Caring about the environment is patriotic.
August 31st, 2009
It’s 91 degrees outside, 83 degrees inside my un–air conditioned apartment, and the air is filled with ash and smoke from the apocalyptic fires raging a mere 15 miles away — there is no way in hell I’m turning on the oven tonight to make some sort of vegetarian casserole. I don’t even think I can muster the strength to turn on the stove.
Luckily, I’ve got a great plan for a no-cook MM Mediterranean meal that I’m sure you’ll appreciate even if you’re not currently living in a state of emergency.
It all centers around a simple recipe for tabbouleh, a Middle Eastern salad (it’s the national dish of Lebanon) that’s the perfect cooling cure for a hot summer day, thanks to the addition of fresh chopped mint.
Served with hummus and toasted whole wheat pita, this makes a light and satisfying dinner, but sometimes I like to pick up a few other fun accoutrements at Trader Joe’s (stuffed grape leaves, tzataziki, baba ghanoush) to round out the meal. Just stick to a Mediterranean/Middle Eastern theme, and you really can’t go wrong.
More Meatless Monday posts:
August 31st, 2009
Santa Clara University’s entry to the US Department of Energy’s 2009 Solar Decathlon competition has been two years in the making, and tomorrow at long last, Refract House will be revealed to the public. The showcase will be brief, however; the team will have to disassemble the 800-square-foot solar-powered home in its entirety before transporting it across the country to the October competition in Washington, DC. (Not very eco-friendly, we know, but it’s for the greater green good.)
Those who tuned in last week know that I took a trip up to the university to watch Team California in action, where construction leader Dan Ruffoni was kind enough to give me a tour.
Check out the Refract House website in the next couple days for photos of the finished product. Best of luck, Team California!
August 28th, 2009
3/16/10 Update: I spoke with a Sigg customer service representative this morning, and evidently the company is no longer accepting returns for the older bottles with the BPA linings. Instead, Sigg is offering a 20 percent discount for customers who would like to order a new, BPA-free bottle. To take advantage of the discount, call 203.321.1220.
My suggestion? Don’t fork over any more of your hard-earned money to this company. Recycle your old Sigg (you can put it in your curbside recycling bin), and invest in a stainless steel bottle from Klean Kanteen or Earthlust.
That is if you even want to, after reading about how Sigg may have deceived its customers by offering itself as a safe alternative to plastic drinking bottles as news about BPA’s toxicity made headlines. I’ve been a longtime Sigg bottle enthusiast, so imagine my dismay when I read on The Huffington Post yesterday that the lining inside all Sigg bottles made before August 2008 contains traces of the suspected endocrine disruptor. And imagine my further distress when I went to my cabinet to check the lining of my beloved bottle using the handy “have you potentially been guzzling toxic chemicals” comparison photos on the Sigg website and discovered that yes, I potentially have, even though the bottle was given to me as a birthday present in October 2008. Great. Just great.
BPA has been in the news for some time now, after it was discovered that the chemical — which mimics the hormone estrogen — leaches from containers (polycarbonate bottles and the lining of metal food cans) into the food and beverages we consume.
Connecticut, Michigan, the city of Chicago, and several counties in New York have since banned the chemical from children’s products like baby bottles and sippy cups; Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Rep. Edward Markey (D-MA) have introduced even broader legislation at the federal level. (The California Assembly, by the way, is voting on its statewide BPA ban next week, so if you live in CA, make sure you contact your representatives to urge them to vote yes.)
If you decide that you’re not so outraged at Sigg’s greenwashing that you want to take the company up on its offer to replace your older bottle for a new one with BPA-free lining, here’s what to do:
August 27th, 2009
Great article today on Sustainable Table, about the movie Julie and Julia and how important it is to our health to embark on our own cooking adventures. It was written by my friend Joey Lee of the Meatless Monday campaign, but the purpose of her post is not to dictate what, specifically, to cook (e.g., vegetarian cuisine), but rather to inspire the simple yet profoundly life-changing act of stepping in the kitchen. “When you immerse yourself in the food you eat,” she writes, “when it is your hands in the dough, or your force behind the knife, you cannot help but become more mindful of what is going into your body.”
Cooking has always been one of my life’s great joys (I was making popovers at age 5), but I know how daunting it can seem to start cooking if you’ve never done it before, and how challenging it can be to find the time, even if you are pretty proficient in the kitchen (not to mention the space, if you live in a 200-square-foot NYC apartment, like I once did). But start small; it’s the little changes that can often spark a metamorphosis.
That sentiment has been preoccupying my brain since I attended a Project Butterfly workshop in downtown Los Angeles earlier this week led by Erik Knutzen and Kelly Coyne, authors of The Urban Homestead and leaders in the DIY/urban sustainability movement. The lecture covered some fairly heady undertakings, even for a greenie like me: container gardening, raising chickens in the city, and brewing beer, among them.
But the one point they stressed was to just make one small change. Start by growing super-easy garlic “chives” on your windowsill, Coyne said: Take a few garlic bulbs, plant them in some dirt, and delicious green leaves will grow that you can snip and use as garlicky-flavored chives. So then you start using the chives to flavor the food you cook — even something as simple as scrambled eggs — and because they make everything taste more delicious, maybe you start cooking more at home. And then, maybe because you’re cooking more at home, you become motivated to start visiting your local farmers market to shop for produce, and then you feel adventurous enough to plant a few more herbs on your windowsill, and before you know it, you’ve carved out your own little sustainable corner of the city.
Looking for other inspiring ideas? Check out Coyne and Knutzen’s blog, Homegrown Evolution.
August 26th, 2009
From The New York Times:
Long before green was cool, Sen. Edward Kennedy embraced environmental issues, tackling the oil companies in the mid ’70s and cosponsoring the first law to establish fuel economy standards more than 30 years ago. In recent years, he had urged the EPA to take action to clean up mercury pollution from power plants and cosponsored a resolution to end commercial whaling; his America COMPETES Act, which was signed into law in 2007, has proved vital to supporting research for clean energy technologies. The League of Conservation Voters, the political voice of the green movement, consistently ranked his voting record among the most environmentally progressive.
Addressing the Democratic National Convention in 1980 after pulling out of the presidential race, Sen. Kennedy now famously said, “For all those whose cares have been our concern, the work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives and the dream shall never die.”
For more on Kennedy’s environmental legacy (and the work that we will continue), click here.
Our sincerest condolences to the Kennedy family.
August 25th, 2009
Looking to take your biodiesel Benz to the next green level? Then take a cue from the hilariously creative Mercedes Pens, which I stumbled upon (well, not really — there was a huge crowd gathered around it) in the picturesque hamlet of St. Helena, CA, on my trip to Napa Valley last week.
Costas Schuler, comedian and creator of the Pens, announced this summer his next ambitious feat: to divert 1 million used pens from their landfill fate, to create giant art murals he dubs Pen-tingsä (Get it?).
Got a stash of old pens in a drawer somewhere? If you live in Northern California, click here to find a drop-off location near you. Everyone else can mail donations to:
The Pen Guy
To read more about Schuler, visit his blog, The Pen Guy and His Mercedes Pens Art Car.
Even at an early age, it was never difficult to convince me to eat my veggies — my mom loves to tell the story of how she rushed me to the doctor with a suspected case of jaundice, only to discover that I had, in fact, turned orange from eating too many sweet potatoes. But joining the Meatless Monday movement has expanded my plant-based repertoire even further; I’ve since been inspired to shop more frequently at farmers markets, join a CSA, and even try my hand at growing my own food (which is limited to herbs at this point, but I have plans for more substantive fare in the future).
Growing your own produce, of course, is the ultimate goal of any green foodie; aside from eliminating the environmental costs associated with its farming and transport (fossil fuels to operate gas-powered farming equipment and ship the produce to stores, chemical fertilizers and pesticides that pollute our waterways), it’s also the most nutritious and delicious way to eat those fruits and veggies.
But what if you don’t have the time to lovingly cultivate organic tomatoes in your backyard? Or what if (like me), you’ve inherited a touch of the black thumb? One Brooklyn organization has the answer.
BK Farmyards, which launched in May, is turning backyards and empty lots around Brooklyn, NY, into flourishing farms — and you barely have to lift a green thumb. The nonprofit’s motto is: You have the land, we grow the produce. Sign up to share your little patch of land, and BK Farmyards will do all the work for you, transforming your outdoor space (a minimum of 400 square feet) into a thriving urban garden that will feed your family and friends for up to six months out of the year.
Thanks to Brooklyn-based RWG reader PL for telling us about this cool company.
August 21st, 2009
Being an apartment dweller, I’m always looking for ways to cut down on visits to the laundromat — not to mention lessen my dependency on bank rolled quarters. So I was delighted when loyal Red, White, and Green reader RR forwarded me a photo of this stylish Kitchen Maid ceiling-mounted clothes airer that just became available in the US. I’ve never seen anything like this before — evidently they’ve been used in Britain and Europe for centuries.
Line drying (or “solar” drying, if you do it outside) has made a resurgence in this country as more and more Americans affected by the recession are looking for ways to cut costs; obviously this has an enormous benefit on the environment as well, since the dryer is the second-largest energy-consuming appliance in the household (the refrigerator is numero uno).
Constructed from sustainable wood and British-crafted iron, the airer can hold up to a full load of laundry and uses the heat from your home to dry your clothes (and as you may recall from third-grade science class, heat rises, which is why the ceiling mount is so efficient).
The airer is a bit pricey at $169, but considering that it’s made to last a lifetime and that an electric dryer costs the average American family $80 a year to operate (and if you have to rely on a laundromat, this figure is definitely higher), consider it a sound investment.
The Kitchen Maid clothes airer and dozens of other clothes line/drying rack options are available at urbanclotheslines.com.
August 20th, 2009
As much as I love Italian wine (especially when I’m in Italy), I try to buy local bottles as often as possible; all of those heavy glass bottles shipped from overseas carry a pretty sizable carbon footprint. (Interestingly, how wine is transported is a more important environmental consideration than whether or not it’s grown organically, according to the American Association of Wine Economists.) Of course, it’s fairly easy to imbibe the local offerings when you live in Southern California, but what if you live in South Dakota? Here, five easy (and fun) ways to choose the local nectar.
1. Find a vineyard near you. Believe it or not, there are vineyards in nearly every corner of the US — even South Dakota (I found 17!). Two great resources: Wine-Searcher.com’s winery database and the WineWeb North America wine regions map. Hop in the car with your honey and go on a wine-tasting date (and pick up a couple cases while you’re there). Many will also ship directly to you.
2. Remember the green line for wine. If you can’t visit a local winery, you can still choose a wine with a lighter carbon footprint. According to Dr. Vino (wine expert Tyler Colman), there’s a “green line” that runs down the middle of Ohio. For points west of that line, it’s more carbon efficient to consume wine trucked from California, Oregon, and Washington; for points east, it’s more eco-friendly to purchase wine from Europe, since it was most likely container shipped and then trucked a short distance.
3. Peruse a restaurant wine list with ease. Unless you’re a oenophile (and if you don’t know what that means, then you’re probably not one), it can be difficult to navigate your way through a restaurant wine list. But by opting for local vino, it makes your choice that much easier — less options to sift through! The new culinary trend is for locally grown, seasonal foods (and wine lists to match), so if you’re lucky enough to be dining out at one of these hot spots, just ask the bartender (or sommelier) for a recommendation.
4. Attend a local wine tasting or festival. This gives you the chance to discover new favorites and support local businesses (not to mention the excuse to get a bit tipsy on a Saturday afternoon). Check out LocalWineEvents.com to find one in your area.
5. Make your own. For the ultimate close-to-home wine experience, why not try…your home? It has a bit more of a learning curve than, say, baking bread, but what could be more satisfying than toasting to your own handiwork? You can even use it as an opportunity to teach your kids about anaerobic respiration and fermentation (just make sure you’re there to supervise). GreenYour.com has a great list of resources for first-time winemakers.
I’m off to Napa (my first trip there — hooray!) for my cousin’s wedding, so check back for photos from my visits to organic vineyards.
August 19th, 2009
I’m off to visit our nation’s green energy pioneers at Santa Clara University, where members of Team California are constructing Refract House, an 800-square-foot solar-powered home for the US Department of Energy’s 2009 Solar Decathlon competition. The house, which is being constructed on campus before it’s transported to the October showcase on the National Mall in Washington, DC, will feature radiant heating and cooling, a greywater treatment system, and working appliances — including a TV, dishwasher, and washer/dryer.
Joining forces with design and architecture students at the California College of the Arts, the 100-member team is the only undergraduate-led group of the 20 teams from around the world entered in the competition.
I’ll be reporting back soon with video of the building process for The Red, White, and Green Scene; in the meantime, you can check out the students hard at work via the real-time Refract House Construction Cam.