 possible solutions to prevent food waste. My favorite?

If you have pickle juice left in a jar, don’t pour it down the drain. Use it to make a fresh batch of refrigerator pickles, or add it to salad dressings (or dirty martinis).
Get recipes for this ingenious idea and read up on the other 49 right now over at Care2.com!
*Image via foodinjars.com

13 October 2009

from the road: today's haul

Two clients. Five big-ish canvas totes full of groceries. One taxi.

Just another normal day-in-the-life.

alton brown <3

I hung out with Alton Brown this past Friday at his chat about his new book at B+N in Union Square. Whatever his dissenting thoughts on veganism, his clever commentary, snarky sense of humor, and deep-sea-depth food knowledge make me want to be his BFF.

Thank you, Alton for being you.

12 October 2009

green 1 thing: getting around

Whatever your thoughts on Christopher Columbus, there's no arguing that tran-Atlantic travel has come a long way since the days of the Nina, Pinta, and Santa Maria. As so many of us begin planning our own travels for the upcoming holidays (already!), it is a good time to think about how we can lessen the impact of our own globe trotting.

By Plane: Popular travel sites Expedia and Travelocity both offer the option of purchasing carbon offsets while you book your tickets, making undoing the environmental damage of jetting as easy as the click of a button!

By Train: Rail transit has a lower environmental impact than flight or auto travel, making it a very efficient and green choice to begin with. Amtrak has sweetened the deal by partnering with Carbonfund and allowing you to purchase extremely cheap carbon offsets based on the distance of your trip.

By Automobile: After the wild success of the Cash-for-Clunkers program, many more Americans are cruising the roads in energy-efficient, green vehicles. (yay!) There are still a few steps you can take, however, to make your driving better for the earth, namely in the form of (you guessed it!) carbon offsets. Two of my favorite sites are TerraPass, which works directly with developers and farms to better the earth, and NativeEnergy, which helps to finance the construction of Native American, family farm, and community-based renewable energy projects.

Interested in seeing which option is the best for you? Compare multiple carbon offset providers at OffsetConsumer.org.

07 October 2009

dairy count

Ever wonder what your impact is? Just what difference do you actually make buying organic? Organic Valley's website now offers you one way to see! The organic farm collective turned 21 this year and, with over two decade's worth of healthy, sustainable farming under their belts, they decided to compile the production data from every one of their farms and compare it to the USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) to display the difference between their farms and farms that use synthetic fertilizers and pesticides.

The results? 89.5 million pounds of synthetic nitrogen fertilizers and 12.5 million pounds of herbicides and pesticides were spared from the environment thanks to organic methods supported by consumers like you!

See how your habits impact up by plugging in your regular purchases at Organic Valley's Add It Up calculator and remember: organic does matter! Keep making that difference.

29 September 2009


As we slog through our daily efforts to be cleaner, greener, and kinder to the planet, it is sometimes helpful to remind ourselves just what it is we're trying to preserve. Here are a few of my favorite mindful links:

National Geographic is the go-to place for educating oneself on the world around them and taking pause of its breathtaking wonders. This photo series on the ecosystems of the California Redwoods premiered last month and has quickly become one of my very favorites.

Kikim Media
is a documentary company that strives to tell the stories of our planet with honesty and intelligence. Winner of three Emmys and the DuPont Award for Investigative Journalism, Kikim's projects include a documentary mapping the links between nature's weather pattens and the human body and a film based on Michael Pollan's The Botany of Desire.

You already know that Google maps fight crime, but did you know they also use their top-notch mapping technology to track the effects of global warming? Once you download the Google earth application you can observe existing changes in our atmosphere or see what changes have been predicted if current trends continue.

What inspires you to live a greener lifestyle?

24 September 2009

product placement: be a better baker

It's officially fall and for me, that means baking season is on. In the interest of getting your goodies as green as they can get, here are a few eco-friendly suggestions that will serve you well in the kitchen time and time again.

  • Cupcake lovers get an easy break on the paper issue: for the vast majority, cupcake liners are recyclable and biodegradable. However, if you're looking to really raise the enviro-bar in your kitchen, you have some good options: Beyond Gourmet makes paper liners that are totally free of bleach and chlorine, while Wilton offers its EasyFlex silicone baking cups in a wide range of shapes, colors, and sizes.

  • Though recycled paper towels are a great option for cleaning up messes, you can go one step farther with actual cloth towels. My favorite are Skoy cloths, which are colorful, machine-washable, quick-to-dry (to prevent mold/germs), and, once totally spent, 100% biodegradable.

  • If your old wooden mixing spoons are showing the splintered signs of wear and tear, opt for bamboo when you replace them! Sustainable, biodegradable, and incredibly quick growing, I cannot say enough good stuff about this favored panda food.

  • You'll save more than parchment paper with a silicone baking mat - this one from Silpat doesn't even need scrubbing, so you'll cut down on your soap and water consumption as well! Just give it a wipe and you're good to go.
Happy baking!
*Images via thekitchn.com

22 September 2009

be a local yokel!

Myrtle Avenue is stepping up its game these days with a slick new marketing campaign entitled "Home Grown and Locally Owned". With 95% of the area's businesses being locally owned, the campaign highlights the services these operations provide to the Fort Greene and Clinton Hill neighborhoods through the use of personal thoughts, snappy photos, and informative business references. Cheesy? Maybe. But locally owned businesses are an integral part of any vibrant community, keeping your neighbors employed, your schools in operation, and your Main Streets vibrant and fruitful.

In addition to their PR campaigning, the folks on Myrtle Avenue are doing quite a job of pumping up their 'hood: the Myrtle Ave Revitalization Project just announced that they will be starting a youth-run farmers market catering to the residents of the Farragut Houses near the Navy Yard. Starting in October this market will be open on Wednesdays from 3:30pm to 7pm. The Truck Farm is a regular cruiser down Myrtle Ave, combining green-roof technology, heirloom seeds, and organic composting to bring urban residents fresh produce from a living mobile garden. (You can check the Truck Farm out from 2pm-4pm on Myrtle between Hall and Ryerson this coming Sunday, Sept. 27th) Finally, the Fort Greene CSA is celebrating the advent of fall with FREE cooking, canning, and pickling demos right here in Fort Greene Park! Using seasonal produce and basic methods, local chefs and volunteers will teach you how to make the most out of your fall harvest and keep it useful through out the coming winter months.

For more info on these events and others, visit the Myrtle Avenue Brooklyn Partnership at http://www.myrtleavenue.org/.

21 September 2009

not so new new york: the mannahatta project

New York City is no place for the weak: filled with strange and wild things, being in the Big Apple means being alert, aware, and able to adapt to our constantly changing surroundings. But was it always like this? Was NYC always a land of noise and danger, or, before the pavement was laid and a Duane Reade dotted every corner, was this once a kinder, gentler place? A place of calm and quiet? A place without Papaya Dog or Fifth Avenue? A place...of nature?

According to the Wildlife Conservation Society, New York's always been a bit of a dangerous place - but not as we think of it today. Rather than rogue taxis and shady peddlers, wild bobcats and swooping hawks preyed on the meek as part of an urban jungle we'll never know: America's busiest hub of diversity was once a center of biodiversity equal to that of Yellowstone or the Great Smoky Mountains. In an epic endeavor helmed by ardent conservationist and landscape ecologist Dr. Eric Sanderson, The Mannahatta Project sought to unveil just how much the human touch had altered the original landscape of NYC's most famed borough. Using historic maps, landscape ecology, and a geographic information system, Dr. Sanderson and his (extensive) team gradually rolled the clock back 400 years to 1609, the year Henry Hudson navigated his way into New York Bay to reveal an island inhabited by beavers, salamanders, oak trees, and the Lenape people.

According to Dr. Sanderson, the Mannahatta Project allows people to

"discover ways in which we can restore some of the ecological processes lost to NYC in particular, and...how to create cities that are more 'livable' for people...Making cities more pleasant and rich places for people to live will increase city folks’ standard of living, attracting more people to cities and minimizing sprawl development between cities where the ecological gems, the “Mannahattas” of today, currently reside."
Visit www.themannahattaproject.org to see the Manhattan that is and was and to find out more ways to get involved in ecological restoration and the 400th anniversary of New York City.

20 September 2009

girlie girl army <3

Oh hey! Did you see? The ever-resplendent Girlie Girl Army has blogged my goodies once more! Check out my recipe for my spicy coconut black bean soup and all the glamazon goodness by visiting girliegirlarmy.com.

14 September 2009

beauty, redux

I am a firm believer in total body care - that means minding what goes in my body as well as what goes on it. I'm a sucker for eco-friendly beauty products like Sula nailpolish and Urban Decay's (vegan!!) eyeliners but, for me, Origins totally takes the organic beauty cake. Not only is the company committed to using 100% natural, organic ingredients formulated without toxic phthalates or parabens, Origins also boasts a comprehensive recycling program: bring in your emptied cosmetic containers to any Origins locations and the company will have them recycled or used for energy recovery. The best part? Origins is so committed, they will recycle every tube, bottle, pot, and jar, regardless of the brand. Awesome? Awesome.

Click here to learn more and find the Origins location nearest to you.

*image via origins cosmetics

12 September 2009

happy saturday!

Here are few links to some things I have been loving as of late:

Hope you're all enjoying this beautiful weekend!

08 September 2009

good old golden rule time

Labor Day has come and gone, and while you can keep on wearing your whites (some fashion rules are simply outdated), you and your young ones will have to wear them on your walk to school. Here are a few tips to make this academic year a cleaner, greener one!

Getting There: If you live outside your district's busing zone and public transit is simply not an option, try carpooling. Not only will you save on gas costs and reduce emissions, you'll connect with fellow parents (or students) who might otherwise go missed in the haywire of day-to-day life. Carpooling is probably easier than you think: many school have programs already established - just call the administrative offices and ask! Alternately, you can start your own group, meeting up with like minded drivers and managing your schedules with programs like Drive the Ride's calendar.

What to Bring: Like so many bright and flimsy things marketed towards kids, many school supplies are laden with toxic chemicals. PVC, used in everything from colorful binders to plastic lunchboxes, has been linked to autism, attention disorders, and reproductive issues. Many parents have had their fill of these toxic throw-away supplies, and have turned to such excellent shops as The Ultimate Green Store in their quest for back-to-school goods. You can also find an extremely helpful Back-to-School Guide to PVC-Free School Supplies here.

Lunchtime: By now you've surely heard the arguments against the nightmare which is the American schoolroom cafeteria. But even the best-packed superlunch is no good if it never gets eaten. Talk to your child about their lunch. Get them involved in its preparation the night before, if possible. Think from their perspective: will they be embarrassed to pull out a bowl of udon noodles at a table of their peers? If so, odds are slim that it will be eaten. Keep in mind, also, that many public schools get very little time for eating - a friend of mine who grew up in Chicago had only 15 minutes for her "lunch period". If you're facing a similar situation, consider nutrient-dense foods that can be served in small portions, such as hard boiled eggs, cheese, or whole-fat yogurt.

Home Sweet Home: Make the most out of your child's school day by talking to them. Ask to see their folders to check for fliers or important forms. Knowing what's happening at school allows you to engage in their academic progress, whether that's by starting a mini-herb garden for biology or taking a trip to the local art museum. If you're the student, make sure your home is a place that is conducive to study, but also a respite from the academic world. We all need a break once in a while!

03 September 2009

livin' la vida lebowski

Remember how summer could just never come soon enough? The long hours spent staring out of classroom windows; the buds blossoming on tree limbs, waiting to erupt into the bright green leaves to shade you from the hot July sun...ok. I may be getting a little melodramatic here, but you do remember how it feels to want something so bad that the waiting is absolute agony?

Well. That's pretty much how I feel before a night at Brooklyn Bowl.

Host to bands and home to a branch of the Blue Ribbon Restaurants, Brooklyn Bowl is home to 16 lanes featuring energy efficient pin spotters, floors made of Forest Stewardship Counsel (FSC) Chain of Custody controlled wood, and a stage floor made out of recycled truck tires.

Set in
a renovated Williamsburg iron foundry, Brooklyn Bowl is New York's first LEED-certified alley and is completely powered by wind (wind!). Incredible edibles are offered by Blue Ribbon Restaurant who, along with typical alley-fare such as wings and jalapeno poppers, serve organic mixed green salads, mac n' cheese with artichokes and black olives, and - oh baby - a slow roast BBQ beef brisket sandwich with sweet and spicy gravy. All their beverages are on tap and served in glasses, eliminating any can or bottle waste, and their 10 draught beers are locally brewed in Brooklyn. (BTW: Brooklyn Brewery's Intensified Coffee Stout made with Stumptown Coffee is on the menu. Bowl buzzed in more than one way!)

Bowling, bands, and bad-butt booze? Sounds like a perfect game to me!
Brooklyn Bowl is now open at 61 Wythe Ave. between North 11th and 12th Sts., Williamsburg. You can follow them on Twitter, or visit them on line at www.brooklynbowl.com.

Image via Brooklyn Bowl.

28 August 2009

bottled water everywhere & not a drop to drink

Ugh. I am so boggled by bottled water. Despite being wasteful, unsustainable, and ripe for contamination, water sold in disposable plastic containers continues to enjoy ridiculous popularity among Americans, who are either oblivious or simply don't care about the many drawbacks of bottled H2O.

Fortunately, I am not alone in my loathing of these portable potables - the media has finally started to shed some light on the safety issues of bottled water, in addition to spreading the word about the environmental havoc wreaked by the bottles themselves. The Smithsonian, The BBC, the Polaris Institute, and GOOD Magazine (amongst many, many others) have all shed light on the bottled water issue, and some places have banned the pest all together (San Francisco, Bundanoon, Australia, and the University of Winnipeg have all enacted bans). One if my favorite sites, Care2, recently posted two excellent articles on the problems of bottled water. You can read these articles here and here.

So what can you do to fight back against bottled water? For starters, take tap! Your tap water is more rigorously tested than bottled, making it less likely to be contaminated with pollutants or additives. (Not to mention a whole lot cheaper!) You can actively campaign against desalination, a high-energy process which removes salt from sea water sources, costing taxpayers big dollars and putting our environment at unknown risks. You can dine at restaurants that have pledged to use only tap water and use it in a responsible manner. Finally, you can make the pledge to take back the tap, and join thousands of others in their quest for responsible, sustainable use of our world's greatest natural resource.

Clean water you can feel good about drinking - how refreshing!

Image via www.charitywater.org

23 August 2009

green space solutions

And now, for you mathematically inclined readers out there, I give to you the following equation of small space solutions:

  • Green love - toxic emissions = fantastic bike!
  • Little home + fantastic bike = unpleasant space issues.
  • Gladiator claw + your tiny home's ceiling = no more sleepy mornings of kick-the-bike!
  • Your home + your fantastic bike x (your ceiling + Gladiator claw) = a cleaner, greener, more organized you!

Check out how the heavy-duty, bike-holding Gladiator claw can help you keep your bike off your kitchen floor by visiting them online at www.gladiatorgw.com.

Interested in being a greener biker? Check out the tips offered here by the International Bike Fund.

Photo via Gladiator GW

20 August 2009

18 August 2009

think less, do more: growing a green thumb

With the first-ever National Community Garden Week starting in just 5 days, now seems like a good time to consider developing your own (organic) green thumb. It may seem hard to cultivate an organic garden if you’re living in a crowded metropolitan area, but it’s way easier than you think – not to mention a great way to cut your grocery bills, reduce energy dependence, and add a little flora to the concrete jungle!

This year, I grew heirloom Tuscan kale, two heirloom tomato plants (Black and Yellow Plum), and a whole mess of herbs (epazote, lavender, Greek oregano, lemon thyme, and rosemary), all organically. Nothing makes the importance of organic produce more apparent than growing your own food and watching chemicals go from their leaves, into their soil, and finally onto your plate.

What does “organic” mean for the independent gardener? It means using natural solutions to control pests, cultivating your plants without chemicals, and enjoying delicious, homegrown and handpicked fruits, vegetables, and herbs. Getting started is easier than you might think – here are a few tips for getting your organic garden growing.

Chuck out all the weed killer, synthesized soil, MiracleGro, and/or other chemically derived products that might be lurking around your home. (In the last year alone, the Scotts MiracleGro Co. had over twenty products pulled from the shelves
by order of the EPA due to unregistered chemicals or “mislabeling”.) These products contain unpronounceable toxins such as chlorothalonil (a carcinogen) or fertilizers derived from CAFO chickens and cows, things you don’t want going into your food (I contacted Sharon Newell of Scott MiracleGro Co’s customer service center to enquire as to where Scott gets its fertilizers - she refused to disclose their sources). Natural (and more affordable!) alternatives to gardening aids abound: plain old vinegar is a great weed controller, and the Northwest Coalition for Alternatives to Pesticides has a wealth of information on how to treat almost any pest problem.

Get Yer Gear
If you aren’t sure what your home can sustain, speak with your local nursery. They can help you grow the best garden for your home’s specific conditions, no matter how dank/dark/musty/haunted it may be. You can also bring in a small sample of your yard’s soil, to test it for any pH adjusting you it might need. If you’re potting (like me!), you can pick up all the natural soil you need right there are the center. This year, I picked up a slew of
these great eco-friendly planters at Sprout Home in Williamsburg (there's a store in Chicago, too, for all of you out there rockin' the Windy City). Cute planters, green sources, fresh food – what’s not to love?!

Go on and get dirty! Enrich your soil with homemade
compost – you’ll reduce the amount of waste you put out into the world and grow happier, healthier plans. You can learn lots more about composting at the Lower East Side Ecology Center (who accepts unwanted kitchen scraps, in addition to offering classes on composting and sustainable living).
Control pests via natural alternatives

Above all else, enjoy it! Gardening is one of the best ways to relax, save money, and increase your veggie intake - not to mention your bragging rights.

Photo 1 via gammablog.com
Photo 2 via re-nest.com

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...